Broken Yolk

Broken Yolk
Play with your Food!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Mud Pie

“Writing is like walking in a deserted street. Out of the dust in the street you make a mud pie.” - John Le Carre

So here it is – the recipe for my mud pie. The pivotal dish I cooked on Masterchef, meant as sabotage, that I dreamt up on a hallucinatory kind of night. Probably the closest I’ll ever get to Kubla Khan. The original dish was far more complicated, involving a menagerie of garden delicacies, but I decided to simplify it into something more iconic. Even I’ve learnt a thing or two from Andy Warhol’s soup.

I know that, at the end of the day, this is just a recipe. But for me it was a piece of art. An experiment to see if food could evoke nostalgia, even memories. If it could evoke emotion and thought then it was as powerful an artistic medium as any painting or composition (yeh I said it Hegel!)

This was the first of many other experiments to use taste in art, thought up by my 18 year old self riding out insomnia.

If you want to know what the 22 year old self thinks of it you can dare to read the theory below. Call me crazy.

An exploration of the objective systematicity of the ‘aesthetic-in-itself’ produced by the practical principles of taste, by examining the power of food to evoke emotion, and even memory. The nostalgic force of food also features in Jen Susman’s work Practice Makes Perfect. This artwork is an adult recreation of the mud pies of early childhood, flavoured with thyme and rosemary, and with crystallized tarragon leaves to evoke the sense of grass. The herby, earthy, bitter taste tries to recreate the taste of a real mud pie by making use of the changes in the developed palate. It examines Bergson’s idea that “the aesthetic imperatives of unconscious apperception and remembrance are at the same time archaic vestiges incompatible with the increasing maturation of reason,” which suggests psychological cathexis as a condition of aesthetic perception.

Mud Pie Recipe

300g sweet dessert pastry (250g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
20g finely-grated 80% cocoa solids chocolate
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
130g caster sugar
150g butter, softened)

2 large free-range eggs, 
lightly beaten

400g dark chocolate, 
60 per cent cocoa solids

200ml whole milk

200ml double cream
2 tbsp runny honey
1 bunch of Thyme

1 bunch of Tarragon (whole leaves)

1. to make the pastry, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the salt and vanilla extract, creaming into the mix. Now add the cocoa powder and chocolate. Mix to combine thoroughly.
2. Add the flour and mix to combine. lift the pastry from the bowl onto a sheet of clingfilm and shape into a disc. Wrap securely then chill in the refrigerator.
3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to aprox ½ inch thick. Use a large cookie cutter to cut out about 10 rounds of the pastry. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill for an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 
200C/Gas 6. Prick the
pastry rounds with a fork and then place a layer of parchment paper on top and then a close-fitting baking tray weighed down with baking beans. Blind bake 
for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper, the baking tray and beans and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until the pastry 
is cooked through.
5. While the pastry rounds are still hot, brush over with the beaten egg and bake the case for another 2-3 minutes to seal the egg glaze. Remove and leave to cool while you prepare the filling.
6. Chop the chocolate and put into a large heatproof bowl. Add a tiny pinch of salt to the bowl of chopped chocolate.
7. Put the milk, cream, thyme bunch and sugar into a saucepan 
and bring to a simmer, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then leave to infuse for a few hours. Then bring to the boil again and immediately strain the hot liquid onto the chocolate, whisking well until 
all the chocolate has melted and the combined mixture is smooth and silky. Allow to cool until the mixture resembles twice the consistency of double cream.
8. Take the tarragon leaves and lay them on a foil sheet. Place 1 cup of caster sugar with ½ cup of water in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil to create a syrup. Use a sugar thermometer to tell when it has reached ‘hard ball’ stage and when it does use a pastry brush to brush the sugar over the tarragon leaves to crystallize them.
9. To serve, place a pastry round on a plate and then top with a layer of the chocolate ganache and then place another pastry round ontop and add another layer of ganache. Then decorate with the tarragon leaves and raspberries if you like.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Rose, Beer and Pig Fat Chocolate Lollipops

I went to the bank and asked if I could borrow a cup of money. They said "what for?" I said "I'm going to buy some sugar" - Stephen Wright 

I had an epiphany. I finally realized the full extent of my naivety when leaving university. I had run into the first artsy-sounding job that hit my radar and put up with being paid minimum wage, way below if you count overtime, to be a clog in the machine of consumerism. Somehow tricking yourself into thinking data entry was a creative job with litres of gratuity booze and some hijacked goods, plastered with names. Don’t believe me? I sat in a meeting where the head alcoholic ranted about the company investing in new software to cut down their work by 75%, leaving more time for ‘client-relations’. But the first thought that came into my head was that 75% of the people in the room would be fired. Unless he had some brilliant plan to hoodwink the company into paying them to hang out 75% of the time. I gazed into his glazed eyes and thought, “probably not”.

