Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Recipe - Coriander and Walnut Salmon with Rice Noodle Salad

I don't have anything interesting to say at the beginning of this blog post. I've been pottering around doing my things (teaching others or teaching self) so nothing interesting to report there. And no one said anything which sprung to mind a chain of rambling complaints. The most interesting occurrence was probably that the Envoy was here and I've never cooked for her before. She's now back from Paris and living twenty minutes away. But it's still surprising that she's come round for dinner only now when I've known her for about four years.  But anyway, this meal was a good first meal for her to experience. As I mentioned before, it's always tricky cooking for someone new in case it all goes awry and then you're condemned to them thinking you're an awful cook who leaves offal in overcooked rabbit forevermore. 

Coriander and walnut pesto baked salmon 
4 salmon fillets
Bunch of coriander
100g walnuts
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil

Blend the pesto ingredients together.
Place on the flesh side of the salmon.
Bake, skin side up, in a hot oven for about fifteen minutes.

Rice noodle salad
Rice noodles, placed in boiling water for about five minutes then drained
Half an iceberg lettuce, shredded
1 carrot, grated
1 green pepper, thinly sliced
Basil leaves
Mint leaves
Half red onion, finely sliced

1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce 
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1 red chilli

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Review - Indian YMCA

Hey, I have an actual tip to share! Not a tip which is shared by the whole of London to the extent that the restaurant involved can make you queue, either. An original, good value food tip for central London. The Indian YMCA! When I was staying in some horrid smelling UCL digs, my father kept telling me to go to the Indian YMCA for dinner. I, being 20 years old and perfectly capable of feeding myself, scoffed and said that I could deal with a few weeks of turmeric-free food. (A tangent: I haven't had turmeric home-cooked goodness for over a month now and it is kinda getting to me.) But one lunch time, I wandered down all the same. You should do the same; the food is well proportioned, cheap and delicious. Never special or fancy but probably the closest thing to ACTUAL home cooked Indian subcontinent food in London.
Rich bowls of mainly sauce with a few succulent pieces of slightly stringy lamb. The Explorer glanced at the meagre amount of meat and commented that he was really hungry and we should get two but I dismissed his suggestion as the amount provided was what you would traditionally be served for two people. It's the sauce that's the best bit! And that's why the sauce is plentiful. Overwhelmingly spicy mixed vegetables had enough crumbly potato to soak up everything's flavour. The chappati was made to drown in the meat sauce. The lentil rice was smooth yet still hot. And of course, a crisp, simple salad to keep everything light. The bhajis and raita were the only bits which I didn't recognise as 'like my parents' food' and even they were delicious. This meal put me in such a positive mood, I couldn't help but want the job I was interviewing for around the corner even more. I could just picture myself lunching on chappatis and vegetables every Friday. Sigh. If you, unlike me, have a job which puts you near Warren Street at lunch time, definitely eat here.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Review - Patty & Bun

It was high time for another burger. Patty & Bun was next on my list because it uses a pretentious ampersand and follows the 'something and something' naming format. Also, most in its favour, we were in the area. And there was no queue on account of it being 6pm on a Tuesday. We went for the Ari Gold (because my name's Ari and I am gold) and the Jose because the Explorer loves all things South and Central American. We also got some confit chicken wings and rosemary salt chips. My verdict: really great burgers, better than Meatliquor, but no Honest Burger or Lucky Chip.
Firstly, the chips didn't have that honest, discrete, 'wow I can really taste the rosemary except it's not really like rosemary it's just addictive saltiness' quality to them. The bun wasn't quite as sweet and the separate elements of the burger were a little lost in each other. But I can pick out a few highlights. The smoky frankfurter topping was inspired. The smoky mayonnaise was INSANE. As was the hot sauce. The star of the show was the chicken. Whoever thought to confit chicken wings deserves all my praise. Of course, everything was a certain level of delicious and I'd very happily visit here again. But I'd prefer to go to Honest or Lucky Chip.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Recipe - Salmon en Croute

I don't want to brag (OK, I do a little bit) but I've had a string of particularly good cooking experiences. I think that might mean two interrelated things: that I'm a good cook when I stick to what I know (one pot or stick in the oven) and that I've got the hang of seasoning. I feel like maybe that means I should move on to cooking more complex things. Perhaps it's time to start making things bind? And maybe even tackling pastry. But I sort of don't want to since I'm enjoying everything being particularly delicious. But equally, I don't want to have plateaued already. We'll see.

