Inauthentic Recipes From An Immigrant Kitchen

in Food & Wine · 16-10-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments
Inauthentic Recipes From An Immigrant Kitchen

Chef and restaurateur Ravinder Bhogal puts an immense amount of thought and care into how she feeds people.

During lockdown - while many of us were battening down the hatches, and spending more time than ever with our own fridges - she was turning her attention to cooking meals for Kings College Hospital staff in London, and charity NishkamSWAT (which supports disadvantaged communities).

Then, despite the turmoil the hospitality industry was facing, she went and launched a new, vegetarian home delivery brand, Comfort and Joy, with a focus on sustainability, green energy, compostable containers - and for every meal bought, one is donated to charity. "We've really thought about what would make someone feel balanced and feel good," explains Bhogal, "and what is it that makes a takeaway feel sordid, because we don't want to put that in."

Oh, and she's got a new cookbook out, called Jikoni. It's been a decade since her last, Cook In Boots, came out, and while Jikoni takes its name from Bhogal's London restaurant - it includes some of Jikoni's most beloved menu items, including the cult prawn toast scotch egg, and banana cake with miso butterscotch - it's not necessarily a restaurant cookbook.

"What it looks at is the idea of authenticity," says Bhogal, a subject that can be a source of "irritation" for her. "Authenticity is such a subjective thing, particularly when you've come from the background I came from," she says. Bhogal was born in Kenya to Indian parents and moved to England aged seven. When your food culture is "twice removed almost" she says it is "always changing and new."

"Recipes are like stories that don't have endings," she adds. "Always open to adaptation, according to your landscape and what's available."

Jikoni's recipes are eclectic, vibrant and all-embracing. Think plump, pan-fried scallops with avocado-yuzu puree and crispy 'seaweed' (kale); an Asian mushroom ragout with sweet potato gnocchi; decadent mango doughnuts dusted with lime leaf sherbet; and a breakfast of tamarind and maple bacon atop fenugreek waffles, with a fennel and apple slaw. Just describing them makes your tongue sparkle.

More than anything, she hopes people read the cookbook, discover the recipes and recognise the value in cooking without borders. "In a time where there is so much fear, food is such a connector, it's such a great way of understanding people," says Bhogal. "When someone feels like a stranger and you eat their cuisine, you eat their food, you use their ingredients, it's a great tool for understanding people and their cultures and bringing people together.

"It's about celebrating the richness of our differences, and our similarities. We have to celebrate the intricacies and the nuances of both, and food does that."

Cauliflower popcorn with black vinegar dipping sauce

Ingredients:

(Serves 4 as a starter)

1 cauliflower, cut into small florets

Small handful of Thai basil leaves

6 spring onions, thinly sliced

2 red chillies, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Groundnut oil, for deep-frying

Lime wedges, to serve

For the dipping sauce:

100ml Chinkiang black vinegar

80ml light soy sauce

1 red chilli, finely chopped

Small thumb of ginger, finely grated

2tsp toasted sesame oil

1tsp caster sugar

1tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

For the batter:

2tsp Sichuan peppercorns

2tsp black peppercorns

2tsp sea salt

200g plain flour

4tbsp cornflour

About 300ml ice-cold sparkling water

Method:

1. To make the dipping sauce, simply whisk together all the ingredients.

2. For the batter, heat a dry frying pan over medium heat and toast the peppercorns until they are aromatic. Tip into a pestle and mortar, along with the salt, and crush to a coarse powder. Empty out into a mixing bowl, add both flours and mix well. Now whisk in the sparkling water, adding just enough to make a batter with a double-cream consistency, and being careful not to overbeat.

3. Fill a large, heavy-based saucepan a third full with the deep-frying oil. Heat the oil to 180°C - if you don't have a thermometer, you will know the oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden brown in 20 seconds. Dip the pieces of cauliflower into the batter, one at a time, letting the excess drip off, and deep-fry until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

4. Dip the basil leaves in batter and fry in the same way. When you have finished frying the cauliflower and basil leaves, carefully pour out most of the oil from the pan, leaving just a few tablespoons. Place over medium-high heat and flash-fry the spring onions, chillies and garlic for a minute or so, until the garlic is just beginning to colour. Drain on kitchen paper, scatter over the cauliflower and toss.

