Sunday, 9 May 2010

Yipps (My Baby Got The)

A few weeks ago I spent some time in various London restaurants photographing my food...

...although they were pretty odd photos.  

What was I up to?

Find out in issue 3 of Fire & Knives, out soon.

I had a little gush about issue 1 here.

More details, including subscriptions can be found on the FIre & Knives website.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Jim Haynes @ Fernandez & Leluu

You may know Jim Haynes.  You might be one of the 130,000 people who've passed through his Paris atelier at one of his Sunday supper club nights over the last 34 years and if you're not, you may well recognise him from the recent After Eight advertising campaign.  Although I knew the name and had a vague idea of the reputation of this American living in Paris as the 'Godfather of supper clubs' I was having a good wonder about what to expect as I made my way over to Fernandez & Leluu's supper club in Hackney for a one-off evening held in honour of the man himself.  Just from following their twitter feed I already knew that Simon and Uyen (the Fernandez and Leluu respectively that were hosting the evening) had been through a week of peaks of excitement and troughs of panic several times on a daily basis such was the thrill and responsibility of being asked to host an evening for one of their heroes and inspirations for starting their own supper club.

Whatever the various scenarios I might have entertained, they all turned out to be bobbins.  Rather than some uber-foodie revelling in the exalted status he'd earned, holding court to the hordes of us that had crammed in to meet him there was just a very genial old guy, amiably chatting away to anyone who said hello and looking vaguely embarrassed at all the fuss.  He'd just got off the Eurostar an hour before and was heading back to Paris the next day but you'd have thought from talking to him that he'd just popped round the corner for a quick bite with his closest friends.

He's certainly led an interesting life, spending the 1960s swinging through Edinburgh, London and Amsterdam getting involved with starting up the Edinburgh Festival and various underground/alternative theatre groups and newspapers, before ending up in Paris as a professor of Media Studies and Sexual Politics for the next 30 years, where he started up his famous Sunday night supper clubs.  The way he talks about his life and tells the stories, he gives the impression that a lot of things basically just happened to him - the university asked him to join them as a professor and he could teach whatever he wanted, he came up with media studies and sexual politics and they said fine, see you next term.  His supper club started up because a friend of a friend that he was putting up as a favour insisted on cooking dinner one Sunday night, as a thankyou for his hospitality.  It was such a success that everyone insisted on doing it again the next week, word got round and it all just snowballed.

These are obviously all well-polished stories that Jim must have told countless times now, but when you meet him and spend some time talking to him you can really believe that things like this would just happen to him.  He has a real gift for putting people at ease, a relaxed charm and a genuine interest in people that makes him a pleasure to talk with whether it's just the two of you or he's entertaining a whole room full of people, and it becomes easy to see how, for instance, a supper club would just spontaneously happen around him.  His legendary supper club nights aren't much about the food, they're about the people and the good times.  The food itself is a pretty random pot-luck depending on who Jim's got cooking for him that week - it's served buffet style, standing up so that everyone can properly mingle and meet everyone else, I'm sure it's more than just an afterthought but it's there to help get the party going and get people together, it's not the main reason for being there.  His supper club cookbook is simply called "Throw a Great Party", it's not even written by Jim, it's written by 3 ladies who were inspired enough by his supper club evenings to want to put it together.  

The food laid on by Simon and Uyen certainly wasn't an afterthought and they didn't make things easy for themselves - individual plates each holding an ambitious selection of starters were handed round by Uyen and her crack waitressing squad, no mean feat in itself given how many of us there were and how packed and chaotic the room was (we were standing as we ate, doing the evening Jim-style).  As you've probably noticed by now I seem to have hit the video record button on my phone in my feeble attempt at snapping a quick pic of the starters, but hey ho.

