All posts by thomgill

gin sour

A jolly good stiff drink for pandemic times. Sour, sweet and icy.

quantities for 1 drink
1.5 oz (43 ml) good London dry gin e.g. Gordons or Bombay Sapphire

note: this is a single ‘shot’ in countries like the US
2 tsp caster sugar
2 egg whites
2 tbsp lemon juice

Put the ingredients with plenty of ice into a cocktail shaker and shake hard. Strain, rinse out the strainer, return to the shaker and shake hard again to get a fine foamy head. Strain evenly into a cocktail glass.

This is finest when everything is ice cold. Put your glasses in the freezer. Also brilliant with lime juice.

beef pesto

I know I know, how original: the most famous recipe of Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club restaurant. But it is intensely flavoured and delicious. Serves 6.

beef fillet, 1.2 – 1.5 kg
400 ml tamari
250 ml cider vinegar
1 red chilli
6 cloves of garlic, peeled

Put tamari, vinegar, chilli and garlic in a blender and puree. Marinate beef in this for 2 – 7 days, covered, in the fridge. Turn every 12 hours.

Take up, drain and dry with a cloth. Cut into 6 equal pieces. Cut the larger end lengthwise so it is of similar thickness to the others.  Put in a warm place to reach room temperature

Heat a cast iron griddle or grill until very hot, lightly oil the fillet on the cut sides and grill for no more than 2 minutes each side, longer if you like it well done. Remember the acid (vinegar) in the marinade has done a lot of the ‘cooking’ for you already. Rest for a few minutes.

This can come out cool and harsh flavoured, because time on the heat is so short, whereas you want warm, relaxed meat that feels soft in the mouth. I am going to try finishing it in a slow oven next time, followed by a long rest.

Serve with pesto on top.


In this classic Italian dessert layers of flavour combine in the mouth. The result should not be cloying. Make a day ahead for the sponge layer to develop fully.

5 eggs, separated
7 tb white sugar
500 g mascarpone
50 ml marsala wine
16-20 Savoiardi biscuits (lady fingers)
60 ml (2 shots) fresh espresso coffee
good quality cocoa powder

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in a metal bowl until pale and thick, fold in the mascarpone. Whisk the egg whites in a metal bowl until soft peaks form and fold in.

Dip the biscuits in the marsala and lay in the bottom of a 20 x 30 cm serving dish. Drizzle the espresso over and cover with the mascarpone mixture. Chill in the fridge.

Before serving sprinkle generously with cocoa powder.

Source: Lotte H, from her footloose OE in Italy 20 years ago


Literally ‘mixed rice’, is a popular and popularised Korean staple with countless variations. It is a bit elaborate to prepare, but could easily be scaled up to serve a banquet. Serves 4.

3 c short grain Japanese sticky rice, cook in a rice cooker with a little less water than usual

1 tb tamari
2 tsp honey
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tb rice wine
1 tb minced spring onion
1 clove garlic, minced
200 g beef rump or sirloin, cut into thin strips across the grain, no more than 50 mm long

4 tb gochujang (Koren red chilli paste)
2 tb miso paste
1 tb honey
1 tb sesame oil
1 tb rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
small knob ginger, minced
1 tb sake

garlic, minced
ginger, minced
sesame oil
2 carrots, julienned
2 courgette, julienned
25g dried shittake mushrooms, soaked and thinly sliced

1 daikon radish, julienned
1 small cucumber, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 tb rice vinegar
kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), if you have some

400 g bean sprouts
1 bunch spinach

4 eggs

spring onion, finely chopped
black sesame seeds
mayonnaise (optional)


Combine first 6 ingredients and marinate the beef in this for at least 20 minutes.

Mix the next 9 ingredients for the gochujang sauce. Add water to adjust the texture and fieriness to your taste and to the characteristics of the gochujang you start with. The sauce packs a wallop.

Separately saute the carrot, courgette, shittake each in the oil with a dash of sesame oil, 1 tsp of garlic 1/2 tsp of ginger. Season and set aside.

Quick-pickle the diakon. Add the vinegar and some salt to the cucumber,

Lightly blanch the bean sprouts and spinach separately. Squeeze the excess water out of the spinach. Lightly season and add a little sesame oil, set aside.

Stir fry the beef in some peanut oil over high heat until just done, shake off excess liquid and set aside. Fry the eggs in oil, sunny side up.

Assemble the bibimbap in hearty bowls, one per person:
make a bed of warm rice, put the egg on top in the middle and place portions of the beef and vegetables around it. The idea is to have a satisfying arrangement of 5 colours (red/orange, green, black/dark, yellow, white). Garnish with the spring onion and sesame seeds. Serve the gochujang sauce in a bowl for eaters to spoon over. Korean dishes, like their Japanese cousins, often add mayonnaise for a creamy counterpoint; you could try that too. To eat, give the whole bowl a good stir and pile in. The goal is a vivid ensemble of textures and flavours, with a common note of sesame. You can omit the meat for vegetarian if you like, or add fried tofu.

Chickpeas on toast

Beans on toast, but much better. Add chopped chorizo or bacon bits if you like.

