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Thursday 15 March 2012

Recipe: Cambodian Seared Beef Salad with Lime, Coriander & Peanuts served with Chips (AKA Steak, Chips & Peas)

by Simon Fernandez of ferdiesfoodlab

This recipe is inspired by my travels in Cambodia. I can't claim to be able to get hold of any prahoc, but I can claim to have been exposed to a serene culture, with an amazing and, frankly, dark past. I have mixed memories of land mine museums, electric bicycles, and the most friendly population I've ever encountered on my travels. Recovering from a pretty grim past I found the Cambodian people really welcoming. What to see? Jungle, elephants, amazing stonework sculpture and temples.

We'll take you to the floating village - come with us!! - Little monkeys!

Angkor Wat popping out of the jungle - although I didn't know it at the time, this was to be one of the happiest holidays of my life!

That's an elephant's arse!! How did that get in there?
I have to be honest - the food in Cambodia was a pretty hit and miss thing! This one sticks in my memory, I tried to get the recipe from the chef, a little old Cambodian woman, but it was a hopeless task since we had no common language (except food) whatsoever. I had to do a little research to get it right, but it's pretty faithful! It's mostly about the sauce, great depth!

Just look at that, what a stunning view!

Prahoc is a fermented fish paste, made from mudfish & gourami, amongst other things. It is widely used in Khmer cuisine. Try finding that in the supermarket!! Tuk prahoc is a liquid made by adding prahoc to boiling water and leaving over night

I've used shrimp paste instead of prahoc, and in the photos some leftover ribeye roast beef. I used sirloin steak last time I made it for supper club. This is a gorgeous recipe, great summer food!

You can use whichever steak you prefer, for this salad, my preference is sirloin or ribeye.

ingredients (serves 4)
for the salad and chips

750g sirloin - seared and thinly sliced - raw in the middle
400g sugar snap peas (julienne - diagonal)
800g Maris Piper potatoes 

From bottom CW: garlic, shrimp paste, lime, palm sugar & lemon grass. Got everything but the shallot!!!

for the sauce
2 lemon grass (blended)
2 shallots (blended)
2 cloves garlic (blended)
50g palm sugar (blended)
3 limes (juiced)
3.5g shrimp paste (+50ml boiling water)

for the garnish
2 birdseye chilli (fine sliced rings)
15g coriander (chopped coarse, stalks ok)
70g peanuts (coarsely ground)
sprinkling of garlic chives (optional)

heavy based pan
fine sieve

beef salad and chips
Cut up the sugar snaps in long diagonal strips, take off any tough stalky bits, of which there should be very few, and place them in a salad bowl ready to mix. Use your favourite method to make chips, I'd suggest a 10mm square cross section, the rest I'm leaving for another post! Put them somewhere where they will keep warm in a tray lined with kitchen towel.

Chips glorious chips . . . hot chocolate and biscuits?

For the photography, I used some leftover roast ribeye of beef and pan seared it. Very, very nice! (Video of how to roast ribeye coming soon) If using sirloin, remove the fat and cut it into 1.5cm (1/2 inch) steaks, and marinate them in a little of the sauce for a couple of hours.  Bring the meat to room temp before cooking: this way it's not cold in the middle after searing. Cooking the steak should be the last thing you do! When you're ready, bring a heavy-based pan up to a high heat, pop a glug of olive oil in with the steaks, make sure they're coated with it, season lightly and put in the pan. Turn them a couple of times, once they're golden brown it's time to whip 'em out.  Slice thinly across the grain, and serve immediately! The thinner you slice the faster the meat will go cold, so not too thin! Think of that gorgeous, steamy, beefy goodness!!

sauce (overnight infusion - or first thing in the am)
Bring the water to the boil in a pan and add the shrimp paste. Stir until dissolved, then leave to cool.
Once cool, add the sugar and dissolve.  Blend the rest of the ingredients and add them, then leave the mix in the fridge overnight. In the morning sieve the mix. It's now ready to use.

Now that's and explosion of flavours, sharp and light!
Personally, I don't mind a few chilli seeds in my salad. If you're not of that persuasion, cut the stalk end of the chilli off at it's widest point, roll it between your index finger and thumb to release the seeds, then slice it into rings.
Coarsely chop the peanuts with a knife or with a couple of pulses of your blender. Do not powder them! They contribute a great texture and flavour, if there are quarter peanut-sized lumps in there that's great!!
The coriander is fine torn by hand, stalks and all!!

thinking ahead
Make the sauce the night before, so those flavours really infuse with each other.

to serve
Place the steak on a bed of peas, dress with coriander, chilli and peanuts and sauce serve with bowl of chips (making sure your plates are hot!)