The highlights for me were a wonderfully fresh tasting, packed-to-bursting summer roll and a delicious meaty terrine. My attempt at getting a pic of the main course failed even harder but for the record it was generous cuts of tender tasty beef with some dinky baked potato and mushrooms, all really well done and again all individually plated and brought round to us all as we stood drinking and gossiping.  If I remember correctly there was also a very lively pudding as well as a hard-working barman knocking out vast quantities of assorted cocktails and a garden full of wine and beer.

The place really was packed out and with so many new people to meet and old acquaintances to catch up with a great evening was had by everyone there, Simon and Uyen were wonderful hosts and I think they would happily have kept the party going till the sun came up but the numbers dwindled as the TfL witching hour approached and eventually even those of us lucky enough to live nearby decided to stagger off into the night.  I like to think Jim had a small, proud little smile on his mouth as he said his goodbyes, heading off to his hotel for the night and leaving us to carry on a party that he started all those years ago in Paris.

Special thanks to Qype and After Eight for organising the evening.

There are lots of other blog posts about the evening, in particular LondonEater and London Foodie have a lot of photos, Tamarind & Thyme and A Rather Unusual Chinaman have proper descriptions of the food and Billy's Booze Blog has a frighteningly comprehensive account of all the drinks we drank.

Fernandez & Leluu's blog has their own write up of the evening, as well as details of all their forthcoming supper club nights.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Asparagus Woody Ends

It's the start of asparagus season!  This means of course that for the next few weeks we have a mardi gras of celebrity chefs on our TVs demonstrating how to fondle our way along an asparagus stalk and snap off the woody end from the bottom, telling us how it will naturally snap at just the right spot to leave you with a perfect spear to eat.   I've long suspected this was bollocks and was very pleased to read food science guru Harold McGee confirming exactly that: there's no magic snapping point that a spear will tell you about, no matter how much flexing and caressing it gets.

The good news - especially given the price of English asparagus - is that a lot more of an asparagus stalk is edible than is generally believed, you just need to chop it up: the fibres that get progressively longer and tougher as you work your way down the stalk giving the unpleasant chewy, woody character all lie in the direction of the spear, slicing it into thin disks renders them into perfectly edible and tasty little slices.  Harold didn't seem too bothered about actually doing anything with the asparagus ends after he'd chopped them up beyond eating the little disks raw and sprinkling them on top of more asparagus so I thought I'd have a go.

Asparagus and sorrel tart

Lots of little asparagus slices add a nice contrast to the creamy texture of this tart, as well as filling it out with lots of asparagus flavour.  Sorrel isn't the easiest herb to get hold of but there's plenty of it around at this time of year if you have a good look around at the markets.  Its grassy, fresh citrus flavour goes well with the cheesy eggy asparagusy filling and really make this dish.

for the pastry (you can buy shortcrust pastry but there's nothing quite like homemade, plus you get to put loads of cheese in it which makes a difference):

25g each of butter and lard
100g plain flour
big handful of grated gruyere cheese

Put the oven on at 180, rub the fat into the flour then add the cheese and a pinch of salt, then just enough cold water (I add it a teaspoon at a time, should only need 2 or 3) to form a smooth dough ball.  Put it in the fridge in a plastic bag for half an hour, then roll it out and line a 19cm flan tin with it.  Ideally you'd have one of those shallow ones with fluted edges, I don't, any kind of cake tin about that size will do, you'll just end up with rather wonky looking bits of crust coming up round the edges.  Some people may consider this appearance amateurish, I like to think of it as homely.  Prick the base all over with a fork then bake for 20 minutes, take out of the oven and brush it lightly with some beaten egg (if like me you've not got a brush improvise with a few sorrel leaves) and give it another 5 or so minutes in the oven to glaze.

for the filling:

about 6-8 spears asparagus
2 handfuls grated gruyere cheese
1 handful grated parmesan cheese
1 big handful sorrel leaves
3 medium size eggs
1 tub single cream (about 300ml)