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp caraway seeds
2 medium carrots, cut into 1cm cubes
2 medium onions, cut into 1cm cubes
4 tsp tomato puree
1 tin chickpeas (keep the liquid)
1 tin chopped tinned tomatoes
2 tsp caster sugar
A generous pinch of salt
A generous pinch of smoked paprika
4 chunky slices of toast
Torn coriander leaves

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and add the seeds. Fry for a minute, add the carrot and onion and saute for about 5 minutes to soften the onion. Add the tomato puree and cook as you stir for 2 minutes.

Next, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, sugar, salt and smoked paprika and cook for a bit. Add the chickpea water, plus extra tap water if you need to make up the rest. Bring to a light simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.

At the end, add a little water or allow some to evaporate to get a good, thick consistency. Spoon over the toast and garnish with coriander. Serves 4.

From: Ottolenghi

Spicy wings

Nothing fancy here, just finger lickin’ good. This works because being small, the wings have a lot of surface area (skin) for the spice rub to flavour.

1 kg chicken wings
2 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted in a pan and ground
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted in a pan and ground
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted in a pan and ground
chilli powder to taste (try 1/2 tsp)
1 tb finely chopped garlic
2 tb finely chopped ginger
2 lemons

Combine everything except the lemons and work into the wings with your hands. Leave in the fridge as long as you can, up to 3 days. Brush with oil and grill on the bbq or oven. Squeeze over the juice from the lemons and season if you need to.

Source: ‘Stoked’ by Al Brown

Vegetables and fruits

Post 4 of a series of digests from the magisterial ‘On food and cooking’ by Harold McGee. I may augment these posts as I come across nuggets of information from other sources.

Plants produce lignin, the major component of wood, in secondary growth away from the main shoot. We rarely encounter lignin in plants we eat, but where we do, say the base of mature asparagus, there is no alternative but to remove it.

The other important factor in plant texture is the inner water pressure, or turgor. of the individual cells. When the cells are fully hydrated we experience a crisp texture. If the tissue has lost water, the cell membranes draw away from the cell walls and the vegetable become limp. The vegetable compartment in your refrigerator is designed to maintain a higher humidity to preserve turgor.

Cut vegetables and fruit turn brown due to an enzyme that oxidises phenolic compounds in the tissue and causes them to condense into brown polymers. Browning can be arrested by cold or very hot temperature, immersing in water or better brine, and especially treating with lemon juice or ascorbic acid (vitamin C).


Bitter – astringency is caused by tannins and is the sensation caused by the ‘tanning’ of proteins in the saliva and mucous membranes of the mouth.
Sweet – sugars. In most fruit sugars supplied by photosynthesizing leaves are stored as starch, which is then converted back into sugar as ripening commences.
Sour – various acids.
Odor. The essential oil of a plant is the set of all the compounds that can be distilled from that plant and that contribute to its characteristic aroma. Only a few plant families have strongly accented oils – our spice rack is basically a collection of our favorite essential oils. The volatile oils in fruits are usually concentrated in the skin in specialised oil glans.

Vegetables generally have mild flavours when raw but develop stronger ones when cooked, cabbage being a famous example. The onion family is one example that goes the other way.

The darker the colour of a leafy vegetable, the more nutrients it contains. The inner leaves of a lettuce have 1/30th as much vitamin C as the outer leaves. The situation is similar with the skin of fruit.

Poisonous plants to avoid. Potatoes that started to sprout and turn green contain alkaloids that can only be removing by peeling the outer surface away.

Fruit are stimulated to ripen by ethylene gas, which they produce themselves. Nowadays many fruit are picked hard, shipped and gassed with ethylene to prepare them for the counter. This helps explain the anaemic flavour of much supermarket produce – it has been removed prematurely from its source of nourishment.

In many ways vegetables deteriorate more quickly than fruit after harvest and fresh vegetables are sweeter, more flavorful and better textured. Most fruits and vegetable take well to refrigeration as their biochemical activity is slowed. Fruits native to the tropics are an exception; bananas, avocados, citrus, pineapples, melons, eggplants, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, beans are best kept at 10’C.  Fruits and vegetables are still alive and respiring. If denied oxygen the plant cells switch to anaerobic respiration, which results in the accumulation of alcohol in the tissue and spoilage. Therefore do not store them in closed plastic bags.

Plant tissue suffers less in freezing than meat. However freezing does not eliminate enzymic activity and it is preferable to blanch vegetables before freezing, to inactivate the enzymes. Frozen vegetables are best cooked straight from the freezer and not thawed as this will given microbes more of a chance to degrade the food.

Preserves are the technique of boosting the sugar content of fruits and some vegetables in order to kill micro-organisms responsible for spoilage. Sugar also helps fruit retain its shape and texture by interacting with the cell wall hemicelluloses and pectin. Preserves get their smooth consistency from pectin, present either in the fruit itself or added in powder form. Coaxing a pectin to gel requires a delicate balance of acid, sugar and pectin and this explains why we refer to the ‘art’ of making jam.

There are two basic types of pickles: adding acid, usually in the form of vinegar, and fermentation where acid-producing bacteria are encouraged to grow. In the first the vegetable is cooked to the desired consistency or put in a brine for a short time to draw out moisture that would dilute the vinegar. Then it is immersed in the vinegar, often with spices. Bacteria are inactive in this environment, although the surface must be covered. With fermentation the vegetable is put in a brine solution strong enough to prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria but weak enough to allow several species that produce lactic acid.