Thank you Cambodia!

Thursday 8 March 2012

Do Snails Have Teeth? . . . recipe: Port & Chive Snails

Interview with Tony Vaughan from L'Escargot Anglaise

Do snails have teeth?

This is Simon Fernandez, asking the tough questions for ferdiesfoodlab! ; ) I've been looking around for different ingredients recently, and I thought I might look into snails. Anyone that does any poking around, will quickly find out that a lot of restaurants in the UK, are supplied from a company based in Hereford, in the nearby village at Credenhill called L'Escargot Anglaise, run by a guy called Tony Vaughan, so I thought I'd go and check it out, pick his brains and maybe a snail or 2 out of their shells!

The main varieties that are farmed and eaten are the African snail - Achatina achatina, and the garden snail - Helix Aspera.

To give you a sense of scale this snail is centre frame next image (left side)

I'd not really thought about how snails start off life, very small, that they fire darts at each other, or how big they could get, or if they have teeth! So here's what I found out on my visit to Credenhil in Herefordshire.
The centre snail is about 4mm head to tail!

It's an unassuming complex, and when I arrived Tony showed me around the various sections, after a jolly good nosey we got down to a bit of a Q & A session. Here's what came up!

This one at the bottom is barely 2mm eyeball to tail

Q: What's involved in heliculture? (snail husbandry)
A: The same as with any other husbandry: get them together and get them at it!! Snails are hermaphrodite and can get preggers solo!! But as it turns out they prefer to mate with other snails, go figure! I can imagine that's rather more fun than firing a dart at a solid object and hoping it will ricochet off and hit you back!

Production process from start to end takes around 5 months, here's a bullet point overview:

Mating section: 16C-18C they lay 40-80 eggs each although often only one lays eggs. Mating is also effected by population density! So not too crammed please!

Incubation of eggs: When the eggs hatch they eat their shell as their first meal, 22C.

Initial growth room: Intensive feeding 18C-22C, the population density is a factor in growth and they soon need to be moved to bigger quarters . .

Secondary growth room: Ooh that's better - stretch - bit more space, faster growth.

Harvesting: Here they are only fed water for 2 days, to leave them clean!

The snails are then slightly blanched - this is the abattoir element of the process - it also makes them a lot easier to transport.

Q: I remember going snail "hunting" with my uncle  down by a local stream after the rain, we did quite well, is there a season for snails in their natural environment?
A: Mostly active between March and October. There are 4 main phases, pre-spawning, spawning, post_spawning and aestivation where they gather together and hibernate.

Q: I seem to remember my uncle sitting them in salt water to clean/discharge them. Is that the best way to do it or is there another / better way?
A: We feed them on a water only diet for 2 days before we harvest them.

Q: Are there any poisonous ones?
A: All land snails are edible. Sea snails, on the other hand, can be poisonous. Interestingly the venom of some cone (sea) snails such as Conus magus (Magical Cone) is being trialed for use as a pain killer 1000 times stronger than morphine but without it's addictive qualities.

Q: What size are the snails?
A: Helix aspera: shell around 4cm x 3cm with an 8cm foot. Achatina achatina (giant African land snail):  shell 18cm long x 9cm wide, have been found as large as 30cm x 15cm - that's the size of my fore arm - that's pretty big. That's when you worry about their teeth, right?

Q: Easiest way to eat them? Are there any special implements?
A: Use a snail fork and snail tongs. (or a toothpick and fingers if you're at a picnic!!)

Q: I read that your snails are the same as French snails except they're english do you have more than one strain / species?
A: We farm Helix Aspera for the most part, and Helix Pomatia also.

Q: Is there such a thing as a thoroughbred snail?
This question brought a wry smile.
A: If you're racing them, yes! (Definitely yanking my chain here.) We used to sell them years ago for exactly that purpose until the restaurant business took off!

Nope no sign of teeth or fangs on the underside!

Q: Can you eat the giant snails?
A: Yes, you can, in fact, they're the only other species that are commercially farmed.

Q: Do you breed them?
A: No.

