Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Recipe - Thai Green Pork Curry

My Thai cooking crusade continues primarily because I still have a lot of galangal to use up. This time, I wanted to make a proper green curry, not the yucky overly creamy (yet somehow quite satisfying) stuff I've been used to. I recently had the pleasure of eating some leftovers left by a non-date who was visiting a member of the Gardens. She'd ordered the green prawn curry so her non-lover, a vegetarian, was unable to dispose of it in his stomach as he is wont to do with most food. So I had a go. MAN, it was good. It was sososososo creamy. But fresh and creamy and fruity. But the spices SANG through the creaminess. Oh, I remember the citrus hit. And the sweetness from the prawns. Oh baby, I want to go and get takeaway from there right now even though I've literally just eaten some of my own curry. Anyway, I thought I'd try and make it a really good rich but fresh curry like the one from Thai Garden. I researched extensively. Well, I was on Google for a while anyway. I decided ultimately to combine things I learnt from Felicity Cloake's column with a post by David Lebovitz. The lovechild was tasty but didn't have the emphasis on flavour that I was aiming for. Still, here's the recipe. I fed The Amazing Cook with it and she was very polite about it. It was me who pointed out that it could've done with a lot more sauciness and a bigger kick of flavour. After we'd eaten, she helped me to thicken the sauce by reducing some coconut milk. I asked her to season it and I saw with my very own eyes that she only used fish sauce, sugar and lime juice but by Jove, the results were amazing. If only I had the recipe for her addendum. As good as this was, if I'm honest, the best thing about this meal is that it means next time is her turn to cook.

Thai Green Pork Curry
800g cubed pork
4 star anise
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 onion, quartered
Enough water to cover

Place the ingredients in a thick bottomed pot, bring to a boil and simmer until the pork is tender.

70g curry paste - I used Tesco but then enriched it but adding coriander stalks, 5 bird's eye chillies, 3 stalks of lemongrass and 1 tbsp chopped galangal
1 large sweet potato, chopped into cubes
1 can coconut cream
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
Cooked pork
2 Kaffir lime leaves, shredded
1 broccoli, cut into florets
Handful of baby corn
Handful of mangetout
Handful of frozen peas
3 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
Handful of basil leaves

Heat half of the coconut cream in a small saucepan, and allow to come to the boil. Once it has reduced and begun to split, add curry paste and mix. 
Stir constantly.
Add the rest of the coconut milk, lime leaves, sweet potatoes, sugar and fish sauce.
Bring the mixture to a low boil and simmer for five minutes. 
Stir in the pork, mangetout, baby corn and chillies, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Stir in the basil leaves and serve with rice.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Review - Dishoom

We tried to go to the Breakfast Club again last Sunday but there was a really long queue, again. I should stop attempting to go on the weekend. It was kind of on a double date except that it really wasn't. But everyone there was with someone else at the table and there were only four people. What would've been awkward is if I'd decided to wear my glasses as all three other people had decided to and that would have been hilarious except also mainly awful. Anyway, after failing to go to Breakfast Club, we decided not to head towards Ginger Pig like last time and instead went to Dishoom, the 'Bombay cafe'. I've been to the Covent Garden branch of Dishoom before and now Shoreditch has had its innings. Our waitress explained to us how it works ('there aren't really starters and mains, everything comes at once and it's made for sharing') and also gave some quite insulting descriptions of food ('nothing has much sauce, it's all very dry. The biryani you're planning on ordering is particularly dry. Please get one of these 'wet' dishes as everything you've ordered is dry'). We ended up ordering ruby chicken, which had lots of sauce contrary to what the waitress said, chicken biryani, sheekh kebab, raita, vegetable samosas, roti and gunpowder potatoes. I also ordered chai and got a free glass of wine because another waitress accidentally got chutney on Stompy's jumper.
The vegetable samosas were hot and intricately spiced but the peas were cold which contrasted with the rest of the samosa which was hot and seemed to indicate it wasn't cooked through properly. Despite this, I enjoyed them. The sheekh kebab wasn't particularly interesting but again had a nice hum of chilli running through it. The roti was the perfect depth and was lovely and floury. It was a good mop for the morish sauce that enveloped the ruby chicken. The chicken itself was soft. It was equally moist both in the curry and the biryani but I preferred the curry. The cranberries in the biryani were a nice touch, though. Gunpowder potatoes were overly seasoned but only by a touch. The raita (which I don't usually like) was well balanced, the yoghurt wasn't too heavy and it had an array of fresh salad ingredients and coriander running through it. A mysterious green sauce that came with the food was made of something that I couldn't place but it was deeee-licious. 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Review - The Lazy Cow

