Lisa Markwell: Pizza
Pizza: it's been around quite a lot longer than most other street food. Like, centuries. But it makes sense that it's all the rage right now. It's quick – which helps at all those non-booking establishments – it's cheap and it looks artisanal. I absolutely love it.
I came across the portable pizza purveyors Well Kneaded one night while driving home from a new pizza restaurant in Portobello Road. As part of a street party, a restored vintage Citroën van was dispensing perfectly thin, delicious pizzas. Or, as their maker Bridget Goodwin briskly describes them, firebreads. How could I resist? Most unusual was a sweet one with wafer-thin slices of apple, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup, which went down very well with a glass of champagne. I took Bridget's number, fascinated as I was by the idea of driving a van with a functioning wood oven in the back.
So, when asked to learn a new culinary skill, I thought of Well Kneaded immediately. Bridget and her culinary partner Bryony Lewis have been serving up firebreads at festivals, parties and street-food gatherings for almost a year. Their van is to be found today in a church car park in Battersea. Bridget and her assistant Carl are winding down from a hectic lunchtime service when I arrive.
Within the small but perfectly arranged workspace, a wide drawer holds the dough (made earlier to their recipe by a local bakery), and there are two shelves of delicious-looking ingredients above the work surface. The emphasis is on seasonal British ingredients, organic where possible, so there are pots brimming with blue and goats' cheeses, thinly sliced ham, meaty chestnut mushrooms and so on. Chilli peppers, garlic and a few others come from further afield, but it's an admirable endeavour.
So, too, is Well Kneaded's ambition to be a social as well as commercial enterprise. Bridget is a former youth worker and Bryony a former social worker and they hold ad-hoc pizza-making workshops with local young people. Carl used to turn up offering to help, not having been able to find a job. Now he's being trained in all aspects of the business, from dough-slinging to book-keeping. They hope, in time, to develop a more formal apprenticeship scheme.
I am here to make a stilton, smoked ham and field mushroom folded firebread, their take on the classic Italian calzone that recently triumphed in the "best pie" category at the Street Food Awards. Working with a proper wood oven at one end of such a small space pumping out 400C heat, is a challenge for the beginner. Luckily, pizza-making is quick. Bridget shows me how to stretch the balls of dough into thin circles and ovals by hand (the long shape is perfect for single portions and emphasises the difference between their British "firebread" and traditional pizza).
Home-made garlic oil is smoothed over half the surface, before the toppings are judiciously added. Bridget is firm about quantities. "People watch us make them and ask for more to be put on, not realising we've done this a few times and know the right amount – too much doesn't work." The dough is then folded over to make a parcel.
I slide my version – a very "artisanal" flying-saucer shape – on to a big metal paddle that I have sprinkled with a layer of couscous to ensure the dough doesn't stick. I then keep hold of one end of the dough as I slide it into the oven, so as to make sure it doesn't flop over itself.
Within seconds the dough starts bubbling and turning golden. I slide a smaller paddle under the pie and try to shift it around, to make sure all sides get the blistering attention of the red-hot wood. Finally, I get the hang of the side-to-side action and my puffed-up parcel emerges, with just the right amount of char and steam rising from a little blister in the dough. It is then topped with a handful of fresh rocket and a liberal grating of fresh Parmesan, Microplaned from a huge block on the counter. It is delicious.
People who hire the wagon for parties sometimes request fancy toppings, but I feel it doesn't get any better than this simple combination. I have already asked my husband to build a wood oven in the backyard…
Stilton, smoked ham and field mushroom firebread pie
130g/4oz pizza dough –Well Kneaded recommends Jamie Oliver's recipe (jamieoliver.com/recipes/ pizza-recipes/pizza-dough)
30g/1oz stilton, roughly cubed (1cm x 1cm)
50g/2oz thinly sliced British smoked ham, ripped into pieces roughly 3cm x 2cm each
40g/1½oz thinly sliced portobello or field mushrooms
Drizzle of roasted garlic oil (either shop-bought or made by whizzing together garlic and olive oil with a little salt and pepper, to taste; roughly 1 bulb garlic to 500ml/17fl oz extra-virgin olive oil)
Turn your oven to its hottest temperature, and preheat a flat baking tray.