But there is another way. The land of milk and honey! except who cares about cripplingly over-produced milk anymore? And honey? Leave it to the bees, they need it more than we do now. Instead it’s 'the land of greed and money'. A place for all those special perks of money; hedonism, lose morals, strange dollar bill signs in your eyes. Where you sacrifice the right to wear bright colours, just slipping back into uniform for the Etonians. But you get a lot of money. Same menial, data entry job but this time with commission. Suffice to say, it’s jammed full of Oxford. Even the occasional turncoat ‘die hard’ socialist, which is always amusing to behold in pinstripe.

England is crippling it’s own economy, with its best and brightest adding their skills forged in dusty libraries to the tune of bach and the scribble of pens. It’s not their fault, its chaos theory. We’ve just reached beyond our grasp and let our lives be governed by it. The bankers know their job, they know how to make money. They just happen to be in charge of more than their own selfish desires. Game theory is all very well until taxes get cut for the super-rich. And bankers are wallowing in their success, powdering their noses with 50 pound bills whilst the NHS gets cut. The heart of socialism in the UK operated on by the inept hands of a shaky politician, so that the pigs can remain fat. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from our briefly acquired middle ground it’s that it’s healthy to let the rich get fatter and the poor leaner. Although ironically, this time, it’ll be the other way round. The poor will be choking down MacDonald’s while the rich dine in gold-guilt for free because they made the most money that week. Coddled by their misguided faith that the market acts as a rational system. Never wondering about the implications of that sheet of numbers they have to increase. Smearing away their guesswork with some dippy science and an over-arching desire for money. But watching the bankers laugh at the economists, doesn't exactly fill me with joy.

Because that’s the problem with bankers, they are free radicals thinking only as far as their pension, capable of upping sticks and moving to Dubai, Hong Kong or America. Where ever seems the best place to worship their Golden God. The people whose money they control are more dispensable to them than their Jag. What do they care for the poor fools who haven’t seen the golden light of God - metal, paper and all. Those who didn’t join the pre-recession free-for-all that went on behind the banks’ closed doors. That is, you and me?

We could be angry, we could be ravaging the City as I speak, as the bankers suspected when some of the corruption came to light. But alas, Britain’s economy is dangerously dependent of revenues from the financial sector. You can thank Margaret Thatcher for that. So we’ll have to sit tight accepting the hefty commission we pay on our money, funding the bankers’ habit. After all there’s no rehab for money-addiction. Communism is long gone.

And so, I cooked some sickenly sweet chocolate lollipops. Flavoured with rose, beer and pig fat. Corruption-flavoured in fact. Pigs for pigs. Their smiles still fixed in place as their faces become frenetically morphed in Dorian Gray’s final visage. The Earl of Rochester would empathise with their rotted noses and unseeing eyes. I just wanted to see the bankers munch on their own visage, in decadent white chocolate, feasting on the spoils of their corruption.

And off I trotted to the City, land of greed and money, armed with a box of chocolate lollipops and a camera. 

I had to put up with a lot of beady eyes looking at me in disbelief and agitation, with pinstriped patriarchs asking “why are they free? That’s not how the world works”. Well maybe not for you, who have sold your soul, but for the rest of the world a simple act of generosity can make all the difference. Which I tried diligently to preach to the Bankers, in the knowledge that my words would not wash and their paychecks would remain fat.

Some were quite friendly, wishing me luck making it as an artist; hardly knowing the irony that there’s no place for art in their paper religion.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

'Less Criminal Forms of Sin' : Sweet Potato and Coca-cola

Mark Twain once said, "New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin."

And so there I was tethering on the precipice of leaving behind the grey skies of England, like so many other immigrants, for the unending sky of America. The youngest land in the world seemed to me the perfect place to escape the inevitable responsibility of adulthood – maybe I would get lost amongst the consumerist riffraff and emerge valueless and institutionali’z’ed by Capitalism. Ready for the amoral jobs that came a-knocking. Instead I found myself paralyzed in the ‘unbearable lightness of being’ that Nietzsche is always banging on about. The super-sized faces that looked down on me from a sea of billboards were all more photo-shopped than Cameron’s election poster. These strange, smooth, faultless, inhuman faces all wore the same ‘sell’ face. Smiling diligently without any emotion, wanting only to make you buy their product so that they could buy the products they want.