We had a day trip at the expense of the Explorer's secondary school. Shakespeare productions are hard to come by in the Cayman Islands and the (private) school has so much excess cash that they bought every student a laptop. School trips for them consist of going on cruises around Mexico so it seemed like a really good use of their money to pay for the Explorer (and I) to go to Stratford-upon-Avon for the day to see The Winter's Tale. Never mind that it's my least favourite Shakespeare play and the fact that I've seen an RSC production of it before, it made for a nice day out. And I actually enjoyed this production! Anyway, that's why I was lunching in Stratford. There are lots of nice little tea rooms and pubs around but they're all virtually indistinguishable. We wanted to eat somewhere near the theatre and we saw an attractive barn like building and decided to eat there. It was a steakhouse. We didn't get steak though, we decided to go for the fatty American dishes instead: a pulled pork sandwich and a beef rib, both of which came with fries and slaw. We also ordered some steamed spinach and jalapeño poppers to counteract the heaviness of our meals.
The rib was much too sweet. They had doused it in barbecue sauce to its detriment. Even though it appeared charred, all smokiness had been extinguished by the sugar. Also, I really love fat. I have no objection to eating it and don't understand why people leave skin on their plate. But the gelatinous white layer on this rib was thicker than the meaty bit itself and was too much for even me to stomach. The chips, however, were fat and crisp and had a good amount of salt. The slaw was slathered in mayonnaise so any remnant of freshness had been totally killed. The jalapeño poppers were massive, cheesy croquettes. They were much too heavy and all the wrong ratios. The spinach was waterlogged but a refreshing change from the heart attack that was the rest of the meal.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Recipe - Tequila Lime Chicken Thighs

After school one day, my classmates were discussing Valentine's Day and talking about booking tables well in advance so that they could eat somewhere nice and doing nice things for their partners. This sounds silly but I hadn't realised that Valentine's Day was a day which people actually treated earnestly. I thought it was all about irony and sending friends flowers and doing something because it's a good excuse to do something in the same way that Halloween is. But then a short survey of my friends revealed that this is not the case. For one day, all irony is left behind and couples are unashamedly lame. This is a notoriously difficult feat for me to achieve. Even when I am clearly loving it, I somehow feel like having a boyfriend is something of a failure. As a result, I'm awful at achieving the balance between being one of those really annoying people who is defined by the fact that they are in a couple and just being normal. My method of trying to achieve the balance is simply flawed; I am really affectionate but then I find it difficult to not be a dismissive bitch when in public. I've practised doing it better though. The year of practise has culminated in me doing something for Valentine's Day completely in earnest (Well, it's hard to shake the vestiges of silliness but only in the same way as when you're small and pretend to be a grown up, you're really trying to be serious but it is tinged with fun silliness.) It was lots of fun! I whisked eggs and oil for an hour to make mayonnaise, I lit candles, I cooked with no heed to how much washing up I was making. I 'made a day of it'. I now totally endorse all Valentine's Day related activity.
Tequila Lime Chicken Thighs
6 - 8 chicken thighs
75 ml tequila
75 ml lime juice
Juice of 2 oranges
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
Half jar of jalapeño peppers, chopped
Salt (about 1.5 tsp)

Marinade the chicken thighs for twelve hours/overnight.

2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix the honey and oil.
Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade. (Reserve the marinade for the rice.)
Drizzle over honey oil mixture.
Oven cook at gas mark 7 until crisp and golden, around 30 mins.
Sprinkle over some fresh chopped coriander at the end.

Heat the marinade in a saucepan.
Add a tbsp of butter, 200ml chicken stock and a bay leaf.
Simmer until thickened.

