Joss Herd has been an editorial food stylist for the past 25 years, turning words into beautiful pictures of food for Waitrose magazine, along with showcasing her work for TV, books and packaging. We are delighted that Joss will be joining us to share some of her expertly curated recipes. We asked her to give us a sneak peek into what lockdown life has been like for her.
My earliest memories of food were packed full of variety, of food from around the globe, which were readily available near to my North London childhood home. I still miss the Turkish spices of Stoke Newington, the Vietnamese freshness of Kingsland Road, the potent Lebanese garlic of Edgware Road, South Indian curries with crisp curry leaves and Ramen shops with steaming bowls of gloriousness on a cold day. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to sample authentic foods from faraway places; in neighbourhoods where families cooked to keep their heritage alive.
My Grandfather was a Fleet Street journalist in the 1940s and 1950s. He was always resplendent in his Mac and Trilby, always with a cigarette; back when smoking was considered glamorous. He reported on everything from war to crime. He was abundantly charming and spent long lunches and dinners interviewing and capturing the attention of people from all walks of life. Nothing could be kept under wraps when there was a large glass of wine on the table and a plate of good food.
Simpsons on the Strand was the place where he entertained the good chaps, flipped with the Blind Beggar up in Whitechapel where he rubbed shoulders with members of the underworld. He travelled extensively and would return home to my Grandmother with his notes on the dishes that he had eaten in far flung places. He would then charm my Grandmother, the self-confessed reluctant cook, into reproducing the dishes, such as the curry he had eaten in Sri Lankan, in their Loughton kitchen. She loved him dearly and indulged his cravings for world foods, despite having to struggle to source the unusual ingredients for these unknown recipes!
I moved to the North Essex town of Saffron Walden eighteen years ago and, at the time, could not find any of the restaurants I was so accustomed to, so I pulled on my knowledge and replicated the recipes at home. Ingredients were then sometimes hard to come by, but now most ingredients can be found in most supermarkets. Pho pastes, Katsu curry sauce, baobun kits, Massaman curry pastes, Curry leaves to Chipotle chilli, are some of my staple cupboard ingredients.
I am proud to have inherited my Grandfather’s hunger for discovering new flavours. He could sniff out the best place for every kind of dish, normally the small back street restaurant where the locals dined, which would take time and patience, but it always paid off. He was never intimidated by a small entrance door or a darkened room, he would follow a great food smell wafting from within, like a grown-up Bisto kid following his nose. I think, had he have been around today, he would almost certainly have been a food writer and a very good one at that. He taught me to never to settle for less, read recommendations, to do my research and most importantly, sort your expenses!
A Southern Indian inspired coconut curry with salmon and green beans
Serves 4 – 6
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp black mustard seed
1 tbsp cumin seed
12 curry leaves dried or fresh
2 onions peeled and finely diced
3 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
2cm ginger peeled and grated
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 x 400g tin coconut milk
500ml veg stock
500g salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 3 cm slices
200g pk extra fine green beans cooked
2 x red chilli sliced optional.
Heat the coconut oil in a deep sauté pan, add the mustard seed and cumin seed and fry until they begin to pop and are fragrant, add the curry leaves and cook for a further minute. Tip in the onions and continue to cook for 5 minutes until softened and golden, follow this by the garlic and ginger, cook until sticky and golden. Season with sea salt.
Add the chilli powder and turmeric and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Tip in the chopped tomatoes and lower the heat, cook this gently stirring frequently until a paste is formed. This can take 5 – 8 minutes. Stir in the tamarind paste.
Add the coconut milk and stock and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Add the salmon and gently cook for 5 minutes until the salmon is opaque and starts to flake.
Scatter in the green beans, cook for a further 2 minutes before scattering with coriander and fresh chilli if required.
Serve with rice and naan bread to mop up the sauce.