Prithvi

Indian food, but not as we know it. The unassuming and understated entrance to Prithvi leads you into a welcoming and convivial environment inhabited by swans of the hospitality industry. Unexpectedly small, but perfectly maximised like an Ikea showroom space, my first impressions leave me feeling relaxed and excited at the prospect of what’s to come.

prithvi

My wife and I are at Prithvi for the first time thanks to a kind invitation to sample their new Autumn menu at a VIP lunch. How cool is that.

I’m very quickly appreciating why this Cheltenham restaurant is listed as No.1 on TripAdvisor, regularly referenced by my friends and colleagues as their go-to venue for a special occasion, and the source of eternal consternation as it’s so hard to make a reservation within the same decade.

Jay is the main man – move over Fred of First Dates fame. What a wonderfully professional and thoughtful host. Service at its absolute best; I was tempted to get up from the table just to see how quickly one of the lovely staff would appear to refold my napkin. There’s a point at which this becomes OTT, but in the finest of establishments as I would regard this one, you don’t even notice their presence until you need them.

So let’s talk about the most important factor – the food.

This is like no Indian restaurant I’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at; they’re taking Indian cuisine to a new level. Exquisite, refined and elegant. I’m so pleased to see the team adapting their menu to the season and making the most of the wonderful ingredients in abundance at this time of year.

We started with an amuse-bouche of crispy curly kale on a rice cracker with mango – so simple, yet so perfectly balanced and delicious.

kale cracker and mangoNext was a panipuri to die for, devoured in one mouthful to avoid the tamarind reduction decorating my shirt. Heaven.

gorgeous panipuri at Prithvi

Next to the big guns. Tandoor baked salmon with beetroot, cucumber and mango. Taking my time and sampling just a sliver of beetroot with micro-herbs as my introduction to this plate took me to somewhere very special. The thoughtfully selected 2015 Charles Sparr Gewurztraminer from Alsace was an inspired choice that balanced the spice like only a semi-sweet white wine can, it’s viscosity culminating in smiles blossoming around the dining room. The fine, fine details that elevate their dishes is what puts them on the map.

tandoor salmon

Welsh lamb, couscous and legumes paired with a delightful glass of Carménère and then the hearty and seasonal venison with butternut squash, ginger and cinnamon reduction. Oh take me back already.

I’m not a dessert kind of customer; give me a tray of starters or a cheese board any day. However.. The plate of sunshine that arrived with the precision delivery we were becoming happily accustomed to, rapidly vanished, much to even my surprise. Passion fruit cream, mango gel, coriander and honey crumble.

Passion Fruit Cream, mango gel, coriander & honey crumble

Honestly, what is this place? I’m starting to question myself and I’m not quite sure of anything anymore. One thing’s clear, I’m smitten. I’m happy, satisfied and remarkably comfortable (unlike as I’m sure you’ll agree, every visit to a regular Indian restaurant).  I headed down the road happy as a proverbial pig in shit. The plates were relatively small, yet they cleverly combined into a neatly balanced meal that left me undeniably content, rather than a bulging and belching all the way home.

I can’t stop thinking about what Jay and his excellent team could accomplish in a slightly larger purpose-built space. I sincerely pray that Prithvi maintains its trajectory as I desperately scrimp and save for our next visit.

For more information, check out bit.ly/lunchwithprithvi

 

Roast Guinea Fowl

Here’s my twist on Jamie’s classic roast chicken recipe – if you can cook that, you can cook this!

It’s easy to master and I think you’ll find it really satisfying. Mixing it up a little extends your repertoire and I hope that it gives you the inspiration and confidence to keep experimenting with lovely ingredients and different techniques.

Originating in the jungles of Guinea in West Africa, this unusual little bird isn’t as gamy as pheasant (it’s not really a game bird), but it’s certainly has a deeper and richer flavour than chicken.

Guinea fowl is very lean and carries little fat, so it’s not as forgiving as chicken; it’s inclined to dry out easily if overcooked. The trick is to bard it before roasting (wrap with bacon) and/or baste it throughout cooking to keep it moist and juicy.

