Lifestyle

My London Dinner

Thursday, February 23, 2012    

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Emma Sharp Dalton-Brown

It has been nearly a decade since I lived in England, but I have been back many times since. Strong friendships were formed during my nine years in London, one of the most architecturally beautiful cities in the world. From Notting Hill, Russell Square, Bayswater and Belsize Park as a student, to Maida Vale, Fulham, back to Belsize, and West Hampstead, where I resided while working as a chef, each area brought its own unique qualities, along with restaurants, bars, and (in some cases) nightclubs!

Many of these places have changed, but most Londoners are still very loyal to the stomping ground in which they have inhabited all this time. Whether it be North, Central, East, West London, or South of the River (anyone living north of The Thames River must obtain a visa to cross over the bridges!), residents of this sexy city know where they belong!

As a visitor, you may not be as fussy about where you stay, as long as you can get around on the tube (underground train) easily. Well, you may wish you could be particular about such details, but beggars can't be choosers and having a free bed at one's brother's house in Southfields (south of the river.....aaaarrrrgggghhhh!) is not something one should pass up so easily!

One of the brilliant aspects about the people in the UK's capital is that they love an invitation to dinner. Even West Indians will take a bus or tube across town, in the cold weather, if it means sitting down to enjoy a homemade meal and a bit of booze! None of this "bwoy it cold and far" nonsense! Between friends trekking from Barnet, Streatham and Chiswick, I have hosted several guests in my brother's conservatory dining room in the last couple weeks. Even Coldplay's lead guitarist Jonny Buckland and his wife Chloe (my cousin) took the tube from Hampstead to lunch with us. Not too stoosh to take public transport!

Of course, I couldn't come all this way without having some of the Jamaican posse, with whom I used to hang out, over for a traditional Jamaican feed. However, these guys live in a city now known for its courageous culinary achievements, which go beyond the imagination, so salt fish and ackee, dumplings, rundown, and the like, would be a bit casual for a posh do! That being said, I wanted to somehow get it all in, but in a gourmet way.

On the last Thursday of January, eight of us sat down to enjoy a three course dinner, chatting about the tickets we got for the upcoming Olympics, Jamaican politics, returning residents, the successes of Jamaicans in London (the guests included), and old times. They each proclaimed their favourite course out of the curried ackee filo triangles, roasted cod with garlic herb dumplings and rundown sauce, and a Jamaican coffee, rum and ginger tiramisu. The verdict over which won is still out, but I think the main (cod) course was my most creative adaptation of street food.

While my guests get a little nostalgic about their homeland from time to time, they and their spouses will not be moving back anytime soon. I suppose there are enough of our nation living in London to quash the homesickness when it lick yuh! One wonders whether Jamaicans over here actually feel that the London Olympics 2012 is really their own!

Guests:

Jumby Sharp: Jamaican — trader

Sam Sharp: Scottish — writer

Dr Gregory Williams: Jamaican — Plastic Surgeon, Burns' Specialist & Hair Transplant Specialist

Jennifer Fitt: Guyanese — Research Associate in Child Behaviour and Development

Amanda Gore-Booth: Jamaican — Founder of Pilot PR, a travel specialist PR agency who guide their clients into safe landing.

Julian Gore-Booth: English — Chief Executive of Stars Foundation, an NGO for Children in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They will soon be in the Caribbean

Caroline Gammell: English (her Jamaican husband Stephen Downer was sick) — News Reporter for the Daily Telegraph

Emma Dalton-Brown: Jamaican (her Trini husband back in Jamaica) — SO contributor

Menu:

Cassava Chips

Cheese on Filo 'crackers' with Pepper Jelly

Curried Ackee Filo Triangles with Salad & Peppery Orange Vinaigrette

Roasted Cod with Rundown Sauce

Garlic & Herb Dumpling Puffs

Ginger String Beans

Jamaican Coffee, Rum & Ginger Tiramisu

Cheese on Filo 'Crackers' with Pepper Jelly: Serves

2 sheets filo pastry

1 oz butter

4 oz strong cheddar cheese, cut into slices to fit each 'cracker'

Pepper Jelly (I like Busha Browne)

* Preheat the oven 400ºF.

* Place a sheet of filo pastry on a chopping board, brush half with melted butter, then fold the other half over. Do the same with a second sheet of filo.

* Butter one folded sheet of filo, and place the other on top. Brush with butter again and cut into 30 mini squares. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then turn each piece of filo carefully over, and bake another 5 minutes. Remove and cool.

* When ready to serve, top each 'cracker' with a piece of cheese and a small dollop of pepper jelly.