And in America ‘you get what you want,’ whether it’s a gift hand wrapped by a haggard speed freak with a nametag or another mortgage for a car. No one ever says no. Unless they want to. In this flux of free radicals I felt ungrounded, unsubstantial. Surrounded as I was by hot air, an infinity of meaningless images and booming voices pelting you with words like candy-coloured stones. I could not help but miss the gritty realism of England, where from the depths of recession has emerged those indefinable English attributes of having a ‘stiff upper lip’ while you ‘keep calm and carry on’. Rather than the American ethos of buying to make you happy, and if that doesn’t work, or you have no money, then drowning your sorrows in crystal meth. You only have to drive just outside LA to see the houses where they are doing a different type of cooking. Even worse for your teeth than sugar.

But America does have some soul, the illegitimate heir born before consumerism, procreated by unshakable spirit of America’s Black underbelly. You can find it down the drab streets in the parts of LA people tell you not to go to, the places where every glass surface is pock-marked with bullet holes but there’s a din inside, not coming from the TV. These are the homes where Soul Food is cooked and shared; comfort without a shiny price tag and a mind-numbing jingle. I escaped the desolate wasteland of calorie-free chemical-based non-food that rich America loves and ate unconscionable ribs, glistening in meaty juices and full to the barbequed brim with flavour, golden hush puppies and waffles & chicken. Whilst guys with impressive Afros complimented my funny accent and huge matriarchs bellowed orders in the kitchen. 

I have to agree with Mark Twain. The soul food was deep-fried, salty and mouth-wateringly rich but a hell of a lot less sinful than a Macdonald’s burger and Starbuck’s frappe with a side of exploitation.

Sweet Potato Jambalaya 

And so, here is my version of Jambalaya. A bastion of soul food and perfect for filling up on after a long day of dodging turbaned old men on skateboards, size 0 ghouls, obese MacDonald-mountains and ‘beautiful’ but vacuous people, made bug-eyed by their designer glasses.

Using sweet potato for the sauce rather than the usual tomato gives the dish additional richness and sweetness and balances out the salty chorizo perfectly. The celery also adds a aniseed note the compliments the prawns, and makes the dish taste beautifully fresh.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
6 celery stalks, diced
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley
400g chorizo sausage, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
500g boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp of Cajun spices
A couple of glugs of Tabasco
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato, boiled and blended until a smooth puree
300g cup brown rice, uncooked
150g prawns

1. Add oil to a large saucepan. Over medium heat, sauté onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery until onion is translucent.
2. Add the parsley, chorizo, chicken, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Stir often for 5 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes (with juice) and 2 cups cold water.
4. Add the rice and gently bring mixture to a boil.
5. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes or until rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid.
7. Stir in the sweet potato puree and then add the prawns and cook 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste with Tabasco and salt.

Coca-cola Chocolate Cake

In America no one ever does anything by half’s, which is something I’m inclined to agree with when it comes to food. If you’re going to have chocolate cake have the richest, moistest chocolate cake you can, not a diluted healthy version - eewh! With added coco-cola this cake is devilishly sweet and tangy. Why not try it the American way just once?

I also discovered the American way of measurement in baking using Cups. It’s such a good way of cutting out the scales as middleman and saving on washing up. If you don’t have some measuring cups you can just used a regular sized cup and it shouldn’t upset the ratio too much. Just add more flour if the mixture ends up too wet or some more Coco Cola if its too dry.

2 cups self-rising flour
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon cocoa
6 tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 small box icing sugar,
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Grease and flour a large cake tin and set aside.
2. In a large bowl combine flour and sugar. In a saucepan combine the cocoa, Coca-Cola, and butter, bring to a boil. Combine the boiled mixture with the flour and sugar mixture.
3. In a separate bowl mix eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla; add to the other mixture.
4. Pour into prepared pan and bake at 180 degrees for about 35 minutes, until firm in the middle.
5. Then make the frosting: In a saucepan, bring butter, cocoa, and Coca-Cola to a boil. Stir in the sugar and mix well. Stir in nuts.
6. Finally spread over the cake and serve with fresh oranges.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Societal Sponger

If you’re a certified sponger (like me) this is one recipe you should get down for those times when you need to sweeten up someone. It’s a good alternative to the tried and tested morning-after breakfast. Perfect for anything from friends you need to pay back to that kooky aunt you owe money. I made these pretty little sponge cakes as a snack for the recent student protest in Parliament square. I think they ended up being passed around the drum circle that had formed next to Churchill’s burning statue. My friends and me munched on these as helicopters circled overhead, and anarchists sacked the treasury building in front of the still bulbs of policemen’s eyes, watching from neat rows. After hours of being shoved off we had finally broken through the police line to find a dim post-apocalyptic scene within, lit by the burning debris of barriers and placards. It was a very strange picnic. 