Half savoy cabbage, shredded
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
Mayonnaise (homemade with two egg yolks and vegetable oil)
Fresh coriander, finely chopped
Jalapeño brine, sugar, salt, pepper and lemon juice to dress

Place the vegetables in a bowl. Toss with the dressing ingredients.

I also made rice and black beans with some ground cumin and coriander to go with these.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


My favourite pancake topping is cabbage. Your reaction is not uncommon, even my nearest and dearest think I'm a weirdo when I tell them this which is why they only tried it after three pancake days of knowing me. But I'm so right, it works really well. I came across it long ago. As in, my age was in single figures and I can remember the layout of the house but I'm struggling to remember which town it was in. I think it was in Barnsley, in the flat that we lived in before we lived in the nice semi-detached house in a close where everyone was a doctor and I had 18 year old nannies who all had really alien experiences to 18 year old me. It's very hazy though. Wow, the process of writing that has made me feel really old and terrified about all the things I've forgotten and all the things that will never occur to me again. It's OK, I've resolved to take more photos to trigger memories. So I first had cabbage with pancakes there and it was glorious, the texture and spice of the savoy goes so well with the airy cake. TRUST ME.

1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Half a Savoy cabbage, shredded
1 heaped tbsp turmeric
Half a tsp caraway seeds
2 whole chillies, slit down the middle

Fry the onion and garlic over a medium heat until brown. Add the spices, stir, cook for a minute.
Add the cabbage, chillies and salt.
Fry until the cabbage is cooked.
I usually get too hungry and add a tbsp of water and steam towards the end to speed things up.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Recipe - Jalapeno Macaroni Cheese

Having an original thought is so rare. It's difficult enough in academia but it's no easier with more trivial things. Often, I'm going about my day and something occurs to me, usually in question form. They always seem like questions which people don't usually think of. Yet when I go to google, it always predicts the end of my question before I've asked it. If we forget about the amusement offered by watching the various questions that people think to ask, it's really quite depressing to think you're not even curious about original things. Someone else has invariably always had the same thought as you. Food is no different. Sometimes, recipes come to me in daydreams and I think wow that sounds great I'm going to make that well done my creativity. But as soon as I search it, I discover that loads of people (lots who can't spell) have cooked it before. Sigh. Perhaps it's harder to be original with food though. If no one's thought to put it together before, there's probably a good reason for it. For example, someone I've been trying to teach to cook recently told me that when he says 'I've been making your tuna pesto pasta', he hasn't been simply throwing together some convenience ingredients (tuna, pesto, lemon, red peppers, carrots, and black pepper) but adding onion and chilli and garlic and ew. One time he even added prawns. Oh God, I feel so distressed at the thought of tinned tuna with tiger prawns. I have to stop writing now. Anyway, I thought jalapeño macaroni cheese was an innovation of mine but apparently it's a big thing in the Deep South.

Jalapeno Macaroni Cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200g smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons

Place the onion, garlic and bacon (if using) into a frying pan.
Put on a medium heat and let the bacon fat render.
Stir lots until the onions are caramelised and the bacon is crispy.

25g butter
25g flour
150ml milk
70g Boursin
70g cheddar cheese, grated
100g jarred jalapenos, with their juices

Melt the butter on a medium heat.
Add the flour and stir.
Add the milk and stir constantly until smooth.
Add the Boursin, stir until smooth.
Add the cheese and jalapenos with juice, stir well.

500g macaroni
Black pepper

Cook the macaroni. Drain well.
Mix the cheese sauce, bacon mixture and macaroni well. Season well with black pepper.