Beat the eggs together with the cream and the gruyere and salt and pepper.  Roughly chop the sorrel leaves, some stalks are fine but remove the larger ones.  Take the asparagus and slice off the really gnarled woody bits at the bottom, probably about 1 inch.  Then do that flexy caressy thing with each spear as if you were going to snap it like they do on the telly and slice it in half about 1-2 inches above where it would have snapped and slice the bottom half into thin little disks just a few millimetres thick.  Steam or boil the asparagus tips for about 3 minutes (you just want to half-cook them) then add the little disks for another 30 seconds.  Pat the little disks dry and put them in the bottom of the pastry case, pour the egg/cream/cheese mixture over the top then sprinkle the chopped sorrel leaves over and arrange the tips of the spears in it to your liking.  You might want to chop them in half once more, whatever.  Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes till the filling is set.

Crabmeat on toast

Take a mixture of white and brown crabmeat, add a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise, a little squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper, season to taste and mix together.  Stir in a couple of handfuls of little disks of asparagus stem, either raw and crunchy or that have been boiled/steamed briefly for 30 seconds.  Serve on toasted slices of sourdough.  I suspect the little asparagus slices would make pretty good croutons in a crab bisque type affair as well.

One other tip from Harold McGee's original article if you can't be arsed reading it - short fat spears give the greatest ratio of tender to stringy.  Apparently some heritage varieties grew to 2 inches in diameter and a pound in weight.

Thursday, 8 April 2010


The Regent's Canal from Angel down through Hackney to Victoria Park can be a pretty stressful route if you're not on the water.  Cyclists, joggers and pedestrians whizz/run/waddle along the narrow towpath in both directions navigating each other in an uneasy cease-fire marked by the constant ringing of bike bells and the nervous roulette of when to dart down the even narrower paths under the bridges.  I'm surprised I've never seen anyone fall/dive/get pushed into the canal itself, especially on sunny weekends, but if you find yourself between the Kingsland Road and Whitmore Road bridges and about to become part of a cyclist/jogger sandwich instead of diving into the canal or the nettles you can dive into a lovely little cafe nestling on the canal towpath called, erm, Towpath.

It really is pretty tiny, set in a couple of shallow recesses in the wall of an old warehouse one of which is the kitchen/service counter, the other with seating and a big communal table.  Importantly, given the recent weather, it also has a couple of decent space heaters in the ceiling and it's set back and sheltered enough from the canal to avoid the chill wind that's been blowing down it the last few weeks.  Defiant optimism in the appearance of summer sun means there's some tables and chairs outside too.

Given the lack of kitchen space the menu isn't a huge one but there's a breakfast and a lunch menu that both change each day, although I'm happy to report that their grilled cheese sandwich appears to be a permanent fixture on both menus.  Breakfast is up until 11.30 with the likes of porridge with poached fruit, granola, the grilled cheese sandwich, cakes and toast.  Lunch consists of salads, soups, rillettes, bruschettas, grilled cheese sandwich (ahem) and more cakes and sweet things.

There's obviously a lot of care and attention that goes into everything they make here that tells in the details, the grilled cheese sandwich is made with great bread and small slivers of spring onion nestling in the melted cheese.  It comes with a homemade quince jam on the side (the last of their batch from the autumn, have to see what they replace it with) and the tasty rillettes are accompanied by a very nice crunchy homemade picalilli, the coffee and hot chocolate are well made and in amongst the cakes there are little bite-sized chocolate truffles and meringues (3 for a £1) for a quick sweet snack.

It's pretty much at the mercy of the weather, I've been there when it's been cold and rainy and had the whole cafe to myself but at the hint of any sunshine it's a popular place and fills out quickly.  They've just been granted their wine licence so plans are afoot to start staying open later into the evenings for dinner.  It's only going to get more popular as the summer approaches, and deservedly so.

