Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Good food from the global grannies

Chef Stevie Parle may have launched his career in London restaurants, but it’s the grandmothers of the world who taught him how to cook

Written by Carolyn Hart

As do so many of the UK’s most interesting cooks, Stevie Parle started life at the River Café in London. He was also at Moro (the two Sams’ famous Spanish restaurant in Clerkenwell, East London) and between them, these two early steps in his career help explain why Parle’s recipes demonstrate the same virtues of clean great taste and simplicity of style. Parle, who’s also a kind of boy wonder of the restaurant business, launched himself on the foodie consciousness, aged 24, with The Moveable Kitchen, a series of secret Iraqi white supper parties that won him a place on the Evening Standard’s London’s Hottest Young Chefs list in 2009. Then he opened his much-lauded restaurant, Dock Kitchen – an ex-Victorian wharf overlooking the Grand Union Canal – still aged only 25. Now he’s 28, has a column in The Telegraph, and has just published this, his second book.

It too has the virtue of simplicity, helped by Toby Glanville’s stunning photographs. It’s driven by food from many different countries, organised by season, with each section containing mini features on seasonal versions of little toasts to share, ragouts of vegetables and a thoran – a simple, spicy veg dish from Southern India – as well as other seasonal dishes.

There’s also a section on puddings, containing 11 ice creams (including salt and caramel ice cream and damson and quince ice creams). Yotam Ottolenghi, another fashionable London cook, thinks Parle’s book is ‘marvellous… It contains some of my favourite cuisines,’ he says. ‘Lebanese, Iranian, Mexican, Italian and Indian…’ In his Introduction, Parle admits that it’s discovering ‘unusual home recipes collected from around the globe’ that excites him.

‘I always go to markets when I’m travelling,’ he says. ‘I find it fascinating to watch people choose food, particularly the grannies, they really know what they are doing…’ Reading his book is therefore not unlike a mini holiday amongst the food markets and restaurants of countries throughout the world; cooking from it, thanks to those global grannies, is also a geographical adventure for the taste buds.

Dock Kitchen Cookbook by Stevie Parle Quadrille, £25.

Iragi White Bean Soup

Iraqi White Bean Soup

Serves 4

  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 large celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Baghdad Bharat (some or all of a mix of teaspoonish amounts of black peppercorns, paprika, cayenne, cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, dried limes, cardamom seeds, ground ginger – keep it in a jar)
  • 1 small bunch of coriander, leaves and stalks separated, finely chopped
  • 250g tin of whole plum tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g cannelloni beans, rinsed

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion and celery with the Bharat, the coriander stalks and some salt for about 30 mins over a low-medium heat. Add the tomatoes, continue to cook. Add the beans and a little water and cook for a further 10 mins. Season and stir in the coriander leaves. Serve with crusty bread.



Asparagus Thoran

Asparagus Thoran

Serves 4

  • 2 tsp flavourless oil
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds u small bunch of fresh curry leaves
  • 4 large mild, dried chillies
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into 1cm lengths
  • Half a coconut, the flesh finely grated

In a frying pan, heat the oil till almost smoking. Add the mustard seeds and when they crackle, the curry leaves and dried chillies. A few seconds later tip in the asparagus, season and cook for a few minutes until the asparagus is just soft. Stir in the coconut, and serve.




Ragout de legumes spring

Serves 6

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
  • half a small head of spring garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 head of celery with leaves, the outer layers with the leaves, finely chopped, the heart cut into chunks
  • 5 bay leaves
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into short lengths
  • 500g peas
  • 400g small broad beans
  • 100g new potatoes, boiled until just soft
  • 1 bunch of chicory leaves
  • a few springs of parsley, dill, mint or marjoram

Heat the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and fry the onions, garlic, celery, bay leaves and thyme. After 15 mins, add the celery heart and the asparagus. Braise for a few minutes and then add the peas and broad beans. Add the potatoes and the chicory leaves. Splash in a bit of water, cover and stew gently for 15 mins. Roughly chop the herbs and stir into the mixture. Serve.



Fruit crostata

Fruit crostata

Makes two large crostata

  • 370g unsalted butter
  • 500g plain flour
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar, plus 200g
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1kg of nespole (Japanese loquats, or any fruit of your choice, eg, apricots, pear, grapes, rhubarb)
  • 100g blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

Rub one third of the unsalted butter into the flour with the 4 tbsp caster sugar and the salt until the mix resembles crumbs. Mix in the remaining butter, but not too well – there should be pea-sized lumps of butter. Add 4 tbsp iced water bit by bit until the pastry comes together.

Rest the pastry, wrapped in cling film, for at least two hours in the fridge. Roll out two discs each about 6mm thick.

Put the fruit in the centre, leaving a margin of about 10cm round the edge. Sprinkle over the 200g sugar and the almonds, then fold the pastry over the fruit to make a crust round the edge. Rest in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200C, and cook for about 25 mins, until light brown.

Photography: Toby Glanville

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