Flour a surface well with plain flour and place your dough ball in the centre. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into the required shape – either oval or round.
On another baking tray (with no lip), evenly sprinkle semolina or couscous on one half, flour on the other. The semolina/couscous is for the base of the pie and will help it slide on to the preheated baking tray.
Place your dough with half of the base on the semolina/couscous and half on the floured side.
Drizzle the garlic oil on the half that will be the base of the pie and load the ingredients (in any order) on top.
Gently fold the half resting on the floured surface over the half with the ingredients, pressing down the edges of the semi-circle that has now formed and brush the top with a little of the oil.
Carefully pull the hot baking tray out of the oven a few inches; quickly take the tray with the pie on it and give it a bold shake so that the pie slides on to the preheated tray.
Leave the pie in the oven at full heat for 7 to 10 minutes. You'll know it is done when the top begins to brown and the bottom becomes speckled.
Take the pie out of the oven and slice into thirds from the centre, so you have three triangles. It will be very hot inside, so wait a minute before eating.
Kate Wills: Fried Chicken
Few foods are as ubiquitous as fried chicken: on every high street you'll find a KFC or one of its many imitators churning out wings by the bucket. But now, as with burgers and hot dogs before it, this fast-food staple is going fancy. From Rita's Bar & Dining in east London, where fried wings come in a knowing paper bag, to street-food truck Spit & Roast, to Roost, the incoming restaurant from Canteen co-founder Cass Titcombe, birds are big news.
Food writer and chef William Leigh and Meat Liquor founder Scott Collins are about to open Wishbone, an upmarket fried-chicken restaurant where dinner doesn't come with a wet wipe and side of 'slaw. Instead, there'll be craft beers, cocktails and the stylish surroundings of a foodie-fied Brixton Market. "For me, there's nothing better than a fried chicken wing and a beer," enthuses William. "But nobody has done it well over here, somewhere you could go for a nice lunch rather than just after the pub."
William has spent the past year living, breathing and sampling fried chicken. "It's got a really interesting history – it came from Africa to the Southern states of America and now it's hit upmarket restaurants in New York as the cool, new trend. But there's a fried-chicken recipe in almost every food culture. There's Korean fried chicken, which is fried twice, tossed in chilli paste and served with a daikon, and there's Thai-style chicken, which is bursting with mint and lime. I've been trying out different methods and spice combinations and I think I've cracked it."
But how hard is it to make at home? For something associated with fast food, making authentic Southern fried chicken is surprisingly time-consuming. For our lesson, William has marinated chicken pieces in buttermilk for 24 hours – "the enzymes break down the meat and make it tender" – and a lot of effort has gone into the all-important coating, which mixes plain flour, breadcrumbs – "I use burger buns for the texture" – and William's "special blend of herbs and spices". "Everyone has their own spice mix. Mine has dried herbs, paprika, chilli, salt, two different kinds of pepper, some other bits and bobs. I've gone through so many iterations to get it right so it's a bit of a secret."
Next we take the chicken out of the buttermilk, wipe it clean, drop it in a bowl of plain flour, take it out, cover it in egg wash then dip it in the spice and breadcrumb mix. It's quite a long, fiddly process, as each piece has to be dipped individually and there's a knack to giving it an even coating. "It is tricky," says William graciously, as my "crumb" coating turns into a gooey mess. "You don't want any excess flour on it. It will absorb too much oil and go greasy and horrible. Don't touch the chicken too much; just cradle it loosely in your palm." It's hard to imagine my local Chicken Cottage treating their drumsticks with this much love. "Fried chicken's been really mistreated," agrees William. "It's often overcooked, battery-farmed meat which has been left in a hot cupboard for hours."
Now our caressed and triple-coated chicken is ready for a dip in the fryer. Traditionally it would be animal fat but you can use nut oil, as it doesn't impart any flavours. Dropping it in the hot oil requires a very steady hand. "Just lower it in so the oil doesn't splash on you. Don't be afraid of it," encourages William. "And try not to shake it around too much while it's frying or you'll break the crust."
After around 10 minutes we stick a thermometer into the chicken's thickest parts to check it has reached the all-important 70 degrees (salmonella shouldn't be part of the nostalgia that comes with eating fried chicken), then let it rest for eight minutes. "The inside needs to cool, otherwise the fat is still boiling inside." We lay the chicken on a scrunched-up piece of greaseproof paper, add some hot sauce and gherkins, and our wings are finally ready to fly.
