I tasted the world’s most expensive kebab

It’s a miserable evening as I make my way through Canary Wharf’s docks in London, but the weather ain’t dampening this spirit – no sir.

As like Rocky before his final fight, I know this is going to be a defining moment and I’ve been salivating all afternoon in preparation…just like Rocky.
I’m heading down to Hazev’s a neighbourhood Turkish restaurant where I’m about to taste The Royal, the world’s most expensive kebab.

I’m greeted by Onder Sahan, owner, head chef and inspired kebab genius who has spent a total of £3,000 sourcing and assembling tonight’s feast for me, which priced at £925 he actually makes a loss on.

I’m also introduced to Hazev’s food scientist, Kalender Guvenc, (that is his legitimate title FYI) who tells me: “This is not the thing that you are eating after getting drunk and in the middle of the night filling your stomach with meaty stuff.

“We wanted to give the kebab the name it deserves by using the finest ingredients.”

Onder’s the kind of guy that wants to push the boundaries of tastiness as far as possible.

A friend introduced him to Japanese cuisine and he loved it, so he decided to use grade-9 listed Japanese Wagyu beef to make The Royal.

Italian food is his favourite so he thought it would be a cool idea to use some 25-year-old Modena balsamic vinegar in there, at £1.85-a-drop.

He’s a fan of mushrooms too, so he sources hand-picked French Morels to cook me up tonight’s meaty feast.

The dish is clearly pure extravagance but he knows that, and he wants people to understand that the kebab is something to be celebrated.

I watch him at work in the kitchen and there’s no denying the passion, craftsmanship, meat and dedication that goes into The Royal (read: mainly so much meat).

First he makes the most delicious parcel you’ve ever seen out of greaseproof paper, which he fills with lamb and goat, morel mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes and smoked garlic, and tosses on the open charcoal grill.

Then, he shapes the minced Wagyu beef, mixed with herbs and spices, around three long kebab swords and places them on the grill to sizzle.

I have to make a mental note not to impale myself on the swords because I do not trust myself in this scenario.

Luckily for me, Onder slides the kebabs off them as he plates up.
And you know what? It’s delicious.

As I sit in a profound food coma, Kalender tells me: “Of course we don’t think that people will come and buy this £925 kebab but people should know that this is a luxury food, instead of a five quid ‘refuel’.”

And I can kind of see the point the Hazev team are trying to make.

That night, my dreams were meat-filled.

I had the kind of disturbed sleep usually reserved for Christmas night, after consuming a dangerous amount of animal fat.

But what did I learn?

Well, that my taste for kebabs has suddenly got super fancy.

I also know that I probably haven’t eaten my last doner, but next time I do, I know I’ll be thinking of The Royal.

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Rhubarb and Apple Compote

Rhubarb is one of my favourite fruits (it’s actually a vegetable) and lends its tartness extremely well to sweet, creamy accompaniments. This Rhubarb and Apple Compote is delicious with vanilla yoghurt and granola for breakfast, dolloped on porridge with a drizzle of honey, or gently heated and served with rich custard and a shortbread biscuit. This is a quick and simple recipe that lets the quality of the ingredients shine. It also uses honey instead of refined sugar. The key to preserving the bejewelled colour of the rhubarb is not to overcook it. This recipe can be adapted really easily. Throw in a vanilla pod for a more aromatic taste, or star anise and cinnamon for a more warming, wintery flavour. Orange and lemon zest also work well.

The below recipe fills a 750ml kilner jar and should keep well in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Ingredients:

2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks

1/2 lemon squeezed over the apples once cut to preserve their colour

4 stems of rhubarb, washed and cut into 4cm chunks

250ml apple juice

3 tablespoons of honey (I used set honey but you can also use other varieties, just taste for sweetness)

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Simply combine all ingredients in a saucepan on a low/medium heat. Cover with a lid and simmer until the apples are soft and have started to break down, around 15 minutes. Be careful not to cook so long so that the rhubarb breaks down completely, you want to be able to identify the apple pieces from the silky ribbons of pink rhubarb. Allow to cool and then pour into an air-tight receptacle of your choosing. I find Kilner jars really practical for this use but make sure to sterilise them with boiling water or in the oven beforehand.