Between the cafe and the Kingsland Road bridge is an art installation called Canal Wall by Yuko Shiraishi, an artist who's had a studio by the canal for the last 20 years.  That's the 70 metre long wall painted in different colours, not the car.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Pret's New Mayo Stuffed Crust Sandwich

We all know Pret and we all love Pret sandwiches.  What really sets them apart from the competition in the high-stakes world of office worker lunches is their special mayonnaise, made to their own recipe and then pumped in generous quantities into almost every single thing on their shelves.  It's also cleverly used as the basis for a range of other sauces to take their sandwiches to the next level when the opportunity presents itself, a ham sandwich is elegantly elevated by the application of mustardaise; the addition of a few clever extras produce a sauce to take their Chicken Caesar sangers to legendary status.  You can imagine my excitement then at finally getting my hands on an example of their latest experiments in mayonnaise delivery, one of the much-anticipated new Mayo Stuffed Crusts.

The first of their new line is the corned beef, mussels and mozzarella number, a generous and brave combination that is brought together into an harmonious whole with judicious application of their regular mayo but then taken to game-changing new heights by a stuffed crust containing delightful bursts of tomatotartaraise, a witty modern take on the classic tartar sauce.

Using their regular mayo as a base, it's then sharpened and salted with lemon juice, capers and Heinz salad cream before being blitzed with tomato puree to form a thick unctuous counterpoint to the delicate meaty seafood filling, moistened with everyone's favourite gooey moz.  A treat indeed.

Next to hit the shelves is the much anticipated black pudding, smoked cheddar and mushy peas between slices of artisan sourdough, the stuffed crust full of appleaise promising to cut through the spicy richness of the hoummustardaise in the sandwich without overpowering the subtle combination of the filling ingredients themselves.  Also in the pipeline is the first of their new Best of British range of classic butties, expect to see their traditional Stargazey baguette with samphireaise in the shops soon.  I really cannot wait.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Molecular Gastronomy Cocktails: Paul Tvaroh and Ben Greeno @ The Loft

The Loft Project is a supper club in Hackney.  It's rather different to most of the supper clubs that have sprung up in the last year or two in that it's not run by enthusiastic amateurs in their home, it's run by Nuno Mendes - a chef famous for his creative sous vide cooking at Bacchus - as a place he can experiment with new dishes and test them on a small but willing (and paying) audience.  Mendes has a new restaurant opening soon (Viajante in Bethnal Green) so the ovens at the Loft have recently been manned by guest chefs taking up residency to show what they can do, and one night last week chef Ben Greeno bravely rose to the challenge of cooking to match 11 courses of molecular gastronomy cocktails from Paul Tvaroh.

Molecular gastronomy is a bit of a fancypants name, and not one I like very much; every generation has it's creative and inquisitive food-and-drink obsessives and ours seem to have taken on this label for their endeavours.  You could certainly label Paul creative and inquisitive, I've written about the drinks at his bar Lounge Bohemia before, I wouldn't presume to call him obsessive but it wouldn't surprise me after seeing this evening's line-up.  Ben is a chef with a very impressive list of restaurants on his CV including Noma in Copenhagen and the Momofoku restaurants in New York.

To start, we were greeted with a 'palate cleanser' of black-pepper infused vodka with elderflower cordial and lemon juice as introductions were made and we chatted with our fellow diners.  Expertly judged it certainly cleansed the palate and whet the appetite, it would also prove to be the only drink of the night that you'd pick out as a cocktail in an identity parade.  Anticipation was high as we took our seats.

Our first course was a G&T (of course!) this was cucumber infused gin with quinine cordial and carbon dioxide set into rather beautiful crystalline-looking, wobbly jellied cubes.  These had a remarkable fizz on the tongue as you bit into them, cleverly recreating the G&T in your mouth with the bitter quinine finish and a pleasing alcoholic kick too.

This was paired with an oyster, topped with buttermilk and a rhubarb granita.  Oysters are something I hate to see people fannying about with but this worked surprisingly well to my mind, the granita dissolving quickly and coldly in the mouth, leaving the creamy oyster and buttermilk behind.