Q: So th ones you do breed, how much they eat, what do they eat, what do you feed them?
A: We feed them chalk and pig feed.

Q: What forms do you supply them in - tins, bags, frozen, live?
A: Blanched in bags, and pre-cooked in garlic in bags too.

Q: How much do they cost?
A: The ones in shells and garlic £15.10 for 50
     No shell, blanched £15.10 for 100

Q: Who are you main customers?
A: Restauranteurs, he reels off a pretty impressive list, including the Fat Duck and the Ledbury and quite a few others.

Q: How are they transported?
A: Refrigerated in plastic bags.

Q: Do you eat them often?
A: He pulls a face and says, "I probably try them once a day, testing a batch as it goes through, but not generally, no."

Q: You have any recommended recipes?
A: Tony pulls down a spec sheet from the wall and says, "Here, you can have this one, we don't use it any more, the orders were too sketchy, you're welcome……", quickly covering the TOP SECRET garlic recipe with a piece of paper as I take a snap of the recipe with my phone.

Recipe - L'Escargot Anglaise
Epicure: Port and Chives recipe

100 snails
228g port
16g chives
60g anchovy paste
60g garlic
228g tomato puree
4g black pepper
2 1/2 packs butter (625g? really? that much?)
salt to taste

Tony says: Slow poach or bake in the oven! Bon appetite!

I have to put my hands up. Although I did go away with a bag of snails to try out, our freezer failed a couple of days later and they were unfortunately lost!! So I've not tried this recipe out!

All the same thanks to Tony for his time!

Culprit, hotfooting it from the scene! (legging it seemed inappropriate) Clearly visible bite marks! I'm submitting this as evidence your honour!

For the question, "Do snails have teeth?" I had to go a little farther afield. The answer was provided by a lovely marine biologist Jemma Ludley from whom I got the following info "Snails are Gastropods. These have a radula which is basically a structure of numerous teeth that 'rasps' objects......if that makes sense?"

So what I'm hearing is they have one big serrated tooth, but the answer definitely contains teeth, that's a bit fat yes for me, so I'm off to buy my new pet snail, Hilary a toothbrush! Just needs to grow arms now!

Sunshine, leaves and not pots . . . and a toothbrush, happy days!

How is one supposed to know to look for Radula!!? Great page here on Wikipedia.

Great Snail Farming Manual - This has to be one of the best resources out there, with a lot of information on global practices and breeds and a wealth of links!

PDF on African Snail Farming
Apparently you can get them in London here:

View Larger Map

and Brixton market!

How to cook African land snails here by Tim Hayward in Hard as Snails. Drawing, it has to be said, quite a lot of fire in the comments! Too much in my opinion, although there was one comment about human overpopulation that seemed to ring true. That said, I don't think I'll be putting them on the menu!

Another supplier of Escargot here!

If you want to forage for your own snails the best time is just after it's rained when they're all out and about, place them in salt water to clean them, then roast in garlic, parley and butter!! Job done!

Thursday 1 March 2012

Recipe: Pancakes with Snowburst Nectarines and Basil and Grapefruit Syrup

by Simon Fernandez of ferdiesfoodlab

Pancakes! King of comfort foods. My mum recalls, when the family were living in the worst house they'd lived in, with a tiny little kitchen, how this was one thing that everyone liked! How they'd all be gathered in the living room waiting for my gran to come through to them with a stack of lovely pancakes ready to be rolled by all the eager beavers, including granddad!! We didn't have lemon in those days!!! Bit too sophisticated!! (this was the late fifties!) 

Pancakes, I'm sure, are ingrained in all our childhood memories. Comforting times for the lucky!

I have similar, warm memories of wide-eyed expectation, sitting at the kitchen table waiting for my moist pancake, made juicy with a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon. Wow!! This was one of the first things I learn't how to make - batter!!!

Pancakes with Snowburst Nectarine and Basil and Grapefruit Syrup

For me a good pancake has a little thickness to it, at least 3mm.  With a light, moist texture so that it rolls up into a proper pancake. A pancake that oozes tasty juices  onto your tongue as you bite into it!!  It should have a lovely golden colour and not look all pasty and anaemic, and it should definitely not be rubbery!

What is it with pancakes? The first one always seems to go a bit wrong? Maybe something to do with judging the amount required for whatever mad batter mix has been concocted on the fly this time round!!