Golden and crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside, this fried chicken is the perfect balance of textures. And there's a spicy flavour to the crumb that would make the Colonel drool. As someone who's never eaten fried chicken sober, I can honestly say I'm now a convert. "It's just food that makes you happy!" says William between bites. Happy but messy. Where's a wet wipe when you need one?
40g/1½oz blend of spices and dried herbs – chilli, paprika, black pepper, oregano – use whichever you like and experiment to find your perfect blend
100g/3½oz dried white breadcrumbs
40g/1½oz fine salt
1 chicken, cut into eight portions, marinated in buttermilk (optional)
3 large eggs
60ml/2½fl oz milk
1 litre/1¾ pints flavourless oil such as groundnut
Hot sauce, pickles or chilli vinegar (recipe below)
Grind the spices and herbs until they are uniform. Mix with the flour, breadcrumbs and salt. Place in a large bowl. Whisk the eggs in another large bowl and mix in the milk. Using one hand for wet, one for dry, take a piece of chicken, toss it in the seasoned flour, take it out, tap off any excess flour, dip it in the egg; take it out and pop it back into your seasoned flour. Take it out again, tapping off any excess flour again, then pop it on a rack. Repeat this process with all the chicken portions.
Heat the oil in a high sided pan until it reaches 170C. Keep an eye on the temperature – too high and your chicken will brown on the outside before it is cooked in the middle; too low and it won't seal on the outside and will absorb lots of fat.
Cook the wings for 6 to 8 minutes, the breast for 8 to 10 and the thighs and legs for 10 to 12 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 73 degrees. Fry in batches so the oil temperature does not drop too much.
Once cooked, drain on some kitchen paper then pop on a cooling rack for 8 minutes before eating.
Serve with hot sauce to dunk and hamisha or other salt pickles or with a good squirt of chilli vinegar.
To make the chilli vinegar, chop some chillies, add them to 100ml/3½fl oz vinegar and pop into a squeezy bottle. How hot you have it is down to two things: the number of chillies and the length of time you leave it.
John Walsh: game
The Jugged Hare pub-restaurant in London's Moorgate is a retro-dream of sturdy English roistering with its real-ale pumps, wood floors, stuffed rabbit and deer heads. It opened to acclaim last March, specialising in game cooking. The head chef, Limerick-born Richard O'Connell, and his colleague James Lyon-Shaw (who's executive chef with Ed and Tom Martin, who together own the Hare and nine other successful eateries) offer masterclasses to aspirant Escoffiers through the six-month game season.
Resplendent in my chef's apron, I'm here to learn how to cook grouse, the plump and succulent lagopus lagopus, which is technically non-flying but is routinely frightened into the air by beaters on the moors. The Jugged Hare grouses come from Swinton Moor, Yorkshire. "Its conditions are perfect," says James. "Lots of rain, and the right heather and bilberries that they feed on."
Two raw birds sit before us, pathetic but malevolent, ready-plucked but with head and giblets still attached. The first things James asks me to do are disgusting. First you chop the head off. Then you paddle your fingers inside to remove the guts, reserving the liver for pâté. You run a sharp knife down the wishbone and winkle it out without leaving the meat ragged; you also must extract valve-like bits of windpipe which would otherwise give diners a nasty surprise.
The ingredients for roast grouse, like the cooking method, are surprisingly simple. You bash a couple of garlic cloves, and insert them in the carcass with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and parsley. Two rashers of streaky bacon are criss-crossed on the breast to stop it burning, and the skinny, supermodel legs are trussed with string to lie against the breast, so the legs don't incinerate either.
We make bread sauce with lots of flavourings: cloves studded into half a Spanish onion, cinnamon, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary, covered with half a litre each of milk and double cream. James lays the saucepan on a blazing cooking ring, apparently heedless of the danger. When the milk duly rushes up the saucepan sides, he reaches in and taps the base with a spoon, and the mixture instantly subsides. Such command!
We pan-fry the grouse for two minutes of flames and drama, and consign them to a super-oven called a Rational ("Every chef's best friend," says Richard) which supplies exact heat on a timer – here 10 minutes at 220C.
