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

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FRONT PAGE -

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...


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.

Serves 4

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.

Serves 6

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

To serve

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.


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.

Serves 4

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.

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