Happy Birthday Rachel Clarke

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Just a quick note to say how excited Love Club is to be hosting Rachel Clarke’s birthday this weekend and her 28 guests for a 3 course Love Club special. Its going to be a wonderful evening and we are honoured to be a part of it.

It’s been quiet on the blog but lots of exciting things are cooking including two new venues that Love Club are soon to be resident at, and a Brixton Village Market pop-up in association with Celia Lager in the first week of November!

Anyway it’s back to the kitchen for me. There’s a lot of cooking to do!

Love Cordelia
xx

The Amazon Jungle – Back to Basics.

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Week two in Peru and we’ve hit the jungle. The Amazon. I was a little apprehensive to begin with. I’ve never been a fan of creepy crawlies. I have a huge fear of spiders and I’m allergic to mosquito bites but beyond this the jungle has so much more to offer even for me.

It’s wet season at the moment which apart from meaning LOADS of Mosquitos (so many and so vicious that if I’d known I probably would have passed on a 5 day jungle adventure – more fool me) it also means that the tiny village we are staying in 2 hours by boat from the nearest small town is submerged in water. Thank goodness for stilts! We are staying at Libertad Jungle Lodge, a network of stilted huts on the side of the Ucayali river. We’ve had adventures by small wooden motor boat, canoe and foot through the jungle. Seen dolphins, monkeys, sloths, alligators and countless species of bird. It’s been a breathtaking experience. When we initially met out guide for our 4 day jungle adventure he looked rather surprised when I asked him if I could do cooking as one of my jungle activities.

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Our jungle guide Adriano upfront as we boat through the jungle.

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Canoeing through the jungle at sunset

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The Libertad Jungle Lodge, a network of stilted huts on the side of the Ucayali river

The kitchen is like no other I have cooked in before. A sideless hut with leaf roof and two fires set on platforms. Basically two large bbq’s. Everything has to be fresh, there’s only electricity for 3 hours per day so a fridge or freezer is no option. It’s back to basics. There was a live chicken roaming around when we arrived. I haven’t seem it today and we had chicken for dinner last night so I can only imagine… Now there’s nothing else more free range or fresh as that. On my first day I fished with homemade fishing rods. Using beef as bate I caught myself my first fish, a catfish that we enjoyed that evening for dinner. River to plate in a matter of hours.

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The Kitchen – a sideless hut with leaf roof

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Inside the kitchen

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Baiting our hooks.

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Overly excited at catching my first fish that was big enough for us to eat.

Anyway I could go on for hours about this place and the wonderful, inspirational and sometimes uncomfortable experiences I’ve had here but I’m here to talk food so I’ll get on with that.

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Sunset from our dining room at the Libertad Lodge (through a mosquito net).

Before I talk about my cooking lesson I want to mention a drink we enjoyed with pancakes for breakfast. This was ‘chapo de planto’ a drink made of ripe plantain boiled in water for up to an hour then liquidised to a smooth consistency. Nothing else. Served warm or cold this drink is delicious and I even enjoyed it smothered over my pancake. Yum! Looking forward to recreating this one.

Now in my cooking lesson I made ‘Pescado asado hoja’ also known as ‘Pescado asado al jiuno’ which is fish cooked in heliconia leaves. You begin by marinating gutted and descaled fish in lemon, salt, comino con pimento (cumin with pepper) and a small amount of jungle cilantro (wild coriander). A mix of finely diced red onion, sweet pepper, garlic and jungle cilantro is made. The heliconia leaf is washed then waved over the fire to soften it. Taking a leaf you rub one end with oil where the fish will lie. Place a small amounts of salsa on the oiled leaf place your marinated leaf on top then a bit more of the salsa mix, wrap it up nice and tight , ends open then place on a wire wrack above the fire for about and hour. Unwrapping this package of delight was incredible with the waft of freshly cooked fish mixed with garlic and cilantro filling your nose – a perfect combination. We enjoyed this with a salsa made of thinly sliced raw onion, cocona fruit, salt and lemon alongside rice and plantain cooked over the fire. A delicious and nutritious meal enjoyed with the Libertad Lodge family.

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The Libertad Lodge family and Will my friend and travelling companion.

The food here has been delicious and plentiful. How the wonderful chef Berta can create in such basic circumstances astounds me. It’s truly incredible. It makes me realise how back at home we are spoilt. The essence of growing, nurturing and caring for our food has diminished in many homes compared to that of past times. Food has become a necessity, a commodity that some people deal with quickly and without care or thought rather than a way of life through which there are many lessons concerning our health and our environment to be learnt. By making everything so easy for ourselves we are doing so at the expense of our health and the environment. We really do need to go back to basics enjoying fresh local food, organically grown and free range to create simple dishes with these quality ingredients. A far healthier way of life for us and our environment.

