A spice time with Master chef’s Dhruv Baker
Dhruv Baker’s stunning use of spices wowed the judges when he won MasterChef UK. Now he’s sharing his exotic secrets in this mouthwatering extract from his new book
Wars were waged over them, empires profited from them – spices are the magic touch that can transform food from ordinary to extraordinary. MasterChef UK 2011 winner, who was raised in Mexico and then India, is the man to talk to about the power of pungent spices. Let him transport you to a world of toasting cloves, cardamom, mace, cinnamon and coriander seeds...
SMOKED SALMON, PINK GRAPEFRUIT & PICKLED CUCUMBER SALAD
Here the oily salmon and the fresh, sharp, bitter grapefruit seem worlds apart, but when bridged by the sweet and savoury miso and cucumber salad it all starts to make sense.
2 pink grapefruit 25ml (¾fl oz) olive oil Juice of ½ a lemon Juice of ½ a lime ½ a large red chilli, seeded and finely chopped Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, tough outer layer removed A small bunch of fresh tarragon, leaves picked and finely chopped 200g (7oz) smoked salmon, cut into strips A small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
For the miso-pickled cucumber
5tbsp miso paste (from supermarkets) 100ml (3½fl oz) rice vinegar 3 spring onions, finely sliced 1cm (½in) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated 150ml (5fl oz) water 2tsp sea salt 3tbsp caster sugar 3 star anise 1 large cucumber, deseeded, cut into thin strips Make the miso-pickled cucumber a few hours or even a day in advance. Mix all the ingredients except the cucumber in a jar or airtight container and stir until well combined. Add the cucumber strips and set aside in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Use a sharp knife to peel the grapefruit, taking off all the pith. Holding the grapefruit over a bowl to collect any juice, cut the fruit into segments and place in a bowl. Mix the oil with 2tbsp of the grapefruit juice (discarding the rest), lemon and lime juices, chilli and salt and pepper to make a dressing. Set aside.
Slice the fennel as thinly as possible. Next, pour over half the dressing and sprinkle with the tarragon. Arrange the fennel and the cucumber on a plate and drape over the strips of salmon. Scatter over the grapefruit and then pour over the rest of the dressing. Top with coriander to serve.
The taste of pork pibil takes me back to being in the Yucatán, Mexico. Pork laden with spices, topped with pickled red onions and wrapped in a tortilla – it’s proper street food, the best way to experience the cuisine of any city.
For the spice mix
3tsp cumin seeds 4tsp fennel seeds 1tbsp black peppercorns ½tsp cloves 1tsp crushed dried red chillies 2tsp hot-smoked paprika 1tsp ground cinnamon 2tsp ground allspice
For the marinade
1.25kg (2lb 12oz) pork shoulder, cut into 5-7cm (2-2¾in) cubes 50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar Juice of 2 oranges Juice of 2 lemons 4 cloves garlic, crushed 25ml (¾fl oz) tequila 2tsp salt
For the pickled red onions
300ml (10fl oz) white wine vinegar 130ml (4fl oz) water 100g (3½oz) caster sugar 1 star anise 1 cinnamon stick 2 red onions, thinly sliced
Corn or flour tortillas 1-2 ripe avocados, stoned and sliced Bunch fresh coriander, torn 1-2 tomatoes, sliced Grind all the whole spices for the spice mix to a fine powder using a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. Stir in the paprika, ground cinnamon and ground allspice.
Put the cubed pork shoulder in a large bowl and mix through half the spice blend (keeping the other half in an airtight container for another time), making sure all the pieces are covered. Stir in all the remaining marinade ingredients, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours, ideally overnight.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°/gas 3. Put the pork along with the marinade into a deep roasting tin and cover tightly with foil. Transfer to the oven and cook for 3 hours until soft and tender.
To make the pickled red onions, add the vinegar, water, sugar, star anise and cinnamon to a pan and bring to the boil. When the liquid comes to the boil add the sliced red onions and immediately take off the heat. Allow to cool before serving. These can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Remove the pork fromthe oven and shred the pieces using two forks. Serve wrapped in corn or flour tortillas with sliced avocado, fresh coriander, sliced tomatoes and the pickled red onions.
TIGER PRAWNS WITH TOMATO & GARLIC
A few years ago in Portugal, I was served a dish that had piqued my interest – there were all sorts of familiar aromas intertwined with a fragrance that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Much to my surprise it was rosemary – and it was divine. The next day I tried to replicate the dish, and here it is.
100ml (3½fl oz) olive oil 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced 1 ripe tomato, skinned, seeded and diced ½tsp smoked paprika 2 sprigs fresh rosemary 300g (10½oz) raw tiger prawns, peeled but with the tails left on 1 lemon Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix together the olive oil, garlic, diced tomato, smoked paprika and rosemary sprigs in a bowl and add the prawns. Leave them to marinate for 1 hour.
Put a frying or griddle pan over a high heat and, once hot, add the prawns, reserving the marinade. Cook for about 2 minutes each side or until cooked through.
Pour the reserved marinade into a small pan and bring to a simmer. Cook it for about 3-4 minutes or until the garlic starts to change colour. This will cook the garlic but, more importantly, it’s essential to do this as the oil previously had the raw prawns in it.
Arrange the cooked prawns on a large plate and pour over the flavoured oil. Season with a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.