5. Serve immediately, with lime wedges for squeezing and the dipping sauce alongside.

Skate with lime pickle brown butter, tempura samphire and nori

Ingredients:

(Serves 2)

2 skate wings

75g unsalted butter

1tbsp rapeseed oil

1tbsp (heaped) lime pickle, pounded with a pestle and mortar until smooth

Juice of 1 lemon

2tbsp finely chopped coriander

Sea salt and black pepper

For the tempura samphire:

2 sheets toasted nori

80g plain flour

1tbsp (heaped) cornflour, plus extra for dredging

200g samphire

Ice-cold sparking water

Groundnut oil, for deep-frying

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 110°C/Fan 90°C/Gas Mark 1/4.

2. Rinse the skate wings and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper, then season with salt and pepper. Melt 25g of the butter and the rapeseed oil in a large frying pan. When the butter is sizzling, add the skate wings, fleshier side down, and fry for five minutes until the flesh is opaque and the skin is golden brown. Gently flip over and cook on the less-fleshy side for three minutes. Transfer to a baking tray and keep warm in the oven.

3. Wipe out the frying pan, add the remaining butter and melt over high heat. When it starts to go brown, quickly stir in the lime pickle and follow with the lemon juice. Take off the heat and stir through the coriander.

4. For the tempura samphire, using scissors, cut the nori into pieces and blitz to a powder in a blender or spice mill. Tip into a large bowl, add both flours and mix well. Gradually whisk in just enough sparkling water to make a thin batter, being careful not to over mix. Fill a large, heavy- based saucepan a third full with the deep-frying oil. Heat the oil to 180°C - if you don't have a thermometer, you will know the oil is ready when a cube of bread turns golden brown in 20 seconds. Working in batches, dredge the samphire in cornflour, then dip in the batter and deep-fry in the hot oil for about three minutes or until crisp and golden, allowing the oil to return to temperature between batches. Drain on kitchen paper.

5. Put the fish onto serving plates and spoon over the lime pickle brown butter. Serve with the tempura samphire.

Banana cake with miso butterscotch and Ovaltine kulfi

Ingredients:

(Serves 12)

1tbsp black tea leaves

200ml boiling water

200g pitted dates

110g unsalted butter

350g dark muscovado sugar

1tbsp treacle

1tbsp date syrup

400g self-raising flour

4 eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

1tbsp bicarbonate of soda

200g peeled bananas

For the kulfi:

50g Ovaltine

450g condensed milk

300ml double cream

For the butterscotch:

500ml double cream

175g demerara sugar

175g unsalted butter

1tbsp golden syrup

60g white miso

Method:

1. The kulfi will take at least six hours to set, so make it ahead of time. In a large bowl, mix the Ovaltine into the condensed milk until there are no lumps. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks, then fold it into the condensed milk mixture. Pour the kulfi into a tub and freeze until set. It really is as simple as that!

2. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas Mark 5. Line a 24cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

3. Put the tea leaves in a heatproof jug or bowl, pour over the boiling water and allow to infuse for a minute. Strain the tea, discarding the tea leaves, then soak the dates in the hot tea for 10 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in the treacle and date syrup, followed by the flour, and mix well. Mix the eggs in one at a time.

5. Tip the soaked dates and tea into a blender or food processor, along with the vanilla extract, and blitz to a puree. Add the bicarbonate of soda and pulse briefly, then add to the bowl and mix thoroughly.

6. Wipe out the blender, add the bananas and blend until smooth, then add to the cake batter and stir in well. Pour into the tin and bake for one hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

7. Meanwhile, to make the butterscotch, put the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar, butter and golden syrup and whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted. Finally whisk in the miso, then remove from the heat.

8. Turn the cake out on to a wire rack and leave to cool a little. To serve, cut into 12 portions, then serve warm with the hot miso butterscotch and the Ovaltine kulfi.

Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From An Immigrant Kitchen by Ravinder Bhogal, photography by Kristin Perers, is published by Bloomsbury.


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