Make sure you have a refreshing side salad to cut through the hardcore cheesiness. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Review - Burger and Lobster

This post was going to be about Bogayo but, as I explained to someone at that meal, I can't review everywhere restaurant that I eat at. I don't generally review if I've been there before, if I feel like what I ordered was unrepresentative or if I wasn't in a position to review. By the time the food came in Bogayo, I'd already had too much wine to finish my food (sad) and didn't feel very discerning. (From what I do remember, the lamb shank was falling off the bone and rich and what a shame that this meal didn't occur either earlier or later in the evening when I was more in the mood for eating.) Anyway, this post is about Burger and Lobster which is where I went for dinner the next day. On Saturday morning I was seriously reconsidering whether my plan to go to Burger and Lobster for dinner was well thought through. I was bringing the 'God what is going on why do I feel like this I want to claw my skin off' extra hard. I cried (for the first time in maybe three months) for about an hour because my plan to go to this exhibition was frustrated. (After a nap I realised that I probably wasn't crying just for that reason.) It didn't seem like the sort of mood that would lend itself to eating seafood particularly in light of the fact that it was a struggle to keep paracetamol down. But after having my hair brushed (too weak/feeling sorry for myself to brush my own hair) and a shower I felt like I could face food again. So with clean, brushed hair and a gradually declining feeling of nausea, we left to go to Burger and Lobster in Farringdon. We had tried to go a few weeks before but we'd gone at a stupid time with a two and a half hour wait for a table. This time, we were willing to wait up to forty five minutes but decided that if it was going to be longer, we would go to St John instead. When we got there, we were informed that we would have to wait an hour and a half for a table but alternatively we could hover impolitely around the bar until someone left and eat there instead. And that's what we did. We were particularly lucky because we ended up with a (small) table to ourselves in the corner rather than having to sit in conveyor belt fashion at the bar. Have you been here before? No, but we sort of know how it works. OK, you can either get the burger (no), the California burger (hell no), the lobster or the lobster roll. They all come with chips and salad. We would like lobster and the lobster roll, please. Garlic butter too? Please!
The lobster roll comes in a buttery brioche. It was a touch too buttery and slightly overpowered the lobster. But it was fun getting my hands all greasy. It was also fun using all the implements to crack open the various bits of lobster. The claw meat that I poked out with the strange stick thing was warm and juicy and biting into the tail reminded me of biting into fruit. Fruit which tastes like the sea! Some bits of lobster weren't as perfect as I was hoping they would be but I'm being pernickety. The garlic butter in particular added a roasted garlicky sweetness to the experience and so I doused most of my lobster in that. The filling of the roll was stuffed with meat mixed with a mayonnaise. It was cold, which was unexpected, but still tasty. The fries were crisp and bloody good, they were as salty as posh McDonald's fries. The salad had pleasing rings of onion and a smattering of croutons. Someone had been a little heavy handed with the balsamic but it was dressed rather well all the same. Probably the best thing about the meal is just how much food you get. The quality wasn't as high as I expected but it had a charming roughness about it and that made it more fun. Also they gave me an Oyster card holder at the end.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Review - Keu

London is bankrupting me. Eating out is an expensive hobby but it's too tempting when there are so many potentially good places to go. My list is growing much more quickly than I can eat my way through it. As a result, I've imposed a food blog reading hiatus so I don't keep adding to it. BUT THERE'S NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT MY (already very short-sighted) EYES. On the walk to Keu I added five new places to my never shrinking list. Keu sports a bright lime sign that I've never managed to ignore any time I've walked down Old Street. From the first moment I saw it, I made an assumption that it was one of those trendy Vietnamese cafes that have popped up everywhere over the past few years. I assumed the food would be reasonable but overpriced. But I couldn't ignore the sign! I've wanted to try banh mi for ages but every time I've been in a (trendy, overpriced) Vietnamese place I've gone for a rice dish that I know will probably be good rather than a baguette which I might not even like. But I had plans to go and look at furniture in the V&A with a friend who lives very near Keu so it seemed like an obvious time to go. Then on the morning of furniture day, I considered my dinner the night before (£7 worth of McDonalds) and craved salad rather than a baguette. But then lunch time came and I forgot all about the McDonalds and stuck to the banh mi plan. After some deliberation, I chose the braised beef sandiwch. Then I totally ruined the well-oiled system and annoyed all the staff by immediately reverting to the Keu classic, a sandwich with steamed pork belly, ham terrine and the usual array of fresh herbs and chilli.
I don't think I'm a fan of chilli in a baguette. In other contexts (omelettes, patatas braves) I'm perfectly happy to eat chilli based dishes with bread. But a baguette? I'm not convinced. I confess that it tasted much better than I thought I would but ultimately the fresh spicy citrus filling would, in my opinion, go much better with some lovely rice. Still, forgetting the fact that I don't seem to approve of banh mi, it was a well constructed sandwich. Firm, crusty bread with a pleasant golden crisp top filled with soft, slightly salty pork belly and combined with the texture of a pâté. I sort of feel like the meats would've gone much better with some gravy but that's just me objecting to the concept of banh mi again. I tried some of the furniture enthusiast's lemongrass chicken curry. The sauce was a lovely consistency but didn't quite pack the lemongrass punch I'd have liked. All in all, Keu's food was exactly as I expected it to be except that it was cheaper than I'd envisaged. It epitomises three star: fine and with some quite tasty elements but nothing that interesting or memorable.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Recipe - Shakshuka