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Head chef in her kitchen

I hope you have enjoyed this taste of cooking from the Amazon jungle in Peru. It’s been a true experience well outside of my comfort zone and as my boyfriend has quite rightly said, this is where life begins.

With love,
Cordelia x

Peru and Cerviche

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Hello from Peru! I’ve been here nearly two weeks and thought it about time we talked Peruvian food. Well all I can say is that for most of it I’ve been in food heaven which for me involves copious amounts of FISH. Of this the most distinctive of dishes that’s screams Peru is cerviche. This dish is in fact typical of Latin American countries per se (it’s actual origin is disputed) but with subtle differences between countries. Here in Peru it most commonly consists of raw white fish or blanched shellfish cured in citrus juices mostly lime but also lemon, raw onions, cilantro (coriander), salt and usually a hint of chilli. The acids in the juice denatures the protein similar to cooking making the flesh opaque and firm whilst the marinate takes on a milky appearance. The result is a beautifully fresh zingy and tasty plate of fish that is as well exceptionally healthy. Here it is often served with a slice of sweet potato, avocado, lettuce or corn as a garnish.

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Now I’ve long been a lover of sashimi with lashings of soy and wasabi but this dish has by far superseded this love and I’m officially a cerviche convert. It doesn’t matter where I have had it here, expensive upmarket restaurant or eating shack on the Paracas beach, every time it has delighted. However that at La Mar, a beautiful fish restaurant in Mires Flores, Lima was definitely the best so far but only by a smidge. Here we indulged in three different types as an appetiser seen in the picture. The first was the classic cerviche as described above and this was definitely my favourite. The flavours were so beautifully balanced. The fish caught a few hours before so freshness like I had never tasted before. The second was a cure laced with chilli so the marinate was a beautiful red. It wasn’t too hot and balanced well with lime so it was surprisingly still refreshing. Lastly an Asian style cerviche. The lime was there with soy sauce, cilantro and chilli. The flavours were good but not as refreshing and delicate as the others and for me the fish did not come through enough despite the use of tuna but still a wonderful take on this classic. For my main I enjoyed a whole grilled white fish cooked to perfection served with lightly stir fried vegetables. Probably the best bit of fish I have ever eaten. This was all washed down with a fantastic Peruvian white wine. Bliss.

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So there you go a touch of food heaven from Peru. I’m feeling inspired and can already see a Love Club cerviche and pisco sour (THE cocktail of Peru) party on my return to the UK but that will have to wait another two and a half months as I continue my travels through Ecuador, Colombia and Panama. I hope to bring you more food inspiration throughout my travels but somehow I feel with cerviche I’ve peaked too early…

With love as always,
Cordelia x
;

Reg, Scottish Whisky Dundee Cake and Spreading the LOVE.

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At 7am yesterday morning I was weighing out and soaking dried fruit in whisky for a scottish whiskey dundee cake. Even for me and the party animal I have been the whisky was turning my stomach at that hour. It’s never been my choice of tipple but then there’s a new man in my life that I’m cooking for. His name is Reg and I must have met him about 3 or 4 months ago. Our only exchanges have been on my street at 7.10 am on my way to work. Reg would be either coming back form or going to get a paper, sometimes in freezing cold weather with only a baseball cap and thin suit jacket on. He would always shout ‘hello dear’ we would say a few words and that was it really. I don’t know much about him apart from the fact he lives alone since his wife died 10 years ago. He must be in his late 80s. He’s two blocks up from me in their home and he used to work portering in the blocks along my street. Reg brightens up every morning I see him. It’s been a cold, dark and rainy few months and I’m indefinitely tired. Then there’s Reg. A kind, happy, man who even at that hour is always beaming like he’s so thankful and happy in life. Before Christmas he asked me what I was doing for the holdays and if I was going anywhere nice. When I asked him what he was doing he said ‘oh I’ll be alright’ and I thought that sounded like the response from someone who was going to be home alone at Christmas and this made me feel deeply sad especially as I’m so used to large family gatherings, all my favourite festive foods a plenty, surrounded by a lot of love. On getting on the tube that morning and letting all this digest I had this overwhelming urge from deep inside my belly to cook for him. I couldn’t bring him company but I could certainly make him food and show him love. So I did. The day before christmas eve I spent cooking away for Reg, two real classics, the kind I imagined an elderly man to like but made that bit more special. I wanted to make him something that was tasty and may have been the kind of stuff his wife or mum used to make, just proper good home cooked food. My gift included slow braised shin of beef in red wine with onions and carrots. I boiled up a load of potatoes too that he could either mash or have whole. Then I made a scottish whiskey dundee cake, don’t all elderly people love a fruit cake? Especially one soaked in whiskey. I left the parcel outside his flat (he’s too deaf to hear the doorbell) and when I bumped into him after my christmas break two weeks later he told me it made his day and brought a tear to his eye. We had a big hug and when I continued to the tube I wept.

