Archive for the 'Techniques' Category

Sambhar Powder

Indian Spices

This is what you need to make the spice mix for sambhar, a South Indian lentil soup. It is supposed to be quite fiery, but reduce the number of chillies if you wish. The ground lentils in the powder will help to thicken the soup slightly.


  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 12 dried red chillies, de-seeded
  • 12 dried curry leaves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp asafeotida
  • 3 tsp sunflower oil
  • 3 tsp split black lentils (urad dal)
  • 3 tsp split yellow lentils (toor dal)


  1. Heat a dry frying pan and dry-roast the black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, chillies, peppercorns, coriander seeds and lentils over a gentle heat until lightly toasted. Keep the seeds and lentils moving constantly so that they do nor burn!
  2. Transfer the seeds to a spice grind or mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder. Add the turmeric, asafeotida and sunflower oil and mix well to combine. This keeps well in a sealed jar for four weeks.

Spuds “á la Robuchon”

Purée de pomme de terre

Every renowned chef has their signature dish. Gordon Ramsay has his “Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon” and Heston Bulmenthal his “Bacon & Egg ice-cream with snail porridge”. Funnily, despite Joël Robuchon’s legendary status (he once ran two 3 Michelin star restaurants in Paris; beat that, Gordo…), the dish a lot of people associate him with is his mashed potatoes. This is no ordinary mash – it’s sinfully rich and made with equal parts potato and butter. It sounds very heavy, but served in small quantities is actually quite light because of the way it’s whipped.

I’ve read so much  about this mash on blogs and foodies mags and I finally got to try it last year at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas.  It was wicked.  Coincidentally, I came across a recipe for the mash in one of the books I was reading at the time, “Doing without Delia” by Michael Booth (a very funny read, by the way). I think I’d feel too guilty about preparing food like this in my own kitchen, so in a strange (and somewhat lazy) move, I’m passing on this recipe to you without having tried it myself. I’ll get around to it one day and let you all know… 😉

For this recipe, it’s important to use a potato ricer, a utensil similar to a large garlic press. Only a ricer will give you the smooth result you’re looking for. If you attempt this with a food processor or a regular potato masher, you will overwork the potato and end up with sticky, gluey mash.

Here’s Michael Booth’s recipe:


  • 1kg potatoes
  • 1kg butter (chilled & unsalted)
  • salt
  • 100ml whole milk


  1. Wash the potatoes and cut into large chunks. Simmer gently in water until potatoes are tender. Add a generous amount of salt half way through cooking.
  2. Allow the potatoes to cool a little, then peel. Push the potatoes through a ricer, then through a fine sieve to get a very smooth result.
  3. Cut the chilled butter into large chunks. Heat the milk in a large saucepan add the riced potatoes. Stir vigorously to prevent burning. Add each piece of butter separately and wait until the butter has melted before adding another. When all of the butter has been incorporated into the potato, whip the potatoes vigorously with a whisk.
  4. You can add a little more butter or milk if the mash dries out slightly before serving.

Further Reading

  • Gordon Ramsay’s “Truffle oil pomme purée” – roughly the same idea, but lent some luxury with the addition of a litle truffle oil.
  • Cooking For My Wife “Joël Robuchon’s pommes purée” – another food blogger who tasted the famous mash in L’Atelier and was sufficiently impressed to re-create the dish using tips gleaned from eGullet.

How to Store Ginger

I often find myself binning ginger because it either shrivels up or goes rotten. A great tip I found recently is to peel your ginger and portion it into thumb-sized pieces. Pop them into a zip-lock bag and store in the freezer. They do tend to lose a little bit of their zing, so they’re not much good for juicing, but they’re fine for a curry or a soup. If you don’t want to freeze your ginger, store in a paper bag in the fridge and it will last a lot longer. Give it a try.

How to Season a Cast-Iron Pan

I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite item from my ever-growing collection of kitchen gadgetry. But, my cast-iron grill pan is absolutely indispensable. A steak isn’t the same unless it’s cooked on a proper grill pan.  My beloved pan has recently been growing a healthy layer of rust while I wasn’t looking. I bought some delicious looking rib-eye steaks today which I plan on cooking tomorrow, so it’s time for action.

Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of information on the web concerning pan seasoning; a lot of it conflicting, a lot of it surplus to requirements.  Here then, is my simple guide to seasoning your cast-iron pan. You’ll need some vegetable oil and plenty of kitchen paper. I’d also recommend using some disposable gloves for this, it’s a messy job.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C/280°F.
  2. Remove any rust or encrusted food particles by scrubbing well with a “Brillo” pad or some steel wool and detergent.
  3. Coat the pan liberally with oil using a cloth or some kitchen roll. You need to be generous with the oil and rub it in with your kitchen roll. When the pan is fully coated, use some more kitchen roll to remove an excess oil.
  4. Leave the pan in the oven for 1 hour. The idea here is to bake the oil into the pores of the cast-iron, thereby preventing corrosion.
  5. Let the pan cool fully and remove any excess oil with some kitchen roll.

How do I prevent my pan from rusting again?

Unless you’re extremely careful, every cast-iron pan will need to be re-seasoned occasionally.

To maintain the pan, never ever use washing-up liquid to clean it. In future, when you’ve finished cooking and the pan is still hot, add some water and allow it to sizzle. Use a spatula to loosen any bits of food clinging to the pan. Transfer the pan to the sink and clean lightly with hot water. Just never use detergent as it removes the film of oil, which allows it to rust.