Next up was a cocktail of 'Caviar', little balls of mango infused vodka with mango juice and rose syrup...

...which was paired with grilled prawns and caramelised mango, the prawns beautifully sweet with a charred smokiness.

Then an entertaining swipe at recreating the classic champagne cocktail: a glass of Chardonnay and brandy, sweetened with sugar and angosturas bitters was served with 'fizzy grapes': grapes infused with brandy and bitters.  We were instructed to put one of the grapes in our mouth before taking a sip of the drink and then biting into the grape, and a lot of fun it all was too.  The grapes themselves were quite amazing, infused and marinated into something very different in both taste and texture, I'd buy jars of them if I could.

This was matched with a roasted scallop with pickled grapes and pistachio.  The grapes here were more like umeboshi plums after Ben had finished pickling them in red wine vinegar, the scallop thick, sweet and perfect.

Next up was a cocktail of 'Japanese light lunch', cucumber chunks infused with vodka, 'soba noodles' made from poppy seed and biscuit infused vodka and a black pepper infused vodka with wasabi.  The cucumbers tasted extremely alcoholic and somewhat harsh, the noodles the opposite although the reverse was true, we were informed.  We were instructed to down the little pot of vodka and wasabi in one.  I've eaten a lot of Japanese food but I've never had a lunch that left me feeling I'd just been punched in the face.

This came with a piece of salmon and three different types of radish, the salmon cooked sous vide with soy and sesame giving it a remarkable, soft texture that was delicious but I'm struggling to describe it without making it sound gross so I'll stop trying.

Campari and soda was next, a fluffy ball of campari candy floss that you bundled into your mouth followed by a swig of club soda and then sit there looking wide-eyed at your dining companions whilst a party rages in your mouth.

Followed by a piece of mackerel with fennel and blood orange.  The little fennel flower with this really sticks in my mind, such a delicate little tiny thing, it packed a real punch of fennel flavour.

Then a margarita - tequila, lime juice and agave syrup that had been turned into one big foam and was served in dainty little cut-out limes.

A dish of quail and coriander with an intense, delicious sweetcorn puree.  At this point we needed to open the main door for a few minutes, I think cooking the prawns and the quails had proved a bit too much for the domestic-standard extraction hood in the open-plan kitchen.

Now it was time for "cleaning the teeth", a toothpaste tube of minted rum, green peas and a white chocolate liquer.  You pierced the silver foil of the tube and just squirted it all into your mouth, I wish I'd taken more photos here of (a) everyone trying to drink this and (b) what the drink actually looked like.  It was green.  Whilst we were all speculating how Paul got the drink into the tube our accompanying dish of yoghurt, whey and mint oil arrived - pretty as a picture to look at, beautifully rich and textured yet light and refreshing at the same time.  It seems to be the one thing I didn't get a photo of, a great shame since it was probably my favourite of the evening which is praise indeed given the quality overall.  

We then got the night's biggest single piece of theatre as Paul prepared the Bohemian Breakfast for us at the end of our table.  Setting fire to the contents of a metal jug he stood pouring the flaming contents steadily into another metal container as he calmly stirred and adjusted the fiery flow, once that was over he asked us how we'd like our eggs cooked.  Before anyone could answer he was cracking one on the rim and stirring the contents in.  The big trick is that we were all expecting a warm, gooey, half-cooked eggy slop in our glass and of course it was stone cold with no egg in sight.  As the drinks were served an amused looking Paul realised he was going to have to spell it out to us that it wasn't actually egg that was in the egg that he cracked.  This was a Black Forest ham infused bourbon(!!) with advocaat, maple syrup and condensed milk.

The Bohemian Breakfast was accompanied by a toasted brioche with Wigmore cheese, the cheese grated incredibly finely and piled high taking on almost a whole new texture and going perfectly with the sweet toasted bread.  This was many people's favourite dish of the night.

