Stevie Parle burst onto the London food scene in 2009 with his restaurant Dock Kitchen. Hitherto he’d been living on a houseboat on the Thames, working at the River Café, Moro and Petersham Nurseries. He was one of the first to do pop-up dinners but when he found the a long canal side wharf warehouse – an ex Victorian goods yard with a massive terrace – on Kensel Rise, he put down deeper roots, it was just too perfect to abandon.
He needed a more permanent home to develop his exotic yet simple cooking that has more to do with the cooking of the grandmothers of the globe than the overworked fussy food of the average London kitchen.
Stevie travels a lot and has worked in New York, Tokyo, Sri Lanka and Malaysia and it shows in his menu. He is totally passionate about the honest quality of multi ethnic ingredients. To be a really good cook or chef you need to be slightly greedy and endlessly curious. Some chefs become obsessed with the water baths, liquid nitrogen, dry ice and distillers which are becoming everyday tools in some modern restaurant kitchens.
For Stevie, a collection of pestles and mortars, some ancient cooking vessels and a charcoal fire are miles more exciting than the gadgets and gizmos to which many chefs seem to aspire to these days.
His food inspired by ingredients and dishes he’s eaten all over the world, always simple, always exotic has struck a chord in London the most multicultural of cities. The acerbic restaurant critic AA Gill described Stevie’s food as ‘faultless’. The Observer Food Monthly awarded him UK Young Chef of the Year 2010; he’s also the food columnist for the Saturday Telegraph. His first book My Kitchen – Real Food from Near and Far was nominated for the André Simon and Guild of Food Writers for Best First Cookbook 2010.
At just 16 years old Stevie was one of the youngest ever students to complete the 12 Week Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School; am I proud of him or what?
His new book Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen Cookbook – Real Home Cooking from Around the World is published by Quadrille Press. Here are a few recipes from the book.
Dock Kitchen Iranian Pistachio, Cucumber and Grapes Soup
I had a soup a little like this at the house of my friend, the photographer Jason Lowe. I recreated it a year or so later, so it may or may not be similar to the original… I often serve it with melon, or cherries in the summer, some blended in, some on the top. It’s a pretty magical soup. You are going to slowly build the flavours by adding different things to the blender and tasting as you go. It’s complex in taste: gentle acidity balances rich nuts, while the perfume of rose water competes with garlic and herbs.
75g blanched almonds
75g fresh green pistachios or 3 tbsp unsweetened pistachio purée
1 garlic clove, green sprout removed
1 cucumber, roughly chopped
100g sweet red grapes
leaves from 1 small bunch of mint
a few sprigs of dill
1 tbsp rose water
juice of 1 lemon
a few strands of saffron, to serve
Start with the almonds, pistachios and garlic, blending until completely fine in a food processor or blender. Now blend a little more, adding a few spoonfuls of water. Once the mixture starts to smell of marzipan you can start to add the other ingredients.
Tip in the cucumber and half the grapes, most of the mint leaves and dill. Add a little rose water – be careful as bottles can vary in strength – a squeeze of lemon and enough water to make a thin soup.
Season with salt and taste, you should be able to detect all the ingredients individually, but none too strongly. Add more of anything you think you want to taste a little more; trust your instincts. Serve with ice cubes if it is hot, the remaining grapes, sliced, the remaining herbs, and the strands of saffron.
Chicken Livers with Seven Spice and Pomegranate Molasses
250 g chicken livers, cleaned any sinew removed
1 teaspoon Lebanese Seven Spice (see recipe)
knob of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon yoghurt
1 batch of grilled yeasted flat bread
Heat a wide pan, season the chicken livers with salt, and then splash some olive oil into the pan followed by the livers. Fry without touching them for a minute until browned on one side, then turn them all over and sprinkle with the seven spice. Add the butter followed by the pomegranate molasses. Add the spoonful of yoghurt, but only half stir it in before serving with the warm bread.
Lebanese Seven Spice
We vary this, sometimes adding fenugreek instead of cumin. It’s an incredibly useful spice for Middle Eastern cooking. Used almost like pepper, you can season a lamb chop with it, or add it to vegetables or any pilaf. It has a high quantity of nutmeg and cloves, which gives it a brilliantly intense fragrance.
150g coriander seeds
130g cumin seeds
120g allspice berries
150g cinnamon sticks
180g black peppercorns
40g whole nutmeg
In both cases, grind all the whole spices separately in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, then mix together. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Grilled Yeasted Flatbread
We make this bread every day, generally cooking it in the tandoor oven, though it works well on a griddle pan.
Makes about 6
1 tablespoon dried yeast
about 650ml warm water
1.2kg strong white flour
2 teaspoon fine salt
Soak the yeast in about 10ml of the warm water, mixing to a smooth liquid. Add the yeasty water and the remaining water to the flour and salt and mix until all the liquid is incorporated but the mixture is lumpy. Let sit for 10 minutes. Now knead for five to 10 minutes. Prove, covered in Clingfilm, for one hour. Shape into four balls and prove on a tray or work surface covered in a damp cloth. Preheat the oven to the hottest setting or heat a cast iron griddle pan on the hob. Roll the balls into large flatbreads, the same size as the tray or griddle. Griddle or bake for three to five minutes.