Here's how to make classic and Snowburst pancakes . . .

ingredients (serves 4, 3 pancakes each)
for the pancakes

1 egg
120g plain flour
240ml warm milk (30-35C)
4g yeast (1 level tsp, twice as much if fresh yeast) - optional
5g sugar
0.5g salt
50g butter (cut into 12 knobs)

for the grapefruit & basil syrup
~320ml pink grapefruit juice (2 grapefruits)
30g / 2 tbsp sugar
8-12 basil leaves (fine chop - last minute)
2 ripe Snowburst nectarines (stoned, cut into 1/8's)

for the garnish
basil shoot
poppy seeds

apparatus / equipment

flat bottomed frying pan light enough to toss pancakes in

OK, to get a light, moist pancake we want a bubbly mix, for which we need a little yeast: Warm the milk up to around 35C / 95F, and mix in the yeast until it's completely dissolved. Don't use milk hotter than 50C / 122F since that will kill the yeast.

Add the egg, sugar and salt to a whisking bowl, sieve the flour and add the yeast mix, whisk until smooth. To avoid rubberiness, we want little egg, and we want to avoid gluten formation, so stop whisking as soon as you have a smooth mix!!!
Packed with tiny bubbles for extra lightness!
Leave the mix on the counter for at least 30 minutes until it has small (half mm) bubbles running through it and has a ribbon consistency. Ready to rock!! It's pancake time!!

Add a small knob of butter to a hot pan, let it melt, then coat the surface with it. Pour the batter into the centre until the circle of batter is about 2/3's the diameter of the pan. That should be enough to make a pancake the size of the pan, move the pan to coat the bottom completely and wait for small holes to form around the edges - then toss the pancake.

Classic pancakes - simplicity - beautiful! Where's me fork?
For classic pancake turn out, sprinkle with sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and roll up. Add another sprinkle of sugar and lemon juice on top!! Beautiful!!  Alternatively add nectarines and syrup, below.

If you're don't have half an hour to wait for the bubbles, leave out the yeast, give the mix a good whisk to get some air into the batter and use immediately!

For a thin more crepe like beastie, don't use yeast, but still leave the batter to stand for 45mins to allow the air in the mix to float to the surface and out.

grapefruit & basil syrup
Put the juice and sugar into a heavy-based pan and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil, and then simmer until the liquid has reduced by 1/3, then add the nectarine pieces. I used Snowburst because they have a beautiful white flesh and I love their sweet taste. There's no reason not to use normal nectarines though. Put to one side until the pancakes are ready. Once the pancakes are plated, pick and fine chop the basil and mix it through the syrup. Then serve.

thinking ahead
The batter takes 30mins to bubble up so mix it before your favourite soap and let it rise.
Make sure you have some warm plates ready to serve the pancakes.
Make the syrup before the pancakes, it will keep much better than they will.

what could go wrong?
I'm rubbish at tossing pancakes - they always crash into a crumpled heap when they land!! Use a fork to guide the pancake through the air! Make sure the pancake is not stuck to the pan, ease the fork (or spatula) in under the edge of the pancake, move the pan upwards, then back down quickly, and at the apex of the movement use the fork to turn the pancake as it drops back into the pan. Don't use the fork to lift the pancake, simply to guide it as it returns to the pan! Have fun : )

to serve
Lay 3 pancakes on each warm plate, spoon on 4 pieces of nectarine, some syrup, dust with a little poppy seed and dress with a basil shoot. I love the crunchiness of poppy seeds, but they're not for everyone! Totally up to you!!

Still gorgeous even without poppy seeds!!

blueberries, maple syrup, ice-cream, caramel sauce, the possibilities are endless!!

basil plants
Tip on keeping basil plants alive: Keep them indoors in good light (kitchen window for example), when the soil dries out, put them in the sink and soak them, then drain them and return them to their spot. Pinch off the the top shoots, they'll bush more. Pinch off any white flowers - they'll keep growing longer!! Happy basil!

As you can see, I've kept mine alive long enough for it to be almost bald!!!

How To Book / Attend

How To Book / Attend
Fancy getting stuck in? Click on the image above and to see how : ) . . . hope to see you soon.

More Techniques, Basics and Corker Recipes

More Techniques, Basics and Corker Recipes
If there's something you've tried at ferdiesfoodlab or a technique you want to know about drop us a line at and I'll put up a post about it!!


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