Food: Jamaican Jills

Jamaican Jills has been one of Neath’s best kept secrets for some time. Now it’s migrated west to Swansea and taken up residence at the bottom of Wind St. You’d be forgiven for thinking Jills was a chain restaurant as the scale and the impact of the place screams success. Perhaps it helps that the previous residents left a shell that could easily be adapted, but it’s really the heart and soul of the cooking and the people who cook it that shines through.

 

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Using the Jamaican flag and the Caribbean as its decorative cornerstone the restaurant is bright and cozy, with splashes of Patois overhead and her signature hot wing challenge on the wall near the kitchens. The design lover in me also noticed the Artek A330S lights, designed by my favourite Architect and designer, Alvar Aalto. Probably a repro, to have something Finnish in the place, seems odd but the glow of the brass on the lights does suit the warmth of the place.

The whole place sings with its unique selling perspective – cosy, good value and gloriously Jamaican. Building on the reputation of its parent restaurant, this bright new light in Swansea’s culinary spectrum looks set to set many a tongue alight with its big flavours and great atmosphere.

 

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The menu sports the dishes one would expect of a Jamaican restaurant but I think, and I’d hope, that people would be brave enough to go off piste and try some lesser known delights. Standouts for me included the wonderfully tender and spicy goat curry, served with rice & pea, her Ackee and Saltfish is also deliciously moreish, served with gorgeous fried dumplings. Lunch menus and seasonal special menus are available too (like the recent one for Valentine’s Day) and are as varied and interesting as can be. Typically, the Jerk chicken is bold and punchy, the wings big and juicy. If you’re feeling brave you can try the Spicy Wing Challenge and get a t-shirt and your face on the wall. If you’re bold enough to sign the disclaimer then bragging rights come at the price of 7 hot wings in fifteen minutes with a 5 minute cool down – no drinks!

 

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Their bar is fully stocked with regular favourites (including Red Stripe, naturally) with a particular emphasis on cocktails for that Caribbean dimension. Two for one exists on most of the favourites with the Rum Punch being a particularly delicious and unique offering. They also offer a range of “smoking” cocktails served over dry ice for that added wow factor. The Children don’t get short shrift either, their meals echo the adult menu but come in Small Portions or Big Portions so you can gauge them by the appetite of your child. They also come with unlimited drinks and a dessert, which is a nice touch.

 

It’s so easy with new restaurants for them to have a muddy and confusing atmosphere, like they don’t know what they’re about, but that definitely isn’t the case with Jamaican Jills. From the bubbly staff to the slick management, Jills has hit the ground running and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. Locally grown successes like this should be sung from the rooftops and supported wherever possible, but when the food is this good it’s all the more satisfying to just go along and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.

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Food: Curried pancake stack

This is what I made on Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday as an alternative to sweet British pancakes with lemon & sugar…which are amazing btw! Here’s how you can make these for dinner and have the sweet ones for dessert 😉 These are also, omitting the Oatly for  another plant milk/ yoghurt alternative, gluten free too!

You’ll need:

For the pancakes:

  • 100g Gram (chickpea) flour.
  • 30g Frozen spinach, thawed.
  • 100ml Aquafaba.
  • 2tbs Chia seeds.
  • 1tsp Green barley powder.
  • 1tbs of kalonji / nigella/ black fennel seeds
  • 1tsp Garam marsala.
  •  1tsp Chilli powder.
  • 1tsp Cumin.
  • Salt & pepper.
  • Splash of non dairy milk (I used Oatly)
  • 1 Portions worth of leftover curry, vegan in my case.

For the Raita:

  • 2tbs Oatly fraîche/ soy yoghurt
  • Splash of water (If using Oatly fraîche)
  • Thumb size piece of cucumber.
  • Handful of fresh mint.
  • Sprinkle of salt

To Garnish:

  • 6 Bhaji bites
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • 5 lingonberry pickled onion rings, learn how to make them here

This recipe is a doddle to make, simply start by heating up your aquafaba on a low heat in a pan with the chia seeds. This should start the chia seeds coagulation process.

Whilst they begin to heat up, you can get your dry ingredients ready. Sieve the spices, green barley powder, gram flour and salt & pepper into a big mixing bowl. Once you can see the chia seeds have began to open and make a gel, take the mixture off the heat.

with a hand blender, pulse the spinach ever so slightly until it begins to break up. Combine with the aquafaba/chia mixture, then add the kalonji seeds. mix until you get a green, gloopy mixture. Now, all you have to do is simply mix with the dry mixture and add a splash of non-dairy milk accordingly until it becomes a thick batter.

Fry in an oiled pan, remembering to spread the mixture evenly. Keep an eye on the level of oil in the pan, between pancakes, you may have to add a bit more oil.

once they are all cooked, stack them on a plate for later.

I had a bit of batter leftover, but not enough to make another pancake. Instead of wasting it, I decided to make these bhaji bites. To the batter I added 1tbs of finely chopped spring onion, 1tsp turmeric and 1tsp paprika. mix and dollop a teaspoon worth into the pan, to which I added an inch of oil. They will slightly expand and bubble. Cook until crispy, but be vigilant as they can burn easily.