I chose to serve this roast with lemon thyme celeriac, cavelo nero (Italian black cabbage), roasted parsnips, dauphinoise potatoes, broccoli, gravy and redcurrant jelly, but of course you can choose whichever sides float your boat. It’s all about balance and variety for me.  You could simply roast the bird with carrots, potatoes and garlic cloves as per Jamie’s roast chicken recipe.

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan). This is relatively low, as guinea fowl is more delicate than chicken.

Top the bird with some thin slabs of butter and then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lay strips of bacon or pancetta over the top and then roast for around 60 minutes (15 minutes per 500g plus 15 minutes), until the juices run clear. The bird will then need a good 10 minutes to rest properly so once you’ve taken it out of the oven you can increase the temperature to finish your dauphinoise and parsnips whilst you make the gravy.

Dauphinoise potatoes are always a winner. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone that doesn’t adore them. Finely slice potatoes (a mandolin or food processor is ideal) and layer them into a buttered ovenproof dish, seasoning as you go. I often add a little minced garlic and thyme leaves along the way. Pour over a generous splash of double cream so that it can seep through the layers of potato, and then top with grated cheese and bake for about an hour.

Potatoes dauphinoise

The parsnips can simply be quartered, turned in olive oil and roasted in the oven alongside the guinea fowl and dauphinoise.

Jamie’s celeriac recipe works brilliantly with guinea fowl. Peel and cube a celeriac and then cook it in a covered pan for about 25 minutes over a low heat with a swig of olive oil, lemon thyme, salt and pepper.

jamie oliver simple celeriac

Steam your greens for just a few minutes and dress them with a squeeze of lemon juice, flaky sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Keep the water from your steamer for the gravy.

To make a gravy whilst the guinea fowl rests, combine the roasting juices, some vegetable cooking water and a little redcurrant or quince jelly in a pan.

 

Sit down, fill your plates, fight over the crispy bacon and enjoy the rustic flavours with a warming glass of red wine.

Roast Guinea fowl

Must. Try. Harder.

Well, it’s finally out there. I know I should be jumping for joy to see it, but alas, although I haven’t even read it yet, the public reaction tells me that the UK Government’s Childhood Obesity Strategy doesn’t hit the mark.

govt_strategy

 

I’ve had an opportunity to pore over it now, and here’s what I think.

Reading the introduction inspires me to go out for a run; this is serious stuff that we can’t ignore. More needs to be done to get the facts into the public domain and reinforce the severity in the minds of those not inclined to read Government strategy papers.

There’s absolute sense in what they state about long-term, sustainable change only being achievable through the active engagement of schools, communities, families and individuals. This is the core objective for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. It follows the basic principles of change, as we must raise awareness, create the desire, and help people to understand what they can do to make a difference.

The sugar tax is a positive step, but is it enough? If I were a food manufacturer, I don’t think I’d be too worried about any of this..

I see a lot of wishy-washy wording that leaves plenty of room for localised interpretation. I would have liked to have seen some more decisive moves rather than merely ‘encouraging’ change with a limp carrot.

The plans around sport for schoolchildren are great, but I’m concerned that the mindset will become “I do lots of physical activity, so I can get away with eating whatever I want”. The balance is paramount, and if those affected don’t have a clear understanding, then what hope do they have?

In conclusion, I’m glad that we have this, but we had a real opportunity for transformational change, and I can’t help but feel terribly disappointed that we didn’t grab it with both hands and really capitalise on it.

As stated, the launch of this plan represents the start of a conversation, rather than the final word. I for one will be making sure that I’m involved in that conversation, will you?

 

French Onion Soup

For this year’s Food Revolution Day, Jamie Oliver shared ‘10 recipes to save your life‘ – learn how to master these dishes and you can successfully cook nutritious food for yourself and your family for the rest of your life.

As Ambassadors for the revolution, we’re all about inspiring others, sharing skills and knowledge, and helping people to build confidence in the kitchen.