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Harissa beetroot houmous

This houmous is vibrant, fresh and versatile enough to be used as a side dish with middle-Eastern flavours or as a traditional dip with carrots. I like to be heavy handed with the harissa but this recipe can be adapted to suit your tastes. Likewise for the beetroot. It adds an earthy sweetness to the flavour but can be omitted entirely or substituted for cooked carrot if you prefer.

Serves 4

2 raw golden or red beetroots (you can also use the vac-packed variety, I just had uncooked beetroot to hand)

1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

small bunch of coriander

3 teaspoons harissa paste (you can buy this in most supermarkets and delis, Waitrose also have a rose variety which could be interesting to try).

1 garlic clove

juice of half a lemon

salt

olive oil

First, wash and trim the beetroot stalks and then boil until tender (roughly 30 mins). Rinse under cold water and once cool, remove their skin. Roughly cube the beetroot and add to your food processor. I use a Kenwood food processor but any blender/smoothie maker should do the job.

Throw in the chickpeas, coriander, harissa, garlic and lemon juice and blitz. The mixture will quickly become stiff so here’s when you need to start adding the oil. On a slow setting, gradually introduce the oil to the mix. You should be able to identify when your houmous gets to the right consistency as the blender will be turning more easily. If you like a chunkier houmous, blend for less time and vice versa, if you like your houmous to be silky smooth, make sure the mixture is well blended.

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This recipe isn’t for the oil-shy. If you want to cut the oil content down you can absolutely make a low-fat version using natural yoghurt and water. Again, quantities will depend on the texture that you’d like to achieve. Mix the yoghurt with a small amount of water and start to add to the mix as it churns. You’ll be able to identify when you’ve added enough by the texture. You can also add a little oil for richness if you’d like.

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I like to finish this recipe with some freshly chopped coriander, a drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt flakes. Then simply toast some pitta, prepare some carrots sticks and devour.

Shakshuka: the ultimate brunch

In our household, Sundays are all about a lie-in, a great cup of coffee whilst reading the papers, and a brunch hearty enough to set you up until supper. Shakshuka has to be one of my all time favourites for its versatility, sunshine flavours and crowd-pleaser status. When I make this spicy, I like to serve it with thinly sliced avocado; its mild creaminess becomes the perfect compliment to the chilli heat burning in the background. For brunch, serve with a French stick or great hunks of ciabatta to mop up that delicious slick of sauce. For a light dinner, serve with a zingy green salad.

This recipe serves 2, but can easily serve more. I normally count at least 2 eggs per person, depending on the appetites of your guests. You can also be reasonably flexible with quantities of ingredients adding a tin of tomatoes if you need to feed a larger group. This recipe also lends itself extremely well to fridge clearing so don’t be scared to throw in half a pepper or some parsley.

Ultimate Brunch Shakshuka

Ingredients:

4 eggs (or 6 if you’re hungry)

1 can of chopped tomatoes

½ a chorizo sausage (this can be spicy or mild, depending on preference. It can also be left out altogether if you want to make this recipe vegetarian)

1 bunch of coriander finely chopped (stalks and leaves)

1 large red chilli (depending on its heat, remove the seeds according to preference)

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika (you can also use regular paprika for a milder flavour)

2 cloves of garlic

Olive oil

Salt

Start by chopping the chorizo into 1cm thick semi-circles and place in a hot pan (preferably cast-iron), stirring regularly. Once the sausage starts to ooze its orange oil, add the finely crushed garlic cloves and gently fry them with a little extra olive oil if needed, being careful not to burn them. Next add 1tsp of the paprika, a small handful of the finely chopped coriander stalks and the finely chopped chilli and give everything a good stir.

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Shakshuka – Preparation

Now throw in the tinned tomatoes and their refilled tin of water into the flavourful mix in the pan. Add a large pinch of salt and leave to simmer until the sauce has reduced slightly and the oils start to amalgamate with the tomatoes, around the 15 minutes mark.

Next comes the fun part. Work out your spacing for the eggs and make 4 (or 6 if you’re hungry) holes in the sauce to crack your eggs into. Crack these carefully in a circle and then turn the heat down low. If you have a lid big enough, now’s the time to cover the pan to allow the eggs to cook on the top.

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Shakshuka – the eggs are in

I enjoy my Shakshuka with runny yolks but by all means cook the dish for longer if you prefer them solid. The eggs cook deceptively quickly on the bottom so keep checking that your yolks are still runny from about the 5-minute mark. You’ll know they’re ready when the white on top is fully opaque but there is still a fair bit of wobble in the yellow.

