Mock Doner Kebab

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Doner Kebab is a dish, originally from Turkey, made with spiced meat roasted on a vertical  spit roast. The best Kebab I’ve ever eaten was in Berlin, as the city hosts the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey and it’s very easy to find places that serve great kebabs. The situation is London is not as good, as the quality of the meats (you will mainly find lamb, which seems to be heavily processed, and chicken, but not particularly tasty) is not great, plus they serve it on pitta bread, which makes it very difficult to eat. Furthermore, nowadays kebabs often draw public attention for the wrong reasons, mainly for being very high in fat and calories,being made with meats whose origin is unclear (to say the least). As I live in London, for the above reasons I hardly ever have a kebab, which is a shame, because a consider a a good kebab a real treat,
so I was very happy when I found , almost by accident, a way to make something similar to the real thing, although with a completely different process (I doubt that most people have a vertical spit roast at home anyway :))

I am a massive smoked Paprika aficionado and I make my own smoked Paprika-based spice mixtures. The latest one I have come up with is made with dried thyme and oregano, dried Cayenne pepper (I use Italian peperoncino), all reduced to a fine powder using a mortar and pestle and, of course, smoked Paprika.
The result is an intense, fresh, smoky and lightly pungent flavour that works beautifully with chicken and pork.
Once I was eating some chicken that I had made with that mix, and the flavours reminded me of my favourite kebab place in Berlin (Berlin, due to its large Turkish community, is probably the European capital of kebab), so I decided that i would come up with a process to make it look and taste (almost) like a real doner.

For the spices mix: dried thyme, dried oregano, smoked garlic, smoked paprika and dried chilli

Good quality bread rolls,
Chicken thighs, boned (allow 150-200g per person)
White onion, roughly chopped (depending on taste, or about 50g per person)

For the sauce: half mayonnaise and half Greek Yogurt and (optional), 1 clove of garlic, better if blanched

Vegetables (quantities here are difficult to define because each Doner will require fairly small amounts of each):
Tomato, finely sliced
Cucumber, finely sliced on the diagonal
Lettuce, finely sliced
Red cabbage, finely sliced

Olive or canola oil, for shallow frying


First, lets make the spice mix: put the chilli, dried oregano and dried thyme in a mortar and reduce to a fine powder, then add the smoked garlic and smoked paprika. Regarding the quantities, spice mixes depend on taste, so each one can find his way around. As a guideline I can say that the thyme and oregano should make up roughly half of the total quantity, smoked garlic one fifth and the remainder will be smoked paprika. Chilli should just give a hint of piquancy but this is not meant to be a hot dish.

Regarding the meat, I suggest chicken thighs, because they are more tender and juicy than breast; you will find thigh fillets in most supermarkets nowadays; unfortunately, they are boned and skinned, whilst you want to keep the skin on for this preparation as it will add a nice touch of crispness, so it’s better if you bone them yourself or ask your butcher to do it for you.

Once you’ve got your skin-on thigh fillet, proceed as follows:

NOTE: a lightly toasted bread will provide an even better result, so I suggest that you turn the oven on at this point and toast the bread

  • Lay them on a chipping board and flatten using a meat pounder until they have a uniform thickness of 1 cm or less. Pounding the meat will make it thinner, so it will cook more quickly, and will also make the thickness uniform, so the cooking will be more uniform
Pound the meat

Pound the meat

Difference in size between two fillets, the one on the left has been pounded

Difference in size between two fillets, the one on the left has been pounded

Difference in thickness between the two filets, the one on the left has been pounded

Difference in thickness between the two filets, the one on the left has been pounded

  •  Coat with flour
  • In a skillet, heat the oil and shallow fry the fillets on both sides until golden and crispy
  •  Take the fillets off the pan and shallow fry the onions on medium heat
  • In the meantime, finely slice the cooked thigh fillets. There are several methods to do it, but, since they are very hot, I find that holding them with tongues and cutting with scissors is particularly effective:
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  •  As the onions are cooked through and start browning, return the meat to the pan, liberally add the spice mix, stir well and turn off the heat

Now all you have to do is to assemble your sandwich. Spread the garlic sauce and add the meat and veggies to the toasted roll, and enjoy!