Turning the corner into the finishing straight now and it's the salty caramel next: a shot glass containing Werther's Original infused vodka(!) with dark creme de cacao, condensed milk and honey.  The foam on top was very salty, hitting your mouth just before the sweet caramel follows through.  We were instructed to throw the whole glass back in one go although I seem to remember half the table had already done that before being told.

This came with pear and caramel brown butter and toasted flakes.

Next up was a White Russian, a vodka and cream marshmallow in a coffee liquer.

Accompanied by seabuckthorn & gingerbread.  The seabuckthorns are little yellow berries that Ben had acquired in Copenhagen and these were delicious, he brought out a bowl of raw ones for us to try since we were all obviously very taken with them.  I don't know what he did he to cook them (it's very possible that he did tell me at the time and I've just erm, forgotten) but they were certainly transformed from the tart rather sour little things they are in their raw state.

Romping past the finish line saw Paul's final cocktail of the night - Amaretti biscuits.  Biscuit infused vodka with amaretto topped with "effervescent sugar" which caused everyone at the table, as soon as they tried it, to try and say "oooooh!  Space dust!!" whilst their mouths were popping furiously.

This came with a very soothing coffee milk and amaretto.  Phew!  And with that we were all left to finish chatting and comparing notes, swapping numbers and emails and trying to work out the best way home, time had flown and we were all surprised at how it had got so late so quickly.  

I was surprised how excellent the food was, I was expecting something more along the lines of a few dishes to keep the booze-hounds happy whilst we ploughed through the cocktails but Ben had put a lot of thought and effort into matching everything Paul had got to throw at him, he's clearly a talented guy.  I don't know what his plans are when his stint at the Loft is over, but he's a chef to look out for in the future.

It all added up to a very special evening indeed, the cocktails created and served with a wit and microscopic attention to detail along with the obvious creativity and intelligence behind them, it's hard to describe the kind of atmosphere and expectation that gets built up.  Suffice to say the next morning was a major disappointment when my cappuccino tasted exactly like a cappuccino and didn't do anything special and my breakfast tasted just how it looked, no popping, fizzing, no surprises, not even a punch in the face.

Other evenings at the Loft Project can be found at their website.

Paul does (smaller) tasting menus of molecular gastronomy cocktails at Lounge Bohemia, contact details on their website, I've also got an earlier post about them.

You can follow Ben Greeno on Twitter.

MsMarmiteLover has a post on the evening along with more about Ben's cooking on her entertaining blog.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

English Winter Vegetable Kimchi

Kimchi is Korea's famous fermented cabbage dish.  Famous for being very, very spicy and also for having a perpetual presence on the dinner table, whether as a side to accompany everything else or as a small course on its own, it's said that there are as many recipes for kimchi as there are households in Korea such is the revered status of this humble-sounding recipe.  It's usually made with Chinese cabbage, something more akin to our white cabbages with quite a pale green colour and thin leaves which are brined and then smeared in a potent mixture of chillis, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and other odds and sods before being left in a tightly-sealed container to start fermenting.

I've been in possession of a lot of cabbages these last few weeks.  The particularly harsh winter has buggered up a lot of the crops from the small farms that supply the veggie bag that I pick up each week, but our seemingly indestructible Savoy cabbages have risen proudly to the challenge and it has now become a weekly ritual for me to sit in the pub after picking up my veggies with my head in my hands trying to think what the hell I'm going to do with them this week. Fermentation and pickling are ancient methods born from the need to preserve a surplus whilst preparing for the lean times of the year ahead and, frankly, any recipe that'll knock a whole cabbage on the head in one go is a recipe that's just shot to the top of my to-do list.