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Shakshuka – the eggs are cooking

Garnish with the remaining coriander leaves, and extra chilli for those wanting a real kick. Serve from the centre of the table, straight from the skillet so that your diners can marvel at your handiwork and enjoy!

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Shakshuka – The ultimate brunch

Spaghetti with greens, anchovy, garlic and chilli

I try to sneak my vegetables into my food. You’ll see me chucking in carrots to many a stew, spinach to most sauces and peas to practically everything because, let’s face it, vegetables are boring. Now before the pitchfork waving vegans hunt me down, I should say I love vegetables and think we should be celebrating more of them at the heart of the meal. Think cauliflower steaks and spinach pies, vegetables don’t have to be a side dish. This is where this recipe really comes into its own and the salty, earthy flavours will leave you forgetting you were hungering for a steak in the first place. This dish allows you to use the vegetables from husk to leaf and combine them with classic Italian flavour combinations to really make them sing. I use broccoli and cavolo nero but kale or Spinach would work well here. Equally in springtime, peas and mange tout would be fresh and delicious.FullSizeRender (3)

Spaghetti with greens, anchovy, garlic and chilli

Serves 4

3 garlic cloves

1 medium-hot chilli

3 small anchovy fillets

whole head of broccoli

4 to 5 stems of cavolo nero

400g spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)

olive oil

Salt and pepper

First, boil the kettle and fill a large pan with boiling, salty water. Once the water is boiling vigorously, add the pasta, stirring once when the spaghetti is fully immersed. Next, make the seasoning mix. Remove the florets from the broccoli and place them to one side. Next, chop the stalk and place in a food processor along with the chilli, garlic and anchovy fillets. Pulse the ingredients until you have a fine mixture with a texture resembling cous-cous. Next, add a good glug of olive oil and fry the seasoning mix on a medium heat until you can smell the garlic. Meanwhile, throw in the broccoli florets and the cavolo nero when the pasta has one minute left on the timer. Finally, drain when the pasta is still al dente, and stir everything together on a high heat, adding a little olive oil if the mix looks dry. Don’t be shy with the parmesan, serve with a crisp, cool white and devour.

Chickpea, Chorizo and Coriander Stew

As the days draw in and the evenings grow colder, I seek out comfort from my food. This recipe combines rich, warming flavours with store cupboard ingredients and is perfect for those on a strict budget in the run-up to Christmas. The chorizo can be substituted for sausage or bacon and once the stew is on, you can more or less forget about it for a couple of hours. Serve on a bed of steaming white rice with a glass of red, preferably in front of a roaring fire.

Chickpea, Chorizo and Coriander Stew

Serves 2

1 large white onion

200g chorizo, diced roughly

Large glass of red wine

1 tin Italian plum tomatoes

1 tin chickpeas

Bunch of coriander

3 tsp Paprika

Salt & Pepper

Start by gently frying the onion with the chorizo until the sausage starts to release its red oil and the onion turns translucent. Add in the paprika and half of the tinned chickpeas and turn up the heat. Once the pan is hot add in the wine and let it simmer for one to two minutes. Next, add in the tinned tomatoes and a tablespoon of finely chopped coriander stalks and give everything a good stir. Leave to simmer on a low to medium heat adding water if it starts to look too dry. After 30 minutes, add in the remainder of the chickpeas, more water and salt and pepper to taste and leave to simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour. I choose to add the chickpeas in two batches to create contrasting textures in this dish however you can of course add them all at the beginning, just be sure to reduce the cooking time slightly so that they don’t disintegrate.

Once the stew is starting to look thick and saucy, fill a mug with rice (perfect quantity for two hungry people) and pour into a separate saucepan. Rinse the rice 4 or 5 times with cold water until the liquid runs clear, then fill the pan with water so that it covers the rice by a good two inches. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to the boil reducing the heat to a simmer and cook according to packet instructions (normally around 10 minutes). Once cooked, drain every last drop of water out of the rice and cover with a lid. This last detail is something my Indian grandmother insisted upon and it’s true that it gives rice a wonderfully fluffy texture.

Finish the stew by checking the seasoning and stirring in a handful of fresh coriander. Serve hot from the stove on the steaming rice.