Linguine al Nero di Seppia

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***I was much interested, on several occasions, by watching the habits of an Octopus or cuttle-fish … they darted tail first, with the rapidity of an arrow, from one side of the pool to the other, at the same instant discolouring the water with a dark chestnut-brown ink.***
Charles Darwin

Basics needed: How to cook pasta

Cuttlefish is a mollusc (and not a fish like the English would suggest) that belongs to the class Cephalopoda, order Sepiidae (which has a common root with the Italian name, Seppia).

The class Cephalopoda includes also octopus and squid, and these molluscs all share an escape mechanism they use when they are attacked: they release a black pigment from their ink sack, which makes the water cloudy, confusing the predator and giving them enough time to jet away.

Of the three Cephalopoda I mentioned, cuttlefish is the one with the largest ink sack, and this is something with very interesting applications in cooking, as it can be used as a food colouring, like in this recipe.
Nero di Seppia, in fact, means cuttlefish ink (‘cuttlefish black’ would actually be the literal translation), and it is used as the main ingredient of a pasta sauce in coastal areas of Italy; it can also be used for Risotto, which is similar to the Spanish Arroz Negro (which means, literally, ‘Black Rice’)

INGREDIENTS (serves four)
500 g cuttlefish (1 large or 2 small), cleaned, keeping the ink sac
1 tbsp white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 anchovy fillets

1 tbsp tomato paste
100 ml (1/2 glass) dry white wine
2 tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)*
1 tsp. white sugar
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional but recommended)
Parsley, finely chopped

*: Optional (if not using, adjust the seasoning accordingly)

  1. Clean the cuttlefish (or have the fishmonger do it for you): remove the cuttlebone, skin and internal organs, making sure you keep the ink sac (see below), then remove the eyes and mouth
  2. Using a sharp knife score the head of the cuttlefish on the diagonal and then at 90 degrees, to create a criss-cross patter (score the inside as it is softer and easier). NOTE: this is not strictly necessary but will give a better result
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  4. Cut the cuttlefish in fairly small peaces as below:
  5. Sweat the onion in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and the anchovies, and the chilli if using it
  6. When the anchovies have dissolved into the oil, add the cuttlefish; it will start releasing its water: cook on a gentle heat until the water has almost completely evaporated
  7. Mix the tomato paste, white wine, sugar and Nam Pla with 250 ml water and add to the pan
  8. Bring to the boil and add the ink sac, then simmer until it is reduced by half
  9. Cook your spaghetti till al dente (see How to cook pasta )

Skate wings alla Milanese


Cotoletta alla Milanese, like the name suggests, is a typical dish from Milan.
Similar to Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, is a bone-in veal cutlet which is pounded to make it thinner and more tender before being coated in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs (in this order) and then shallow fried in butter and/or oil.

Skate (razza, for the Italian readers) is, in my opinion one of the most underrated fish of all (although I won’t complain because this keeps its price low).
The structure of the wing is a rib to which a layer of cartilaginous bones is attached, and those gelatinous bones inside the wing is something that puts many people off. In spite of the fact that when the fish is cooked the meat will come off very easily, I have to admit that I do not like eating skate with those bones either. For this reason, I started to fillet the wing, getting one fillet for each side.

However, the problem is that the two sides are not symmetrical and I ended up with a fillet which is much bigger and thicker than the other.
Therefore, I started to fillet it keeping the flesh attached to the rib (see below), and then cutting the bone with scissors.