Me in the pit
So if you’re a fellow sponger of society like yours truly, pay it back to the big society. Now where Cameron would preach self-sacrifice, I prefer to do it (less ironically) with sponge.

Best Sponge

150g Flour
150g Sugar
150g Butter
3 Eggs
1 tsp of baking powder
dash of vanilla extract

This simple recipe will never steer you wrong, especially as its so easy to remember. Memorize it and where ever you get into a scrap it can be whipped up in a moment. 
1. First cream together the sugar and the butter (softened) and then slowly incorporate the eggs.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt together in a bowl. 
3. Then sieve the dry ingredients into the wet. It's always tempting to leave this step out but I will finally concede that it makes a huge difference, so don't.
4. The final touch is to add the vanilla extract, or almond extract, or orange peel.. the possibilities are endless so I wont try to curb your creativity by telling you exactly how to flavour it. You can make anything from lavender honey cupcakes to poppyseed and lemon, whatever seems to fit the situation best. 

Blueberry and Thyme Pancakes with Fresh Mango Coulis 

And I wont deprive you of that special charmer the morning-after breakfast. I can't count the amount of times this one has let me off the hook, even filling people's houses with random relics from the night before has all been forgiven after a few mouthfuls of this recipe. I should know, the first time someone cooked blueberry pancakes for me in the morning I ended up falling in love with them. Even though they burnt the pancakes. There's something about the process of cooking with someone, post-euphoric haze, that I find oddly endearing. Often enough to end up in some more compromising positions after the pancakes... Men of the world take note! And you thought you had to spend all that money on red roses and chocolates.

130g flour

1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
240 ml buttermilk (but who has buttermilk? so substitute it by squeezing some lemon into ordinary milk)
3tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch of fresh thyme
Fresh blueberries 
Fresh Mango and 25g of sugar

1. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar and thyme. 
2. In an other bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and melted butter. 
Yum! steamy and delicious.
3. Then add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, all at once, and stir or whisk just until combined, which means, counterintuitively for perfectionist cookers, lumpy. As lumpy as possible - in fact, celebrate the lump!
4. Heat a frying pan on medium high heat until a few sprinkles of water dropped on the pan or griddle evaporate and splutter. lightly grease the pan with melted butter.

5. Using a small ladle, pour the pancake batter onto the hot pan, spacing the pancakes a few inches apart. Sprinkle the tops of the pancakes with fresh blueberries. When the the pancakes are golden brown and bubbles start to appear at the edges turn over. 
6. Then its the old 'turn n squish'. Flip the pancake and then squish down with a spatula to incorporate the blueberries. Cook for another couple of minutes until the other side is golden brown.
7. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more melted butter to the pan between batches.
8. Then, for the mango coulis, chop the mango up into small chunks and then put half of it in a pan with the 25g of sugar. Heat the pan until the sugar starts to bubble and become a syrup. Then pour the mango and sugar into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the other half of the mango to the smooth puree and smother all over your lovely blueberry pancakes.

The self-appointed loos in Parliament Square. Well we were kettled for over 6 hours....