I have made this dish before at the Egg Parlour but I made it again more recently. One of my previously carnivorous friends has joined the vegetarian side. Her reasons aren't because the animals are suffering (although that probably doesn't help) but because of the ill effects of the meat industry on the environment. Those are the reasons that prompt me to think I should become vegetarian. Of course, that's probably not going to happen because I enjoy meat too much and I'd really miss it. But when I think about the triviality of my reason for continuing to eat meat against all the reasons not to eat meat, I feel very guilty. This friend becoming vegetarian has highlighted some of my moral deficiencies. Well, anyway, that's why I made eggs for dinner. Israeli eggs! Well, almost. I didn't use jalapenos as smittenkitchen recommended I should. And I replaced feta for Boursin because I just felt like eating Boursin and that's OK.
1 onion, chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 finger chillies, chopped finely
1 yellow pepper, diced
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
200ml water
6 eggs
2 tbsp Boursin, crumbled
Large handful chopped coriander

Pour a little vegetable oil in a saucepan.
Heat it up over a medium heat.
Add the onion and fry on that heat until brown, around 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and chillies and fry for a further 5 minutes.
Add the pepper and fry for another 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and water and mix well.
Add the ground spices and mix again. Season well with salt and pepper.
After about fifteen minutes, the sauce will be all thick.
Crack the eggs into the sauce, well spaced out.
Cover for about 5 minutes to make the yolks set.
Uncover and, if necessary, pour some of the tomato liquid over the whites to help them set.
Sprinkle over lots of coriander and Boursin.

I served this with pitta bread because smittenkitchen told me to.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Review - Beigel Bake

I have been to this place seven times so it's remarkable that I haven't yet reviewed it. It's not the same as going to a restaurant seven times though. You go, you see a really long queue which magically only takes about five minutes to shorten, you buy super cheap bagels and treats and you don't Instagram a photo of them. You leave and you munch on the walk back. It is is no way a remarkable affair but it's probably my favourite 'sandwich' shop in all of the world so it deserves a review. It's on Brick Lane so usually when I go here, I've just eaten and I'm accompanying someone else and I'm too full to eat. Back when I was younger and had a higher metabolism, I had curry AND bagels. Well, the first time, I had apple turnover. The pastry was so flaky and crisp and coated with crystals of sugar that you could picture them fusing onto the pastry. Within, there were apples. Tart, acidic, soft apples. If you get cakes from here, get apples. The strudel is sweeter but still full of apply goodness. The apple danish is a cinnamon infused treat. But it's not all apples. Most recently, I bought a brownie. A sticky brownie that I couldn't resist even though I was already buying something else. The overwhelming flavour in the brownie is sugar rather than chocolate but it's damn good sugar. The same sugar which they use in the firm, slightly bouncy bagels. (This photo is not worth including but I can't have two photoless posts in a row.)
The bagels are so perfect and flavoursome that I could eat a plain one. I completely understand why my  friend who lives in Dulwich buys bagels from here to take home and freeze. A defrosted bagel from here is worth a hundred fresh bagels from elsewhere. I had mine filled with hot, salt beef. There is no interesting way to describe what it tastes like apart from to say that it is hot, it is salty and it is filled with so much wonderfully cooked beef. I'm only sad that they're a bit slapdash with the mustard so I ended up with a mustardy last mouthful when I would've liked a mustardy every mouthful.