Salmon en croute
4 skinless, boneless salmon fillets
2 leeks, chopped
1.5 tbsp double cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 pack ready rolled short crust pastry

Place the salmon on one side of the rolled pastry.
Season well with salt and pepper.

Fry the leeks in butter until tender. Remove from heat then stir in the cream and mustard. 
Season with a little salt.

Pile the salmon with the leek mixture and fold over the pastry sheet. 
Brush with milk or egg and place in a hot oven for about 25 minutes.

Salsa verde new potatoes
New potatoes, quartered and boiled
1 tbsp capers
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp black olives

In a food processor, combine the herbs, capers, mustard, vinegar, olives and a tablespoon of olive oil.
Dress the potatoes in the mixture then season, to taste.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Recipe - Salmon and Dill Pasta

This dill has given me so much. Not in a 'I owe my life to this herb' way because I don't really know how full could really make that much of a difference. But it was initially bought for inclusion as part of our spread (I believe it made an appearance in the beetroot salad which I had no part in creating) and it's brought forth so many delicious suppers since then. The mint too!
Salmon and dill pasta
150g smoked salmon, sliced 
250g pasta, cooked with a tablespoon of cooking water reserved
Sweet greens (we used peas and tenderstem broccoli)
2 tbsp sour cream
Handful of dill, finely chopped
Lemon juice and black pepper 

Mix the sour cream, vegetables, salmon and dill with the pasta. Season to taste with lemon juice and black pepper 

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Recipe - Dill and Lemon Fish with Olive Roasted Potatoes

Despite having known each other for almost five years now, I've managed to avoid a dinner party with friends, significant others and no one else ('the triple date'). Well, now it's finally happened. That rubicon has been bridged (speaking of which, lychee Rubicon with any and all spirits is the most delicious drink) and it wasn't so bad. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it was fun. Since I'd never cooked for one of the people present before, I felt it necessary to bring the 'big guns' out. It's so stressful when you've never cooked for someone before and you really want them to believe you're a good cook but you only have one chance to prove it! Anyway, I think I managed it. I hope I managed it. We had a fresh fish supper with a couple of salads followed by strawberries and cream. 

Provencale roasted vegetables
1kg new potatoes, parboiled
3 peppers, cut into chunks
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 courgette, chopped into chunks
2 tsp oregano

Season with salt and pepper and scatter with the oregano.
Tuck a bay leaf into the tray and roast the vegetables for about 20 minutes on a high heat until the new potatoes are browning.

1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 tablespoon black olives, chopped
3 tomatoes, quartered
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Handful of fresh basil and parsley, chopped

Add the capers, basil, olives, tomatoes and garlic to the other vegetables. Stir well. Roast for another 10 minutes.

Dill and lemon fish
White fish fillets
Lemon juice

Place the fish fillets on top of the potato mixture and scatter with dill and lemon juice.
Season well with salt and pepper and dot with butter.
Roast until the flesh is firm and flaky, about 8 minutes for fresh fillets and 20 minutes for frozen fillets. If frozen, drain off the water every five minutes or so.
Once out of the oven, scatter with fresh parsley.