While waiting, James directs me to make the pâté. You cook the grouse's liver (with a handful of makeweight chicken livers) for seconds, whip them off the pan and add butter, chopped shallots, chopped parsley and equal measures of brandy, port and Madeira. Although the alcohol will be burned off, this will be a very rich pâté. We fling the livers, in their wino sauce, into a Hamilton Beach blender for 45 seconds and put the pâté in a bowl.
Then we strain the milky/creamy/oniony sauce mixture through a sieve and add it to handfuls of breadcrumbs to make a perfect bread sauce. Two circles of bread are lightly toasted, the pâté spread on top, then the roasted grouse is laid, triumphantly, on the pâté and the strings snipped so its legs fly apart (shades of the repellent, bleeding- carcass dinner scene in David Lynch's Eraserhead).
We're almost done. We decant bread sauce into a ramekin, deglaze the grouse-fried pan with brandy and pour the lovely jus into a teeny saucepan. We ram a handful of parsley into the neck cavity, pour a soupçon of jus over the breast – and that, give or take some latticed game chips, is that. "Now that's what we call dressed for service," says Richard. "And you did pretty well, I'd say."
He's being kind, but it tastes fabulous – the slithery, nubbly pink tranches of grouse breast luxuriating in their double bath of bread sauce and posh gravy; then a second mouthful in which the breast is anointed with the ambrosial pâté on its little toast island. This is umami heaven, five or six flavours dancing a quadrille of ecstasy with the taste buds. God knows if I can replicate it at home; but I leave the Jugged Hare envying the legal eagles and City dealers who can have such a dish for lunch every week. k
The Jugged Hare offers game masterclasses for parties of eight to 12 at £75 per person. To book, call Gemma Brown on 020 7614 0134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Roast whole grouse, pâté on toast, bread sauce and game jus
For the grouse
2 oven-ready grouse
80ml/3fl oz bread sauce
4 tbsp grouse pâté
2 brioche discs (2-inch), fried in butter
50ml/2fl oz game jus
1 small bunch of watercress
For the pâté
100g/3½oz chicken livers
2 grouse livers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig of thyme
50ml/2fl oz brandy
20ml/¾fl oz Madeira
10ml/¼fl oz port
180g/6oz Savoy cabbage, to be served as a side
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Season the grouse inside and out and seal in a hot pan until browned all over. Roast in the oven for 6 minutes, take out and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
For the pâté, season the livers and place in a hot pan with butter to cook lightly then leave to cool. Sweat the shallots and thyme for a minute or two. Deglaze the pan with the alcohol and reduce to obtain the jus. Add the butter then place everything in a blender and blitz. Set in a container in the fridge, covering the top until it is set (about 4 hours).
To serve, top the brioche crouton with the pâté and grill until lightly golden on top then rest the bird on top. Heat some bread sauce (widely available in supermarkets) in a pan and serve in a ramekin as an accompaniment, along with the buttered cabbage. Heat the jus and pour some over the bird and the rest in a sauce jug.
Hugh Montgomery: Ceviche
Utter the words "Peruvian cuisine" and you may as well be speaking in llama to most people. But that won't be the case much longer if London's restaurant scene is anything to go by: in the past few months, two Peruvian eateries have opened to rave reviews, while a heavily trumpeted third, from one of the owners of glitzy Asian joints Zuma and Roka, launches in November. Though really, given its culinary prosperity, it was only a matter of time before it became flavour du jour. On one hand, it embraces Latin-American, European and Asian influences, the result of the country's diverse immigrant heritage; on the other, it boasts a remarkable wealth of ingredients, borne from a landscape that includes the Andes, the Amazon rainforest, and a large stretch of Pacific coastline. Which is to say, brilliantly, that there are 3,000 types of potato in Peru.
Then there's ceviche, the country's signature dish and the one with serious roll-out potential. Consisting of raw fish marinated in lime, salt and chilli, it's fast food in excelsis: super-healthy, full of welly and "cooked" without making any claims on your actual cooker. Each South American country has its own version, but the Peruvians are regarded as the original and best ceviche makers. In the capital, cevicherias are as common as burger bars and they have a national annual ceviche day on 28 June. And, warns Robert Ortiz, head chef at Lima, one of those two new London restaurants, "Peruvians love food but they will criticise you 100 per cent if something isn't right."