The result is a ‘bone-in skate steak’.
At this point it can be cooked like Cotoletta alla Milanese; the only difference is that, unlike a veal cutlet, skate cannot be pounded (but it’s extremely tender and juicy anyway, so it won’t need it) before cooking.
1 large skate wing (about 400-450 g), cut in half
1 tbsp. flour
1 egg, beaten

3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. anchovy paste
2 tsp. finely chopped parsley
Salt (to taste)

  1. First, fillet the skate: using a very sharp knife, separate the flesh from the cartilaginous bones, on both sides, making sure you don’t cut it on the rib side
  2. Using scissors, cut off the bones, as below
  3. Mix the breadcrumbs with all the other igredients listed
  4. Now that you’ve got your skate steak, coat it in flour and then pass it in the beaten egg
  5. Shake off the excess egg and coat with the aromatic breadcrumbs
  6. Heat the oil on medium heat, with the butter.
  7. The butter will start foaming;
    when it stops, add the skate and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side.
    Here is worth noting two things

    • I don’t usually cook with butter, but here I find it very useful because, when it stops foaming (which means that all the water it contains has evaporated), it will be at the right temperature. This is very important to make the outside crispy and golden. It is virtually impossible to understand the temperature of the oil when shallow frying (unlike deep-frying, where a thermometer can be used), and this it crucial because if the fat is too hot it will burn the batter, if it’s not hot enough it will make it soggy
    • The fish is ready when the inside is white
  8. Serve it with a squeeze of lemon



Taramasalata is a thick, creamy dip, popular in Greek cuisine, made with salted fish roe and oil, usually served as a meze dish or as a starter.

When looking for recipes for a traditional dish that I have never made, I normally check different versions and compare them, and then I make my own version based on a comparison of what I’ve found, adding my twist if I believe that improvements can be made.
For tamarasalata, as usual, I have found some elements that pretty much all recipes have in common (fish roe, olive oil and some bread for the texture), and others that were used only in certain versions (some use garlic, others onion or shallot, others milk or cream).
Since I actually believe that all of this ingredients can give something to this dish, as long as they are treated in the right way and used in the right proportion, I have decided to include all of them, but with some changes:
Garlic: all the recipes I’ve found call for raw garlic; since raw garlic can be overpowering, a technique that can be used to make it milder is blanching: simply put the garlic cloves in a pot with cold water and bring it to the boil. As soon as it starts boiling, transfer the garlic in a bowl of cold (or even iced) water. This operation should be repeated three times.
Milk: for this recipe, however, I have boiled the garlic in water twice; the third time I have boiled it in milk and cooked it until the milk was reduced by half; this leaves soft garlic cloves that have lost all of their aggressive (so to speak) character, and a nicely scented garlic-infused milk
Onion: all the recipes that I’ve seen used raw onion or shallot. Raw onion, a bit like garlic, has got a very strong flavour and is not everyone’s cup of tea (and definitely not mine). The only type of onion that I eat raw in salads is red onion; furthermore, taramasalata should have a nice pinkish colour, and red onion contributes to this as well.


200g salted cod roe
50g stale white bread, crusts removed
50ml extra virgin olive oil
100 ml semi skimmed milk*
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp. red onion, finely chopped
1 pinch of parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. lemon juice

*: NOTE: that is the initial quantity, but it should be reduced by half when you use it

The process is quite simple:

  • Soak the roe in cold water for about an hour
  • In the meantime, blanche the garlic as described above and let the milk cool down
  • Soak the bread in the milk
  • Rinse and drain the roe thoroughly, cut in half lengthways, then, with the skin side down on a board, scrape the roe off the skin with a knife
  • Places the roe, garlic, onion and bread in a food processor and blend
  • Add the lemon juice and the oil in a thin stream and keep blending until the desired texture has been reached
  • Taste to adjust the seasoning if it’s the case

You can serve it with toasted pitta bread and/or crudités

Quinoa “paella” (Chicken and Chorizo)


Basics needed:

How to peel a pepper

Paella is a well-known Spanish dish, and the most famous version is made with rice, chicken and seafood, and peppers, with the addition of a good of pinch of saffron that gives the dish its distinctive yellow colour.