Dock Kitchen Grilled Skirt Steak with Anchovy Cauliflower Cheese
Skirt steak is an excellent, cheap cut. It must be well hung, or it will be tough. Skirt has a coarse grain and must be cooked rare; well-done it is inedibly chewy. I cooked this when Jay Rayner reviewed Dock Kitchen in the early days, he said the addition of anchovy to the cauliflower cheese was the prosaic made gloriously elegiac. I was lucky to add the anchovies. Without, the excellent review may have read rather differently. This is super-simple as I just enrich crème fraîche rather than making béchamel.
250ml crème fraîche
3 egg yolks
100g pecorino (or another hard tangy cheese), grated
8 salted anchovy fillets
4 skirt steaks (total weight 1kg)
freshly ground black pepper
lemon juice (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Preheat a griddle pan, or light your barbecue.
Boil a pan of well-salted water. Break the cauliflower into florets and boil until just soft (about five minutes). Drain and put the cauliflower into a medium baking tray that can accommodate it all in one tight layer.
Mix the crème fraîche with the egg yolks and cheese and dollop this on top of the cauliflower. Lay the anchovies over the top and bake in the oven until well browned.
Season the steaks well with salt and pepper and grill on the very hot griddle pan or barbecue for a couple of minutes on each side. It should be nicely charred but still bright red within. Let them rest for a couple of minutes.
I often squeeze over a lemon and pour on a little oil.
Dock Kitchen Pear Hazelnut and Rosemary Tart
This is Stevie Parle’s variation of a classic almond tart. Sometimes they fill the tart with quarters of quince that we have slowly boiled in sugar syrup. Be careful to buy really good fresh hazelnuts preferably from Piedmont, the rind of the hazelnuts can often be rancid so taste before you buy!
350g (12oz) plain flour, sifted
100g (3 1/2oz) icing sugar, sifted
225g (8oz) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
3 egg yolks
200g (7oz) blanched hazelnuts, toasted
100g (3 1/2oz) blanched almonds
250g (9oz) unsalted butter
250g (9oz) caster sugar
4 large pears (perhaps comice)
1 teaspoon Demerara sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
75ml (3fl oz) eau de vie, grappa or marc
2 sprigs of rosemary
In a food processor, pulse-blend the flour, icing sugar, butter and salt until coarse crumbs form. Add the egg yolks and pulse until the mixture begins to come together, turn it out and quickly knead a little to bind. Shape into two rounds, wrap in cling film and chill for a couple of hours.
Coarsely grind the nuts and remove from the machine. Blend the butter and caster sugar together, return the nuts followed by the eggs, then blend until well mixed. Peel the pears, halve them and remove the core. In a bowl, mix the pears with the brown sugar, vanilla seeds scraped from the pod and the eau de vie.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.
Grate the pastry into a 32cm (11 1/2 inch) tart tin and push into the sides and roughly down into the base (you might only use half the pastry but you can freeze the rest). Freeze for 10 minutes or so, then bake for 15 minutes until pale brown and firm to the touch. Cool for a few minutes, then spread the nut mixture into the shell. Push the pears in, then push the sprigs of rosemary in around the pears. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until browned, delicious looking and not too soft.
Darina’s Book of the Week
Food Rules by Catherine Shanahan MD – most doctors, by their own admission have little or no training in nutrition, many of our health problems are actually caused by the food we eat yet our food should be our medicine. Good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Dr Shanahan adds to this growing food revolution the voice of an experienced physician and scientist. Full of straightforward and memorable advice – well worth reading. Published by Big Books Bedford, NH.
Pam Mulhaire serves Afternoon Tea in the drawing room every day at her 17th Century Victorian Country House, Knockeven in Rushbrook, Cobh. With all the little extras for a special occasion or simply an indulgent treat – smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg and watercress and cucumber sandwiches and lots more little dainties including her freshly baked scones with cream and jam. Booking essential – 021-48117788 www.knockevenhouse.com
The Irish Artisans continue to win awards and put ‘Ireland the Food Island’ up in lights. Willie and Avril Allshire of Caherbeg Free Range Pork Ltd are the latest producers – as well as Colette Twomey of Clonakilty and Jerry and James O’Leary in Millstreet, Co Cork – to be intronised (sworn in) to La Commanderie des Fins Goustiers du Duché d’Alençon. Alençon – makes them members of an exclusive white pudding fraternity – where they swear to uphold local traditions and quality. They also won a bronze medal from le Confrerie des Chevalirs du Goute-Boudin for their black pudding in March. www.caherbegfreerangepork.ie