Since this time I’ve started doing other bits for Reg. Recently when he was ‘under the weather’ I made some leak an potato soup with leeks from my dad’s garden. This week I’ve made him another scottish whiskey dundee cake. I felt the last one could have been improved on. The cooking time in the recipe is WAY out so I wanted to repeat and perfect it and I’m going to share it with you. It’s a classic Delia recipe and one my mum swears by but as I find with many of the her recipes her cooking times are massively off (she says cake cooks in 2-2.5 hours but it never takes longer than 1.5 hours!!!) so please follow my instructions.

I urge you people to cook something for someone today. Someone who’s alone, someone who’s old and can’t cook, someone who’s homeless, whoever just spread and share the love.

Anyway this post is dedicated to Reg. Everyday I see you you brighten up my day. Thank you.

Scottish Whiskey Dundee Cake

3 tablespoons whisky
6 oz (175 g) currants
6 oz (175 g) sultanas
4 oz (110 g) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and cut into halves
3 oz (75 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
grated rind 1 small orange
grated rind 1 small lemon
5 oz (150 g) butter, at room temperature
5 oz (150 g) soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
8 oz (225 g) plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
milk, if necessary – I always need about 50mls
2 level tablespoons ground almonds
4 oz (110g) whole blanched almonds
1 miniature bottle (3½ tablespoons) single malt Scotch whisky (for ‘feeding’)
You will also need a 7 inch (18 cm) square or 8 inch (20 cm) round cake tin, greased and lined with silicone paper (baking parchment)- double line it with parchment paper. A tip from my mum to stop the edges burning.

Begin the night before by weighing the fruit and peel into a bowl and sprinkling it with the 3 tablespoons of whisky. Mix well, cover and leave overnight.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C). Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy – or use an electric mixer for more speed. Whisk the eggs separately, then, a little at a time, beat them into the creamed butter and sugar. Next, using a large tablespoon, carefully fold in the sifted flour and baking powder. Your mixture needs to be of a soft, dropping consistency so, if it seems too dry, add a dessertspoon of milk.

Now, carefully fold in the ground almonds and then the currants, sultanas, cherries, mixed peel and orange and lemon zest. Then spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smoothing it out evenly with the back of the spoon. If you don’t intend to ice the cake, arrange the whole blanched almonds in circles on top of the mixture, but do this carefully and lightly; if they are pressed in they will sink during the baking. Place the cake in the centre of the oven and bake for 2-2½ hours or until the centre is firm and springy to the touch.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before taking it out to finish cooling on a wire rack. Then ‘feed’ it – make small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of malt whisky – wrap it in double silicone paper and store it in foil or an airtight container till needed. If you like you can feed it again before icing or eating.

Enjoy and remember to spread the LOVE

Cordy
xxx

Pics ‘n’ tings.

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I’ve been brooding over this post for the past two weeks. I’m feeling slightly anxious as it’s been a while. Let’s just say the balance in my life shifted somewhat and 55 to 60 hour working weeks has meant that I’ve neglected my blog. I have in no way though neglected cooking and my love of food.

I have to mention the incredible Love Club that took place in November near Totnes, Devon set in a HUGE beautiful barn with ceilings to the sky, candle and disco lights. This was a private event for 8 guests. The food included coriander and cumin potatoes cakes, cucumber and mint raita, paneer tikka, roasted aubergine and cumin puree, tamarind and chilli monkfish curry, spring onion pilau rice, lentils with spinach and lemon, tomatoes and coriander salsa, baked cheesecake and raspberry coulis. The gorgeous group of guests to Emma Peel and Steven Simmonds ate like kings then partied to the early hours in front of an open log fire. It was a very special night.

I’m soon to launch my new website which I’m so excited about and has been a real inspiration to the start of 2014 for me. Given as a gift by a very special person (Dan Gerrett) it’s almost ready to go apart from a few adjustments. Watch this space!

Anyway I thought I should return with some photos from Love Club September ’13 that I haven’t yet released. Eighteen wonderful guests, four courses of carefully crafted flavoursome food in one of Love Club’s favourite Shoreditch apartment venues.

Thank you to the lovely Ed Lousley for great camera work (and sous chef-ing :). Brooke Hilden for being my right-hand woman. Dan Gerrett for being my right-hand man.

The Food:

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Broad bean puree with feta relish and organic bread.

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Marinated butterflied leg of lamb. Balsamic baby onions. Potatoes with capers, black olives and anchovies. Tomato and basil salsa.

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Cheese and roasted figs.

