New Voices in Food – James Ramsden


Past students of the Ballymaloe Cookery School do a variety of things, some work as chefs or cooks in restaurants, gastro pubs, yachts, ski chalets, catering businesses or as personal chefs. Some do Farmers Markets, B&Bs, delis, or pop up restaurants… Others blog or write food articles.

James Ramsden from Yorkshire, who spent 12 weeks with us in 2004, has had a fun time using his cooking skills. In 2009 he launched the Secret Larder Supper Club in London with his sister. He has written about food and cookery for The Times, The Guardian, Sainsbury’s Magazine and was chosen as one of the ‘40 Bloggers who Really Count’ by The Times May 2010. He’s totally passionate about food and has been chosen as an exciting, irrepressible New Voice in Food, published by Quadrille; James is also one of a generation of sophisticated 20 and 30 somethings, many of whom, despite being bang in step with current trends, are hesitant to cook anything more demanding than pasta.

In his first book – Small Adventures in Cooking – the influential food blogger and pop-up supper club host aims to get his peers out of their culinary rut and to start experimenting with recipes that are delicious, unexpected and simple. I’ve just chosen a menu from the book that is perfect for this weekend.

James Ramsden’s Crisp Salad of Chicory, Pickled Radishes and Apple

Serves 4

2 heads of green chicory

1/2 a red onion, peeled and very finely sliced

100g (3½oz) pickled radishes (see below)

a bunch of coriander

a handful of mint leaves

juice of 1/2 a lime

1 tbsp fish sauce

3 tbsp groundnut oil

a pinch of sugar

salt and pepper

1 apple

Wash the chicory and remove the outer leaves. What you do next is up to you – you can either pull the lettuce apart and serve the leaves whole, tear the leaves by hand or slice the as thick or thinly as you like. Whatever you choose, keep the leaves in iced water until ready to serve.

Put the red onion and pickled radishes in a bowl and stir to combine. Chop the coriander and mint and add to the bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, oil and sugar and season with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, thoroughly dry the chicory leaves and add to the radishes and onion before grating in the apple. Toss through the dressing and serve immediately.

Tart – Add some raw grated kohlrabi to this salad. Kohlrabi is a relation of the cabbage, but is milder and sweeter.

James Ramsden’s Pickled radishes

Makes a few jars’ worth

250ml (9fl oz)   white-wine vinegar

3 tbsp caster sugar

2 cloves

500g (18oz) radishes, halved

Put the vinegar, caster sugar and cloves into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to a simmer. Add the radishes to the pan, turn off the heat and leave to cool. Store in sterilised jars.

James Ramsden’s Lamb Kebabs

The human race, you’ve probably noticed, is quite fond of stuffing bits of meat between pieces of bread. At their best, kebabs sit proudly at the top of the sandwich hierarchy – soft, ever-so-slightly pink hunks of lamb prodded generously into soft, warm pitta and licked with garlicky mayonnaise and chilli. The flatbread here is very easy to make, but by all means buy a few pittas to save time if you like.

Serves 8

250g (9oz) thick natural yoghurt

2 cloves of garlic, peeled
and crushed

juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

2 sprigs of rosemary, needles picked and finely chopped

salt and pepper

olive oil

1kg (2¼lb) lamb leg off the bone, cubed and trimmed of any excess fat

a clove of garlic, crushed

5 tbsp mayonnaise (preferably homemade)

For The Flatbreads

300g (10 ½ oz) strong white bread flour

140g (5 ¼ oz) plain flour

1 tsp yeast

1 tsp crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp salt

200ml (7fl oz) warm water

4 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp thick natural yoghurt

Serve with any or all of the following:

• chilli sauce

• 1/2 a small white cabbage, finely shredded

• 1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced

• 2 carrots, grated

• 1 iceberg lettuce, finely sliced

Mix the yoghurt, garlic, lemon juice, cumin seeds and chopped rosemary in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and loosen with a glug of oil. Coat the lamb in the yoghurt mixture and leave to marinate for 1–2 hours. While the lamb marinates, make the flatbreads following the instructions opposite.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Tip the marinated lamb into a roasting tray in an even layer and put in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, get a griddle or frying pan hot over a medium-high-heat and, one at a time, cook the breads for 2 minutes a side, keeping warm in a clean tea towel. Turn the heat down a notch if the breads are burning.

Remove the lamb from the oven and rest while you finish off any breads that remain. Stir the crushed garlic through the mayonnaise and serve with your chosen accompaniments. Let your guests fashion their own kebabs, stuffing the breads with the lamb, garlic mayo, chilli sauce and vegetables.

TART – Add a scattering of pomegranate seeds to the kebabs.

TWEAK – You can play around with the spices you add to the flatbread dough. Coriander seeds, cumin and chilli flakes all work well.

TOMORROW – Make coleslaw by mixing any leftover shredded white cabbage, red onion and carrot with the garlic mayonnaise.

To make the flatbreads

Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl before adding the water, oil and yoghurt and mixing together. Knead on a clean, floured surface until smooth and elastic. Divide into 8 pieces and roll out the flatbreads thinly. Leave to rest for at least half an hour, separated by sheets of baking paper.