Personally I am not a big fan of putting meat and fish in the same dish (with some exception, but chicken and seafood definitely falls into the main rule), and I’d rather make my paella with either chicken OR seafood.
Looking for ideas for a chicken paella I came across a version with chorizo, which is an ingredient I particularly like. Since I tend to use quinoa as a substitute for rice due to its higher nutritional value, I decided to make a quinoa paella.
In this recipe I use chorizo sausage, which is more suitable for cooking; however, if you cannot find it, dried chorizo can be used instead.
I also use chicken thigh fillets as it is my favourite part, and, for a finer result, I peel the peppers before cooking them

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
360 g white quinoa
200 g Chorizo sausage
3 small chicken thighs fillets, without skin
2 red bell peppers
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ripe tomatoes
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. sweet smoked paprika
1 pinch of saffron
Parsley, finely chopped.
Flour, or corn starch to coat the meat
1 l vegetable stock (optional)

This is the process:

  1. Sear the peppers on an open flame, and place them in a bag; once cold, peel them, then remove the seeds and the white membranes inside
  2. Cut the chicken in small pieces and coat it with flour. NOTE: if you want a gluten-free dish, use corn starch instead
  3. Cut the chorizo in small pieces and dry-fry it in a large pan or skillet, trying not to make it crispy
  4. When the chorizo is done, remove it from the pan and set aside. The sausage will have released some of its fat; add some olive oil if need and cook the chicken until brown on all sides; set aside
  5. Still in the same skillet, on a very low heat, sweat the onions for five minutes
  6. In the meantime, roughly chop the peppers, and when the onion is soft, add to the pan and cook for another five minutes
  7. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, making sure it doesn’t get brown
  8. Dice the tomatoes and add them to the other ingredients
  9. Rinse the quinoa and add it to the pan, and cover with the stock, if using, or boiling water if not
  10. Add the smoked paprika and simmer until almost all the water has been absorbed
  11. At the end, add the saffron and cook until all the water has been absorbed
  12. Sprinkle with parsley before serving

Robi’s Tiramisu’ Cake


***Unlike traditional tiramisu, this is effectively a cake that can be sliced and served on a plate showing neat layers; also, I use Pan di Spagna instead of sponge fingers and the cream is firmed up with the addition of a small quantity of gelatine***

Basic Techniques needed:
Italian Meringue
Creme Anglaise (Light Pouring Custard)
Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge base)

Tiramisu’ is a very popular Italian pudding, made out of layers of Savoiardi (Italian sponge fingers) dipped in Espresso coffee and a cream of eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese.It is delicious although very indulgent, and probably the first dessert I learnt to make, partly due to its simplicity and partly to the fact that is one of the few desserts that I have always really enjoyed. However, I have not made a normal Tiramisu’ for years, for a very simple reason: the original recipe requires raw eggs, which happen to be a highly hazardous food.

I did not know it until I started making some research on food hygiene, and discovering that came  as a bit of shock, because it made my beloved pudding something potentially dangerous.
This is the reason why I started to think about ways to make Tiramisu’ safe but keeping its character and flavour intact, and the result is the recipe that you are about to read.

I won’t give you a detailed description of traditional Tiramisu’ as it is something you can find everywhere and writing it will not give any added value in my opinion. It is enough to know that the cream is made by separating the whites and the yolks, the yolks are beaten with the mascarpone whilst the whites are beaten with the sugar to make a basic meringue; the two are then mixed together. Raw like I said, so a potential vehicle for dangerous bacteria.
Fortunately I did not have to reinvent the wheel because there are some existing techniques the allow us to cook the yolks and the whites still keeping the original character of the cream. So, after a bit of thinking, trial and error, I found my way round: I replaced the normal meringue with an Italian Meringue , and instead of beating the raw yolks with the mascarpone, I made a Creme Anglaise (Light Pouring Custard), to which I add some gelatine so that the cake can hold its shape.
Furthermore, I gave my personal twist by using a chocolate & coffee Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge base) instead of sponge fingers.