My alternative to Jamie’s Minestrone Soup is the one and only French Onion Soup. It’s a fantastic example of how you can transform a humble ingredient by concentrating the flavour. You have a couple of options here: make a relatively quick and acceptable soup, or show it the love, give it the time and attention it deserves, and make a beautifully deep, complex and truly sensational bowl of joy.

brown onions

Ingredients:

  • 500g brown onions
  • 50g butter
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 glass white wine
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Splash of cognac or brandy (optional)
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1.5 litres beef stock
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 150g Gruyere cheese
  • ½ baguette

 

Method:

Finely slice the onions and sweat them in a pan on a very low heat with the butter, sugar and a little olive oil for about an hour until beautifully soft, caramelised and almost melting.

sweating onions

Increase the heat, add the garlic and thyme and cook for a few minutes before carefully flambéing with the cognac/brandy if using.

Stir in the flour and cook it out for two of minutes.

Add the wine and let it bubble away and reduce by a third.

Add the beef stock, season and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Serve the soup with Gruyere-topped croutons – they’re essential.

I like to make the croutons by frying garlic-rubbed slices of baguette in a pan with butter until golden, but you can just toast them or bake them in the oven to dry them out. Pop them onto the soup, grate Gruyere cheese over the top, and slide everything under the grill or into the oven until gorgeously molten.

Enjoy!

Onion Soup

Seabass with Samphire & Lemongrass Butter

Here’s my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution fish recipe. Using very similar skills to his classic pan-fried salmon and vegetable dish, I’m mixing it up a little and showing how you can create incredible variations in flavour.

If you’re buying whole fish and filleting it yourself, make sure you look out for bright, clear eyes.  The brighter the eyes, the fresher the fish. My children are fascinated by the whole process and we’ve luckily avoided any squeamishness by making it the norm whilst they’re still young.

Samphire is the asparagus of the sea. Delicate, tender, delicious.

I’ve chosen to accompany the fish with Swedish Hasselback potatoes. They’re really easy to make, and I love how this little twist transforms the humble potato to make it super-crispy and delightfully moreish.

The lemongrass butter gives everything a clean and zingy lift. You can make it ahead and store it in the freezer for future use; it’s stunning on charred corn on the cob.

Ingredients:

(serves 2)

  • 2 Seabass fillets
  • 150g Samphire
  • 100g Butter, softened
  • 1 Lemongrass stalk
  • 1cm Ginger
  • 1 Parsely sprig
  • 1 Tbsp Ponzu
  • 6 Small waxy potatoes (you may wish you’d cooked more though…)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

To make the butter, remove the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass and finely slice the core with the parsley leaves. Peel and grate the ginger into a bowl and mix it together thoroughly with the lemongrass, ponzu, butter, parsley and pepper. Tip the butter onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and form it into a log shape. Wrap it up like a Christmas cracker and pop it into the fridge so that it firms up.

The potatoes need to be evenly sliced without cutting all of the way through, so that they fan out when cooked. The more slices, the crispier the results. I use a wooden spoon as a jig to hold the potato in place and stop the blade. You’ll find it easiest with a very sharp, thin bladed knife.

wooden spoon jig

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray with a knob of butter and then carefully add the potatoes, making sure that they’re nicely coated. Roast for about 50 minutes until beautifully golden and crispy.

Slash the skin of your fish. This will help the heat to penetrate the thickest part so that you have evenly cooked fish.

Seabass fillet

Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a little oil just to coat the surface. Season the fish before placing it skin-side down into the pan, pressing it down for the first few seconds to prevent it from curling up. Cook the fish for 3 to 4 minutes without touching it or moving it around. Once the skin is golden and crispy, gently turn it over and cook for a further minute.

seabass

Steam the samphire for just 3 minutes and dress it with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Rock Samphire

Assemble your dish, topping with a slice of the lemongrass butter. Don’t place the butter directly onto the skin as I have done below if you want to keep it nice and crispy.

seabass with samphire and lemongrass butter

As always, recipes are merely guides; mix it up a little, adapt to your tastes and build on the foundations to satisfy your soul. The next time I cook this dish I’m going to focus on the Swedish angle and switch the lemongrass for some form of dill sauce.