James Ramsden’s Five-spice chicken wings

Chinese five-spice is a handy condiment for the cupboard. Its aromatic qualities transform the simplest cuts of meat into something spectacular, and make your kitchen smell better than the streets of Chinatown. Chicken wings are cheap, too. You can usually find them in supermarkets; otherwise give your nearest butcher a call a day in advance and I imagine he’ll practically give them to you (though don’t quote me on that).

Serves 10

4 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder

3–4 tsp hot chilli powder

4 tsp runny honey

4 tbsp soy sauce

4 tbsp olive oil

a few drops of sesame oil

salt and pepper

2–3kg chicken wings

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.

In a large bowl, mix together the five-spice, chilli powder, honey, soy sauce and olive and sesame oils. Season with salt and pepper and toss in the chicken wings, coating thoroughly.
Tip into a roasting tray or two and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. They’ll be cooked in less time if you’re desperate to eat, but ideally you’d give them time to get good and sticky. Serve with paper napkins.

TART – Garnish the wings with shredded spring onions and red chillies.

TWEAK – Instead of five-spice, use a couple of tablespoons of crushed Szechuan peppercorns – they make your mouth go numb in the most pleasing of ways.

James Ramsden’s Chocolate and Fennel Brownies

A good brownie recipe is an invaluable thing. They have the ability to lift the blackest of moods – all at once soothing and indulgent. For those eight seconds you spend cramming it into your mouth, the world seems like an all-right place. If serving as a pudding then these are excellent with some good-quality vanilla ice cream, though I’m as fond of them as a snack with a glass of milk.

Makes 24 brownies

400g (14oz) unsalted butter, cubed

400g (14oz) dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), smashed to pieces

6 eggs

500g (18oz) caster sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

250g (9oz) plain flour

2 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Line a 30cm x 20cm x 5cm baking tray with greaseproof paper. It helps to rub it with the butter wrapper first to make the paper stick.

Put a saucepan of water on to boil and place a heatproof bowl on top. Turn the heat down to low, tip the butter and chocolate into the bowl and leave to melt. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla extract until light and pale.

Once melted, cool the chocolate for a few minutes before whisking in the egg mix. Fold through the flour and fennel seeds and scrape into the baking tray. Put in the oven and bake for 25–30 minutes before removing and leaving to cool.


Tart – Add a couple of handfuls of white chocolate buttons to the cake mixture before baking. You can also add crushed nuts as well, walnuts being the classic choice.

Tweak – Instead of fennel, add a couple of handfuls of frozen raspberries to the brownie mix.

Tomorrow – These will keep in a tin for a few days, and they also freeze very well.

James Ramsden’s Chocolate, Chilli and Cardamom Tart

Drop any preconceptions that I have completely lost the plot here and please have a go at this tart. It will knock your socks off, and your guests will think you’re a total wizard.

Serves 8

1 x basic homemade shortcrust pastry or 300g ready-made shortcrust pastry

3 eggs, 1 beaten

250ml (9fl oz) double cream

125ml (4fl oz)   whole milk

2 tbsp caster sugar

200g (7oz) dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)

100g (3 ½ oz) milk chocolate

10 cardamom pods

1/2 tsp hot chilli powder


200ml single cream

Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out the pastry. Line a 25cm tart tin with the pastry and prick all over with a fork. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes (or the freezer for 10). Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

Line the pastry shell with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Discard the baking paper and beans and brush the pastry all over with the beaten egg. Put back in the oven for 5 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and turn down to 160°C/Gas 2.

Meanwhile, put the cream, milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and whisk over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to just below boiling point and remove from the heat. Break the chocolate into pieces and stir it into the hot cream, leaving to melt completely. Lightly crush the cardamom pods and remove the little black seeds. Crush these in a pestle and mortar and add to the mix along with the chilli powder and a pinch of salt. Finally, beat the remaining eggs and stir into the mix until glossy. Tip this into the tart shell and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until set.

Remove and leave to cool completely before serving with the single cream.

TART – Add the zest of an orange to the chocolate. If feeling more ambitious, you could stew some cherries in Kirsch and serve them alongside. Popping candy sprinkled over the tart is quite amusing.

TWEAK –To save time you could always buy ready-made (and even ready-rolled pastry). Avoid the ready-baked tart shells, though, which are mostly terrible.

TOMORROW – This tart will keep happily in the fridge for a few days.


The 63rd Dunmanway Agricultural Show will take place on Sunday July 3rd 2011, at Dromleena Lawn (Racecourse) Dunmanway. The show will incorporate a farmers’ market and craft fair with a local West Cork flavour. Contact Kitty Cotter 0862782413

Look out for fresh gooseberries at the Farmers Markets – for making jam, compotes, crumbles, puddings…Enjoy them while they are at their best.

Scrumptious Salads and Sandwiches – Half Day Course with Darina Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday 28th July 2011 from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. 021 4646785.

Glenilen Farm have recently taken a stall at Mahon Point Farmers market. They bring in fresh milk from their farm in Drimoleague every Thursday which they sell in   refillable one litre glass bottles. Try their strawberry and yogurt smoothies and also pick up some country butter /

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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