Curried Ackee Filo Triangles with Salad & Peppery Orange Vinaigrette: Serves 10

8 sheets filo pastry

8 oz butter

Curried Ackees:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped

2 teaspoons homemade curry powder

A little water

12 oz cooked ackees

Salt & black pepper

Peppery Orange Vinaigrette:

2 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 heaped teaspoon finely chopped chili pepper

Zest of 1 orange

Juice of 2 oranges

3 teaspoons honey

4 fl oz olive oil

Salt & black pepper

* Cook the curried ackees: heat the oil, add the onion and soften. Add the garlic, thyme, pepper and curry powder and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in a little water and cook for another minute. Gently stir in the ackees, more water if needed, and season with salt and pepper.

* Place one sheet of filo pastry on a chopping board, with the longer sides at the top and bottom. Brush the right half of the pastry with butter, and fold the other half on top. Brush with butter again.

* Cut into four equal lengths, place a heaped teaspoon of curried ackee at the bottom of each strips of pastry, and fold into triangles. Place on a buttered baking sheet, and brush the top of each triangle.

* Repeat for the remaining 7 sheets of pastry -- you will have 32 triangles on two baking sheets.

* Keep in the fridge or freezer before baking.

* Make the vinaigrette: Place all the ingredients in a glass jar, seal with the lid, and shake well.

* When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350ºF.

* Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until golden, or 20-25 minutes from frozen.

* Place a large handful of salad leaves on each plate, drizzle with dressing, and top with three baked filo triangles.

* Serve immediately.

Roasted Cod with Rum Rundown Sauce: Serves 8

8 x 6-7oz fresh cod steaks

Juice of 1 lime

2 tablespoons Appleton V/X rum

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & black pepper

Rum Rundown Sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium red onions, finely chopped

2 red chilli peppers or 1 red scotch bonnet pepper

1/2 oz fresh lemon thyme leaves (may use thyme)

2 x 400ml cans of coconut milk

2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

4 tablespoons Appleton V/X rum

4 fl oz double (heavy) cream

Black pepper

Garnish:

Green part of 8 scallions, finely chopped

1 small red scotch bonnet, finely chopped

* Make the rundown sauce: heat the olive oil, add the onions, peppers and lemon thyme, and cook on a low heat until softened. Pour in the coconut milk, bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce and rum, and cook for a couple minutes. Add the cream and black pepper and cook for another few minutes. Reheat when ready to serve.

* Season the fish with lime, rum, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a large roasting pan, skin side up.

* Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Roast the fish for 15 minutes.

* Turn on the grill (broiler) and finish off the fish for another 5 minutes.

* Serve on top of the string beans, with dumpling puffs around it, and drizzle hot rundown sauce all over the fish and dumplings.

* Garnish with chopped scotch bonnet and scallion.

* Serve the remaining rundown sauce in a bowl on the table.

Herb & Garlic Dumpling Puffs: Serves 8-10

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

White part of 8 scallions, finely chopped

1 oz cilantro, finely chopped

1/4 oz lemon thyme, finely chopped (may use thyme)

2 1/2 cups plain flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

8 fl oz water

* Mix all the dry ingredients, garlic and herbs together in a large bowl.

* Slowly pour in the water, stirring with a knife, then use your hands to bring it altogether.

* Pour onto a floured surface and gently knead until smooth.

* Place in a floured bowl until ready to cook.

* Bring a large pot of water to the boil, shape small dumplings, and pop into the boiling water.

* Cook for 20-25 minutes, drain and serve 5 dumplings around the plate with cod and beans, topping with the rundown sauce and garnish.

Sauteed Ginger String Beans: Serves 8

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 heaped tablespoons finely chopped ginger

3 lbs string beans, trimmed

Salt & black pepper

* Heat the olive oil in a large wok, add the ginger and cook for one minute.

* Stir in the string beans, cook and season with salt and pepper.

* Serve immediately.

Jamaican Ginger, Coffee & Rum Tiramisu: Serves 12-15

250g mascarpone cheese

4 eggs, separated

3/4 cup white sugar

8 fl oz whipping cream

12 fl oz very strong brewed Jamaican coffee (I like to use High Mountain)

4 fl oz Appleton V/X rum

3 x 200g ginger biscuits

12-15 glass ramekins or small bowls

Cocoa powder for garnish

* Place the yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl and whisk until thick, pale and creamy.

* Gently whisk in the mascarpone cheese.

* In another bowl, whip the cream until just thick, and stir this into the mascarpone mixture.

* In a large clean and dry bowl, whisk the eggs to form peaks, add the remaining sugar and whisk to incorporate well. Gently fold this into the mascarpone and cream mixture.

* Place the coffee and rum in a large bowl.

* Soak 3 ginger biscuits in the coffee and rum mixture for a few seconds, then place in a small glass ramekin or bowl, top with creamy mixture. Repeat for the remaining ramekins.

* Store in the fridge for 6-8 hours to set.

* Serve on a plate, sprinkled with cocoa powder.

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