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Gutter Pigeon

The Dead Pigeon - I called him Jerry

Me being my usual graceful self
I’ve managed to live off less than £1 a day in Nepal. But in London it’s difficult to live under  £10 without a trip to Tesco’s with a hoodie, sticky fingers, and an underdog attitude.  Think of it as Tesco’s paying you back for every piece of non-meat they managed to trick you into buying with a ‘half off ‘sign. But for those of you with a more dogmatic sense of morality, I suggest taking a page out of the hippie book and forage. I’d already dabbled in freeganism by picking up some tea and a couple of pans in my building’s basement’s bin. But foraging is another matter entirely. A whole day of dogged mushroom hunting for a couple of mouthfuls would hardly sustain me. I’d have to start nicking booze from work as solitude for being broke by the end of the month. But such a liquid diet would probably result in a misguided trip to the kebab van, crying in pleasure over some greasy chips. The other problem with foraging is people’s intolerance of hunger. No one seems to understand when you patiently explain that the vegetables in their allotment are keeping you alive. They’d rather you sold your soul and shopped at Tesco’s. Well may all my crimes be entombed in the Nation’s CCTV cameras forever; maybe I’ll be the next Emily Pankhurst. Getting trampled under a horse is looking more and more likely nowadays with the mounted Polices’ gung-ho attitude. At least I’ve seen some of the greener bits of London and had some fun times in the dark with flashlights and a twilight euphoria. And come home to whip up some nettle soup with homemade bread, satisfied is an almost D.H Lawrence-eqsue way. 

Then one day there was a pigeon. I found it lying in the gutter, stone dead and instantly repulsive. I wondered whether it had found its fate in the massive Trafalgar square pigeon coup. I could have just left it there for the foxes, it was East London after all, but I decided to give the foxes more of a treat. I wanted to use a little Masterchef magic to transform an unsightly remnant of progress, a dead carcass on the roadside of society, into something fit for a fox. It was a spur of the moment decision, I’m not sure I can justify it more than that.
Me jumping a fence into an allotment

So, a few fence hops and some train dodging later, I had found some nettles by the tracks and dug up a couple of muddy beetroots. I stumbled across a walnut tree on the edge of Hyde 
Park and snuck into Tesco’s to harvest some rice. I was ready to… well pluck the pigeon (I actually got a mate to do it) then it just takes 13 minutes in a 180 oven, liberal salt and pepper, and some nettle stewing before I’d managed to make this feast of pigeon, probably good enough for Henry VIII, but simply primitive in our modern world of processed sludge and thousands of fats.

Mmm Nettles yum!
Foraging Nettles has never been easier.

Roast Pigeon and Beetroot Sarnie with Nettle & Walnut Risotto

Better than Pigeon Pie

This is my priceless meal. It costs nothing, just some time and cojones.

Then, as piéce de résistance, I put the plate down in front of a Pub in Barbican, slunk back into the shadows and waited to see what would enjoy my pigeon-feast.

Some nibbled bits (probably by other Pigeons)
Something's definitely been tucking in now

All that remains

And then something slickly slid out of the shadows to finish off the meal...

The only photo I managed to get of the elusive creature. I hope it enjoyed the meal!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Hangover Cure Avocado Chocolate Mousse

I once woke up with a hangover and a ticket to LA. I was freeing my soul up north with Emily Bronte’s spirit, and a sexy Mexican-American I’d picked up along the way. Yes, at this point I’d been fired from my job, it was whilst wearing red plastic flip-flops because I’d lost my shoes at some point in the rather crazy weekend before.  I’m not sure I can complain, but I definitely needed some good R ‘n R and maybe some fish ‘n chips. I’d gone to visit my aunt in the brisk seaside town of Scarborough with the sense that some salty air and Northern grit would do me good. After a muscle-wrenching coach journey I was ready for anything, except what was about to happen. Needless to say I don’t remember much of that night, it was a typical Northern night after all. My mind can only grasp at hazy flashbacks of emos belting Coldplay and weathered old regulars in smokey pubs. I’m fairly certain we walked out of the late-night Chinese restaurant without paying and carrying a small fish from the aquarium. During the course of this mindless and surreal night, after the exploration of the fairground on the peer, but before misguided whelk eating, I agreed to go to LA.

The morning-after I needed a hangover cure. My cure of choice is usually an avocado wrap from the first sandwich shop I stumble across. There’s something about avocado that makes me feel like I’m eating pure goodness, replenishing everything my body lost the night before. It’s buttery soft, even creamy, but full of good oils. However, for want of a sandwich shop I picked up a couple of avocadoes myself and scurried away from the migraine-inducing seaside light into the kitchen. There I discovered… nothing, apart from a few odds and ends that I managed to transform into this recipe.

The Ingredients

Why make an avocado into chocolate mousse? Well, it works! It creates a smooth rich texture, which balanced out with the bitter cocoa powder in the recipe. The slight hint of avocado, intense cocoa and sweet strawberries makes this recipe cleansing for body and mouth. You could probably smother it all over your face and it would still work.

Definitely the kind of pick-me-up you need with a two-month ticket to LA, a £500 hole in your pocket and a disheveled stomach.