Thankfully, Ortiz proves more forgiving than the national character as he shows me how to make his establishment's renowned sea-bass ceviche in the restaurant's kitchen. The first rule? "Respect your ingredients," Ortiz says. He duly suggests I ease up while squeezing the limes for the marinade, pointing out that my elephantine straining will break the fruit's membranes and render the juice bitter. I'm similarly disrespectful to the fish: a shimmering fellow that comes to an undignified end as I hack away for the sake of a couple of fillets. Most white fish will do for ceviche, though freshness is paramount: at Lima, they get their fish delivered at 9am rather than early morning to ensure they are receiving only fish caught that day.
Should you own a blender, it's almost impossible to screw up the Leche de Tigre, or tiger's milk, the marinading elixir so named for the ferocity of its ingredients and the suggestion that, as an alleged aphrodisiac, it will make you a big cat in the bedroom. Having squizzed together some garlic, ginger, celery and onion, we transfer the mix to a bowl and rub some Peruvian aji limo chillis around the bowl's sides. After leaving the chilli flavour to infuse, we then whack it back in the blender with the lime juice, some coriander and scraps from my filleting experiment. The concoction is sieved then blended once more with some ice cubes – an easy way to save on fridge-chilling time.
We roughly cube and then bowl up the fish, before rubbing it in salt to open its pores and spooning over the Leche de Tigre; the lime juice in the marinade then sets to work denaturing the fish's proteins, which, in laymen's terms, "cooks" it so as to gradually turn the flesh opaque. Ortiz suggests a few minutes is all that is necessary to achieve the ideal balance between firmness and tenderness. Finally, we sprinkle over some sweet slithers of onion skin and roasted kernels of Peruvian Inca corn, offsetting all the clean flavours with a bit of crunch and earthiness. And that's that: a perfect combination of tang and texture.
I say perfect, but this isn't the match of the dish I slurped down in a recce meal the night before. Despite its apparent straightforwardness, I suspect there's an alchemy involved in its preparation that doesn't include cack-handedness. Though the best is saved for last, as I am offered a piquant cocktail combining some of the remaining Leche de Tigre with Peruvian pisco brandy: sans alcohol, Ortiz notes, the tiger's milk also serves as a traditional hangover cure. And given ceviche's rising popularity, Ortiz says we can expect pre-made bottles of Leche de Tigre popping up in supermarkets soon enough. Fishy lust nectar gushing from the nation's fridges? You heard it here first. 1
Lima is at 31 Rathbone Place, London, W1. For bookings: tel: 020 3002 2640; limalondon.com
Sea-bass ceviche, white tiger's milk, sweet onion skin, Inca corn
80g-100g/3oz-3½oz sea bass, filleted and trimmed
1 tsp (rounded) Rocoto pepper, blanched and diced finely
100ml/3½fl oz tiger's milk
1 tbsp sweet fried onions
Red and green shiso leaves
2-3 tbsp Inca corn
Cut the fish into 1cm cubes. Sprinkle over a little salt and mix with the Rocoto pepper. Put in a chilled glass bowl. Pour the tiger's milk on top. Sprinkle the crisp fried onions over the fish. Finish with the shiso leaves. Serve most of the Inca corn separately, but add a few kernels to the bowl.
For the tiger's milk
Makes 1 litre/1¾ pints
2 sticks celery – the white end is better
100g/3½oz onion, finely diced
50g/2oz ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic
150ml/¼ pint light fish stock (freshly made or bought from supermarket)
Small bunch coriander leaves, to taste
Juice of 9 limes
2 aji limo chillies, split
Put the celery, onion, ginger, garlic and fish stock in a blender and liquidise. Pour into a container and leave to stand for 20 mins. Add the coriander, lime juice and chillies. Leave the mixture for another 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve, extracting as much juice as possible, and chill.
For the sweet fried onions
Prepare a stock syrup with 1litre/1¾ pints water to 1,200g/2½lb sugar. Boil and cool. Macerate shredded red onions in the mixture overnight. Drain and deep-fry in hot oil until crisp. Pat dry on absorbent paper.