1 Savoy cabbage
3 medium turnips
3 medium beetroot
small bulb/head of garlic
2-inch piece of ginger
80ml fish sauce
100ml hot Korean chilli paste
100g salt
1 tsp sugar
4 or 5 spring onions
pair of rubber gloves

Start by brining the cabbage: dissolve the salt in about 3 or 4 litres of water.  Slice the cabbage into quarters, cut out the core from each quarter and then slice each quarter lengthways into thirds.  It's a bit of personal preference here whether you want to keep the dark outer leaves or not: they're certainly tasty but pretty thick and chewy.  I'd definitely suggest keeping them in but you could possibly slice them more finely if you're planning on having this more as a side dish to accompany something else.  Plunge the leaves into the brine and leave them for 2-4 hours.  Overnight won't hurt, but give them at least a couple of hours.

Once the leaves have finished brining, drain and rinse them.  You should be able to feel straightaway the difference in the cabbage leaves, they should feel very crisp and squeaky to the touch.  Prepare the chilli mixture by peeling and grating the turnips and the beetroot (use a very coarse grater) peel and mince/finely chop the garlic and the ginger (that's a whole bulb of garlic by the way, not a whole clove) slice the spring onions into one-inch pieces and then halve them and add all this into your biggest bowl with the chilli paste, fish sauce and the sugar.  Some recipes call for more sugar, some have honey added, I think the sweetness of the beetroot and the turnip compensate for some of this, but it's still worth adding a teaspoon or so of sugar or some honey if you prefer.

One of the common ways of preparing kimchi is to leave the base of the cabbage intact during brining.  This allows you to slather the chilli mixture in between the leaves quite quickly like flicking through the pages of a book but I don't think it works very well with Savoy cabbages since they're a lot more ridged and wrinkled than the smooth leaves of the Chinese cabbages.  It's a bit more effort to work with the individual leaves cut off from the stem like this but I think it's worth it, and also the page-flicking method is only really worthwhile when preparing vast, industrial, quantities of the stuff - something most Korean women seem to do from what I've seen on the internet, but doesn't really apply here.

Put on the rubber gloves and smother the cabbage leaves in the chilli mixture making sure you rub it into all the nooks and ridges on the leaves.  There's quite a lot written about whether you do/don't/should need to wear gloves, I've made it with bare hands and never had the chilli burn to my hands that is one of the most common reasons cited for needing them but trust me: wear them.  Maybe it's different for women but you just really should wear them whilst you're doing this.

It's best to do this bit by dunking batches of leaves into the bowl and giving them a good slathering, once each batch is finished put them into a container large enough to hold them all that you can seal tightly, a glass jar or tupperware tub or whatever.  Once the leaves are all done scrape in any remaining chilli mixture, seal and leave for a day or two somewhere reasonably cool/room temperature (i.e. not the fridge.)

Check it after a couple of days and you might see some little bubbles and smell and kind of mild pong which means it's started fermenting and you've got some kimchi magic going on!  This is always quite exciting and you should taste a little bit just to see where it's got to.  You can put this into the fridge now, or serve it up there and then, I've found it's better to leave it for another couple of days before putting in the fridge just to let the fermentation have a good go, I think this is probably because the Savoy cabbage leaves are that bit thicker, making this with Chinese cabbages you can really tell those extra couple of days fermentation, it all tastes a lot stronger quite quickly but that doesn't really seem to happen with Savoy cabbages in my experience.  Obviously once it's in the fridge the fermentation rate goes down but it will still keep going and the rule of thumb seems to be that after about 3 weeks it's probably going to be a bit too fermented to be very pleasant, although I've never had any last that long.

As we're starting to see the first signs of Spring this week I imagine I'll soon start seeing fewer and fewer cabbages in my veggie bag which is kind of a shame, I love the way this works with Savoy cabbages and the turnips and beetroots.  And I've still got a sodding big celeriac that needs something doing with it.

If you're in London the Korean/Japanese grocers in the Centrepoint building sell a good variety of freshly made kimchis if you can't be arsed with all that.

Cabbage field photo courtesy of pizzodisevo