Vegetarian Makizushi

If you went to a Japanese restaurant with my parents it wouldn’t be too long before they started telling you of the infamous evening when, as a young child, they took me to a friends house for dinner. The wife had spent hours lovingly preparing a meal of her native Japanese cuisine. I obviously didn’t…

Pineapple Chilli Salt (Muối ớt)

This is a play on the ubiquitous cheese and tinned pineapple hedgehogs that graced our tables in the 1970’s and 80’s. Secretly it is still one of my favourites!

In this case you are bringing the pineapple canapé bang up to date and adding a little heat to your party by swapping the cheese for sugar, salt and chilli in the Vietnamese style where if you have dessert after the meal it will generally be fruit with this dip (Muối ớt)

Spring Vegetable Gyoza

Gyoza are the Japanese version of Chinese pot sticker dumplings and both make ideal canapes or appetisers.

In supermarkets now you can buy a variety of ready made gyoza, both meat, prawn or vegetable based to keep in the freezer until cooking.  Itsu  is a brand that you will often see. In oriental supermarkets you will get a much wider choice and you can also buy gyoza wrappers to make you own.

Summer Rolls

For todays canapé I’m going back to Vietnam and although these are served all over Vietnam, rather specifically in this case I’m thinking of the Mekong Delta. We stayed in a wooden homestead on the delta and were served on our first night, make your own summer rolls with pineapple and a fish which looked a little like a piranha! I’m not going to show you that but suffice to say the addition of pineapple to the rolls is now something I always do as it brings a lovely sharp, sweet tang.

Thai Corn Cakes (Tod Man Khao Pod)

I’ve always loved these corn fritters since I first tried them in a local Thai restaurant.  They are best served straight away but for ease you can precook them up to a couple of days before and then warm through just before serving which is idea when having a party or people round for dinner.

Vietnamese Salad Cups

Some of you might be quite surprised by my day job which has nothing whatsoever to do with gardening or food other than I work for one of the UK’s largest supermarkets. One of the perks of my job however is to get to see the food that is going to hit the shelves before it comes out. In our food cascade this year the trend is going to be vegetarian and vegan party and Christmas food. This wasn’t much of a surprise but what was a surprise was that the food developers were having difficulty developing plant based party food that didn’t look generally brown. I suppose that when canapés are meat or cheese based we expect them to be brown, but are expecting a little more from a plant based canapé.

Cucamelons

Cucamelons have got to be one of the oldest and oddest crops I’ve ever had on the allotment. Known in their native Mexico as Sandiitas de Raton which translates as mouse melon they’ve been cultivated since before Christopher Columbus set sail.

French Bean – Blauhilde

If, like many people, you have a small garden or even just a few pots on a balcony but still want to grow vegetables you many turn to the idea of a potager, an ornamental kitchen garden.For a potager you need varieties that not only taste great but look fantastic as well.

Beetroot – Golden Detroit

Love beetroot but fed up with you and your kitchen looking like a bloodbath after? If so then you could try giving yellow beetroots a try. There are two main yellow varieties, Burpees Golden which dates back to the 1970’s and Golden Detroit from the 1820’s.

Gnudi with pumkin and panchetta

The biggest difference you will see between the UK and the USA/Canada at this time of year are the halloween decorations. Even though the UK was the home of the pagan Samhain which is the father of halloween, it generally passes most people by. In contrast in the US and Canada there were streets of…

Peppers Shishito

In the USA growing increasing popular it is the Japanese cousin of the Padron tapas pepper, called the Shishito. In Japanese the name is Shishitōgarashi the word translates to chilli pepper that looks like the head of a lion

Tomato – Ildi

As a young child I hated tomatoes. In the early 80’s tomatoes in the UK were horrible things, flavourless and often underripe to stop them being damaged in transit. Gradually people started asking why the tomatoes eaten on holiday in Europe were just so much better than you could get here and things started to change.

Coconut & Whole Fruit Ice Lollies

It seemed a little like summer was drawing to a close with mist in the morning and lengthening evening  but unusually for the bank holiday an Indian summer seems to have come across us with weather forecast to be a respectable 26 – 30°C. I suspect there will be a few BBQ’s on the go.

Scallops With Blue Corn Tortillas

One of my favourite activities is browsing through recipe books. Not necessarily because I’m going to cook anything in them, in fact I have a French Laundry recipe book which, as each recipe is about 5 pages long has never been anything other than a coffee table aspirational decoration. Why I like recipe books is for ideas and inspiration and to find out about new and unusual ingredients or food history and is where I first saw a photograph of  blue tortillas. They looked amazing, a rich blue green colour and I thought I really had to have a go at that.

Cucumber – Cucino F1

Do you ever get a bit fed up of buying massive supermarket cucumbers, wrapped in layers of plastic to make them grow straight and prevent them going floppy in a few days which inevitably you can’t eat all of it and find it mouldering a few days later in your salad draw? If so why not give growing some of the new baby cucumbers a go? Each one is perfect for a snack or in your lunchbox.

Tomato – Orange Banana

Its not been a great year for outdoor tomatoes. In June we had record breaking rain and many varieties shivered or just gave up. Orange banana however which originates from Russia and dates back to about 1930 however thrived.

Broad Bean – Karmazyn

I’m always a bit sceptical about novelty vegetables. So many times you might get an unusual colour or shape but insipid taste. There are a couple of novelty broad beans including the crimson flowered, dating back to the 1800’s and recently saved from extinction, there are some purple seeded beans too, all of which seem to be as good as the more normal green beans. Therefore when I saw Karmazyn and its unusual antique pink colour, I thought I would give it a go.

Strawberry – Mara Des Bois

If you want to watch a pastry chef drool just mention the strawberry Mara Des Bois. This French variety bred by Jacques Marionnet in 1991 was bred specifically to have the flavour and scent of wild strawberries but with much greater productivity, especially in spring.

Potato – Casablanca

Here’s looking at you spud! Of all the allotments in all the world, you had to walk in to this one! Cook it Sam, if you can cook it for her, you can cook it for me!

I spent some time trying to find a little about this darling modern variety of potato including how it got its exotic name. Is it named in honour of the film, the city? Does it originate from Casablanca (unlikely)? If anyone finds out then do let me know.

Grow Your Own – Lemongrass

If you’ve ever spent any time in southeast Asia or if not at least visited your local Thai or Vietnamese restaurant you would almost certainly have tasted the perfumed taste of lemongrass. You might not realised it but it is an actual grass, but one with a fragrant citrus and slightly coriander taste and scent.