Once done, pop them onto some paper towel to drain and pop the leftover curry in a pan/ microwave to heat through.

Whilst you’re waiting for the curry to re-heat, it’s time to make the raita. Chop the mint & cucumber finely, adding to a bowl. Mix through the yoghurt/ fraîche. If you’re using the Oatly fraîche, you may need to add a splash of water to the bowl, as its quite a thick product. Season with salt & you’re done!

Time to assemble!

Layer each pancake with a big dollop of curry, then on the final layer, top with the raita & garnishes and finally crown with the bhaji bites.

It’s great paired with a light & refreshing beer. I made a shandy out of Five Points Ale & Cawston Press cucumber & mint soda and it worked perfectly!

Enjoy!

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Food: Gulrødspølse

Inspired by my many trips to Denmark, and their national fast food the rødpølse, I’ve made my own vegan version, which is tasty AF and a lot cheaper than sourcing the Danish hotdogs! You’ll often see a pølsevogn (or hotdog cart) on most street corners in Copenhagen!

The ristet hotdog is a rødpølse with many toppings. They are quite an experience to eat, trying to not drop it all on the floor is like a national challenge. Good luck, but it’s worth the challenge!

The recipe is similar to my Currywurst one, so feel free to make double the amount for two different Northern European dirty favourites!

Once again, I highly recommend prepping the carrots in advance, they’re dead simple to prepare but it makes all the difference when they’ve had time to marinate.

You’ll need:

  • Two medium sized carrots (per person)
  • 1tbs Smoked paprika,
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard,
  • 1-2 drops of liquid smoke,
  • 1tbs of cider vinegar,
  • 1tbs of light soy sauce,
  • 1tsp Garlic infused oil
  • 10ml water

Remoulade:

  • 3tbs vegan mayo,
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder,
  • 1 small gherkin, chopped,
  • handful of parsley, chopped,
  • 1tsp Dijon mustard,
  • 1tsp sugar,
  • 1tbs finely chopped onion
  • 2 chopped capers

To serve:

  • Ketchup (the Danes have a special hotdog ketchup, which I got from Scandi Kitchen but regular ketchup will also work)
  • Mustard
  • Handful of crispy fried onions
  • 1 Sandwich gherkin or 3-4 gherkin slices
  • 1tbs of chopped onion

Begin by topping and tailing the carrots and “carving” to make rounded ends, a bit like a wurst or hotdog style sausage. Peel the carrots and simmer in salted water on a medium heat until soft. Don’t over boil because they’ll fall apart and be of no use to anyone! You want the knife to slide through but not disintegrate when you lift them. When they’re done leave them to dry out and cool.

When they’re dry put them in a freezer bag or container to marinate with the paprika, cider vinegar, oil,  liquid smoke, mustard and soy sauce. Leave them to soak up the flavours for 3-4 hours or best, overnight. They’ll keep for a few days in the fridge if you’re making them well in advance.

Remoulade to the Danes is what brown sauce is to Brits or fish sauce is to the Thai, to make this curry infused mayonnaise sauce is rather easy. Simply, add all the ingredients and mix into a creamy, piquant sauce. Once mixed, Set aside.

To cook the hotdogs, simply take them out of the marinade and brown them in a pan, remembering to turn them. Once brown on all sides, they’re ready to load up!

Home your dog in a hotdog bun and top it with all of the toppings. Start with the ketchup, mustard and remoulade. Then the gherkins and the onions.

Serve with some fries or dill potatoes. Traditionally the Danes pair it with chocolate milk (even grown ups!) or a cold bottle of Danish beer like Tuborg.

Velbekommen!

 

Also- If you are in Copenhagen, the D.Ø.P pølsevogn do a cracking vegan hotdog!

 

Food: Saag Aloo soup

This is a great iron-rich soup, which is a much healthier and quicker alternative than the local takeaway!

You’ll need:

  • 3-4 medium potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 20g frozen spinach
  • 1 tbsp Garam Marsala
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 litre of water
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Salt & pepper

 

Garnish:

  • 1 tbs coconut cream
  • Few coriander leaves
  • Vegetable pakoras

 

Start by chopping the potatoes into chunks, parboil them in a pan of salted water. Once done, drain and set aside.

Chop and fry the onion & minced garlic in a cast iron pot on a medium heat with a little oil until they’re soft and mellow. Add a splash more oil and add the spices & black pepper, and fry until they are all cooked out and the pan turns an opulent gold. Next, add in the potatoes, and coat them in this spicy mixture. Pour over the water and stir. Add in the lime juice and spinach, and stir lightly until it starts to thaw. Place the lid on, turn the heat down onto its lowest setting and leave the mixture bubble and cook for a further 8-10 minutes.

When the soup’s done its thing, take a hand blender and blitz the whole thing into a thick, velvety spiced soup.

Serve with a drizzle of coconut cream, some coriander and some pakoras on the side.

Enjoy!

Food: Vegane Currywurst

The problem with a lot of mucky, über tasty street food is that it’s invariably meat based. Here’s an equally tasty vegan alternative to one of Germany’s signature dishes: Currywurst mit pommes. 