INGREDIENTS (serves 8 people)
For the sponge:
4 eggs
10 g instant coffee
120 g white sugar
40 g plain flour
40 g cornstarch
20 g cocoa powder
400 ml freshly brewed Espresso coffee

For the cream:
500 g mascarpone
4 eggs
250 g white sugar
200 ml whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
2 gelatine leaves

100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa mass), finely grated

SPONGE BASE (see Pan di Spagna (Italian sponge base) for details)

Preheat the oven to 180 C
Sift the flour, cornstarch and cocoa powder and mix them well together
Whisk the eggs, instant coffee and sugar to ribbon stage
Gently fold the flour into the egg mixture
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes

ITALIAN MERINGUE (see Italian Meringue for details)

Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan
Attach the sugar thermometer to the pan and bring it to the boil, brushing the sides
When the caramel reaches 110 C, start whisking the egg whites, and whisk until stiff
When the caramel reaches 121 C, slowly pour it on the eggs whites, whisking on high speed until it is incorporated
Whisk on low speed to bring the meringue to room temperature

CREME ANGLAISE (see Creme Anglaise (Light Pouring Custard) for details)

Before starting, soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until soft (warm water will make it dissolve).
Heat the milk and add the vanilla extract if using it
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until white and fluffy
Slowly pour the hot milk on the yolks, whisking
Put the mixture back in the pan and gently heat until thick (the cream should coat a wooden spoon)
Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add them to the pan and take off the heat. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved
Let it cool down before using it

Now that all the components are ready, you can assemble the cake:

For the cream:

  • Beat the mascarpone until soft, then add the custard and keep beating until incorporated. You can use a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment if using a planetary mixer
  • Add 1/3 of the meringue and beat vigorously to incorporate
  • Gently fold the cream obtained into the remaining 2/3 of meringue

For the sponge layers:

  • Slice the Pan di Spagna quite thin (between 5mm and 1 cm)
  • Arrange the layers on the bottom of the tray:
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  • Pour the coffee over the sponge. I use a squeeze bottle for speed and consistency:
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  • Pour the cream over the sponge base and spread to make a uniform layer:
  • Repeat the operation to make another layer

To finish it off, sprinkle the top with the grated dark chocolate

Italian Meringue


A meringue is a preparation made out of egg white whipped with sugar, and can be used as a base or an ingredient in several recipes.
There are different types of meringue: the simplest method is the so-call French meringue, where the eggs whites are simply whipped with caster sugar until stiff. This meringue can then be baked to make, for instance, nests.
A good rule when making a meringue is that the weight of the sugar should be twice the weight of the egg whites, or, if you don’t want to weigh the whites, 60 grams of sugar per white is a good approximation

The method I will talk about now is the most complex, but also the one that will give you the most stable, glossy and thick result: the Italian meringue.
This is a cooked meringue and will need a sugar thermometer because it is made with a light caramel that needs to be at 121 C to be added to the egg whites.
It requires a lot of whisking and is a bit of hard work, unless you have a planetary mixer.


Egg whites
White sugar (60 g per egg white, or twice the weight of the whites)
Glucose (optional)

Sugar thermometer
Silicon Brush

This is the whole process:

  1. Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan, add just enough water to cover and add the glucose if using
  2. Attach the thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the syrup to the boil
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  3. Brush the sides of the pan with a silicon brush dipped in water, to prevent the sugar crystals from sticking and then burn
  4. When the syrup has reached 110 C, start whisking the eggs with an electric mixer or in the planetary, and whisk until stiff peaks form
  5. When the syrup reaches 121 C, slowly pour it on the whites, whisking on high speed until all the syrup has been incorporated. Be careful that the stream of caramel does not hit the whisk or it might splatter, and caramel gives nasty burns!. You will see that the egg whites grow in volume and become glossy and shiny
  6. Keep whisking on low speed until the meringue is at room temperature (about 10 minutes)

This meringue is much more stable than an ordinary one and can be stored in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to two days; furthermore, as the hot sugar will cook the egg whites, it can be safely eaten without further cooking.