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Salted chocolate tart and creme fraiche.

The Crowd:

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Rosie and Rob.

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Leopard print. Because eating’s sexy too.

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Dan the man.

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Lovely vibes.

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Vibey ‘n’ eatey.

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Action stations.

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Rebecca. Candle light.

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Chocolate truffles. Handmade (obviously).

Love Cordelia x

Traditional Burmese Fish Curry

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There is no doubting the fact that I LOVE Asian cuisine. I’m inspired by the plethora of ingredients and spices used, the colours, the fragrance but most out of all the TASTE. Maybe I’m biased having a Burmese background but when there’s a curry cooking in the kitchen and that aroma is wafting through the house teasing you, you can’t help but get excited. I’m mean this food turns me on. Eating well cooked Asian food can literally make you happy in an instant. When I share a good curry with friends I think it creates some kind of love around the table, a special kind of buzz. You can’t help but smile. Jamaican food has this effect on me too.

So anyway it’s about time I shared with you some Burmese dishes wouldn’t you say? I’m going to start with a very simple straight forward but unbelievably tasty traditional Burmese fish curry. We enjoyed this a couple of weekends ago with my tomato and coriander salsa, cucumber raita and plenty of cocktails.

Serves 4-5
800g sustainable fish. I love using salmon but a white fish works well too.
2 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp fish sauce plus more for taste
5-6 echalion shallots or small white onions
7 cloves of garlic
2-3 red chillies
3 inches fresh ginger
5 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tsp paprika
900g tomatoes
150 mls water or stock
Bunch of coriander
1 -2 limes

Cut your fish into large chunks. When using salmon I would cut a fillet in two to give you an idea of the size. Mix together the turmeric, fish sauce and a dash of water. Rub this into your fish and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes or so.

Finely chop your shallots, garlic and chillies. I like to keep the seeds in the chillies for extra heat but remove if you prefer. Peel and grate the ginger. Alternatively place all these ingredient to into a food processor and blitz until very fine.

Heat oil in a large deep frying pan. Fry the chopped onion, garlic and chillies and grated ginger or your blitzed mixture for 5-10 minutes over a medium heat or until nice and soft. Try not to colour them. Roughly chop your tomatoes. Add the paprika to the pan and cook for a minute then add your chopped tomatoes.

Cut the stems off the bunch of coriander. Finely chop and add to the pan.

Cook this mixture out until your tomatoes become pulpy and disintegrate. This may take 10 -15 minutes or slightly more. The sauce should be reasonable thick when finished and all it’s ingredients dissolved into a nice sauce.

Add the stock and bring the mixture to the boil. Lower the heat to make a simmer then add your fish and its marinate to the pan. The fish should only take 5 minutes to cook. Try not to stir it too much as the fish will break up.

When the fish is cooked remove from the heat. Taste the sauce and add more fish sauce to taste. Squeeze over the juice of half a lime. Roughly chop the leafy bit of your remaining bunch of coriander and sprinkle over.

Serve with rice and a wedge of lime.

This is delicious. Enjoy
xx

Go Green Juice!

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You might be wondering why I have gone a bit juice crazy. Well there are a couple of reasons. Firstly a good friend of mine came over last week and when she walked in the door she looked incredible. Her skin was glowing. Her eyes were sparkling. Her body was trim. “What have you been doing?” I asked (not that she looked terrible before but the difference was HUGE). “Well” she said “two things 1) I’ve given up smoking 2) I’m juicing.” Smoking is toxic and removing this from your life is going to have obvious beneficial effects. For help with this and for more info see http://smokefree.nhs.uk/ but juicing? Juicing enables you to get super charged with nutrients without having to consume mountains of vegetables that would actually be hard for you to digest. This was the documentary that inspired my friend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVW_QCwWdFI where a guy who is ‘fat, sick and nearly dead’ changes his life through juicing and exercise. Anyway i’m on the juice wagon and I’m loving it! I have a juice every morning with breakfast. I’m not trying to loose weight so I’m not on the ‘juice diet’ but introducing one juice a day into your life can benefit your nutritional levels tremendously. It takes me about 5 minutes to prepare a juice then about 5 – 10 minutes to clean the juicer. If you can find a maximum of 15 minutes in your day to devote to a juice then do it! I’m lucky since I have just finished full time work where I was getting up at 6am and getting home at 8pm and it was tough and I didn’t juice. Not everyone has such crazy schedules like this and so I really recommend you start JUICING. Here is one of Joe’s green juice recipes and it’s delicious!

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One serving:

1 cucumber

3 sticks of celery

2 green apples

2 handfuls of spinach

Wash the ingredients thoroughly

Juice. Stir. Drink. You can literally feel the nutrients going in. Yum!

xxx