I highly recommend prepping the carrots in advance, they’re dead simple to prepare but it makes all the difference when they’ve had time to marinate.

You’ll need:

  • Two medium sized carrots (per person)
  • 1tbs Smoked paprika,
  • 1 tsp brown German mustard (or Dijon),
  • 1-2 drops of liquid smoke,
  • 1tbs of cider vinegar,
  • 1tbs of light soy sauce,
  • 1tsp Garlic infused oil
  • 10ml water

To serve:

  • 1tbs curry powder
  • 1 packet of frozen French Fries
  • Vegan mayo (Lots of it!)

Begin by topping and tailing the carrots and “carving” to make rounded ends, a bit like a wurst or hotdog style sausage. Peel the carrots and simmer in salted water on a medium heat until soft. Don’t over boil because they’ll fall apart and be of no use to anyone! You want the knife to slide through but not disintegrate when you lift them. When they’re done leave them to dry out and cool.

When they’re dry put them in a freezer bag or container to marinate with the paprika, cider vinegar, oil,  liquid smoke, mustard and soy sauce. Leave them to soak up the flavours for 3-4 hours or best, overnight. They’ll keep for a few days in the fridge if you’re making them well in advance.

When you’re ready to cook, fill a frying pan or wok with enough oil to shallow fry the carrots. Heat the oil to medium and then reduce if the fat is too hot for them. The carrots will start to blister and brown as they cook, turn regularly for 3-4 minutes.

Once browned, take out and put in a kitchen towel lined baking dish and pop in an oven preheated to 160°C, to finish them off.

You can now use this oil to cook the fries.

Once the carrots are done, take out and leave to cool slightly. Whilst it’s cooling you can make the currywurst sauce.

To make this I used:

  • 1 Heaped tbs of vegan curry (I used one I’d made previously but a spoonful of pre-made/bought sauce will do),
  • 1 heaped tbs of ketchup
  • 1tsp of curry powder
  • 1tbs of the carrot cooking water
  • 1tsp of sweet paprika (dulce)
  • 1tsp lemon juice

To make, simply whizz up the ingredients with a hand blender, transfer to a small saucepan and heat through until all of it has cooked out into a lovely punchy sauce.

To assemble, simply slice the carrots, smother in the sauce and finish with a generous sprinkle of curry powder. Serve with the crispy pommes & a German portion of Vegan mayo. You have to pair a great beer with it, I used a great peach infused Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weiße by Mikkeller, which went great!

Guten Apetit!

Food: Korma mash stack with Marsala chickpeas

Here’s a recipe for a tasty, easy and satisfying Indian inspired mid-week meal.

You’ll need:

For the korma mash:

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom,
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Garam Marsala
  • 1 tsp mild curry powder
  • 1 tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbs Coconut milk (tinned)
  • 2 tbs Nigella/kalonji seeds
  • Drizzle of sunflower oil
  • Salt & pepper

For the Marsala chickpeas:

  • A drizzle of sunflower oil
  • 2 tbs tomato purée
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tbs of garlic infused oil
  • Half an onion, chopped finely
  • A sprinkle of chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp  ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbs tomato ketchup
  • 2 tsp Garam Marsala
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger/ground ginger
  • 1 tsp hot curry powder
  • Handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper

To start, get a deep Dutch oven/casserole dish and place the sweet potatoes in their skin along with drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 40 minutes with the lid on, this should both roast and steam the sweet potatoes. After this they should be tender enough to pull apart with a fork (depending on the size of your potatoes, of course. If not, simply put them back in until done). Place into a bowl and set aside to cool.

Once cool, the skin should peel away effortlessly. Place the orange flesh back into the Dutch oven and mash until a smooth purée, then put it on the hob on a low heat. Next, add in the spices and cook the mixture until they have infused the mash with the subtle flavours of South Asia, then add in the coconut milk and Nigella seeds. You’ll want to use the thick and creamy tinned coconut milk, rather than the coconut milk you get in a carton. Stir these in until you have a creamy and speckled mash. Season to taste and with the lid on, set aside. Essentially the hard work has been done, the rest comes together very quickly.

Drizzle a frying pan with a little sunflower oil and place on the hob on a medium heat. Add in the chopped onion and fry off until translucent. If you’re using fresh ginger, now would be the time to add it, along with the tomato purée. Then it’s time to add the myriad of spices. Cook it all out until the spices have infused the purée, then add in the drained chickpeas. You should hear them sizzle as they enter the pan. Add in the garlic oil and fry off for a few minutes. With a final blast of seasoning, some ketchup for sweetness and a squeeze of lemon juice they should be done – and you could leave it at that, but for an extra level of texture, spread the spiced chickpeas on to a baking tray and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes. They should start getting slightly crisp.

To assemble, I used a chef’s ring. Simply place on the place and fill 3/4 full with the mash mixture, then top up with the Marsala chickpeas. Garnish with some chopped coriander and voilà – tis done.  We served ours with a lemon, gin, mint and cucumber cocktail, which perfectly compliments the spicy dish with fresh and summery cool.