Fennel, orange and mint salad
2 bulbs fennel, finely sliced, including fronds
2 large oranges, peeled, pith removed and segmented
1 handful mint, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Mix together the fennel, oranges and mint and season well.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Review - Buen Provecho

I proved my point about how I feel about clubbing on Saturday. I woke up missing one of my actually nice and not in any way fashion jewellery earrings (I used the wrong back, it was dire) and with a very small chip in the corner of both my phone and my eye. We're matching! A corollary of not doing the whole lads lads lads thing very frequently means that if ever I feel like dipping my toes, it will inevitably not be limited to toe dipping and will instead be a case of jumping into the freezing pool headfirst. I think I used that metaphor because of how bloody hot it is. Y'all didn't get to see my post about how I like when the weather is good for ages because I don't feel this stress and pressure to be outside all the time anymore. Now, it's reached the point where it's a bit boring and actually, London's underground network is in no way shape or form built for hot weather. I've been going out of my way to avoid the tube over these past few days. On this particular Saturday, the journey to Street Feast was limited to one bus only. And even that bus was insufferable and nausea-inducing. But it was worth it. When we got there, we were greeted with a very midtown deep South thing going on. All arid yet checked. I went straight for the Buen Provecho. Tacos with the pork, beef and chicken with all the toppings.
I love it when food which comes with a spice warning is actually spicy. I love it even more when it's not gratuitously so, it's flavour spice rather than ridiculous and unnecessary spice. Those flavourful red onions, pickled and spicy with fresh chilli. It was just so hot and opened all of my sinuses and just made everything tingle, not in a dirty way. The red, sticky, tangy sauce was equally hot but in a smokier way this time. The salsa of deliciously ripe tomatoes and the zingiest coriander contrasted well and cooled everything down. I haven't even mentioned the meats. I was too busy scoffing everything into my little mouth to notice which flavours matched which meats. But they again had the smokiest, charcoal umami goodness to them. I will be eating here again and reviewing with more specificity. I'll be eating there mainly to lap up the goodness for a second time rather than to be able to review again.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Review - Atoca

This guy and I are continuing to have a frenaissance. (I didn't coin that term, Friends did, and if you don't get the reference you were having too productive of a childhood.) Contrary was recently speaking to me about how it's hard to tell whether to give your honest opinion about a place/event if someone else suggested/treated you to it. That situation arose when we went to Atoca as it was Frenaissance Man's suggestion. If you're at dinner with someone and you confess that you're not enjoying the food, you come across like a snob who loves complaining. (Which I suppose I am but I don't want people to know that about me straight away.) So I mumbled some vague remarks about how the pork wasn't particularly tender when really, I thought all the food was average to poor. But the point is, that doesn't matter! Obviously it's ideal if the food and company are good but if one had to be off, I'd choose for it to be the food any day. We ordered an omelette to share with chips and salad, vegetarian lasagne and a pork stew.
Most things were mediocre and some elements were just wrong. Let's start with the mediocre: omelette, salad and lasagne. The omelette was cheesy and sweet but didn't do enough to make me rave about it. And it certainly is possible to make an omelette sing if you go to the right restaurant. The lasagne had worryingly cold vegetables within but the sauce was ok and had more depth to it than the rest of the flavours. The salad was undressed and the red onions were sliced too thickly to be pleasant. The pork stew was the real disaster. The pork was too tough and the sauce was just peculiar; reminiscent of heavy, MSG fuelled Chinese food. That sort of sauce has its moments but not in a Portuguese restaurant. I think the biggest problem was that none of the dishes seemed particularly Portuguese. And I think the most damning comment I can make is that the chips were the best bit. But that's OK because we enjoyed some deliciously cheap sangria and it's about the whole experience, not the food.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Recipe - Greek Chicken and Bulgar Wheat

This is a good time for me to clear up how I feel about Jamie Oliver. And clubbing. And desserts. People have a habit of misrepresenting how I feel about these things (cough Ashleigh cough). So, let's begin...
Clubbing - I enjoy clubbing but only occasionally because I feel so horrendously awful the next day, it is not sustainable as a weekly activity. It is also kind of boring as a weekly activity. Furthermore, while the music played has some (OK, quite a big) effect on how much I enjoy it, telling me that someone's playing will rarely, if ever, turn me from a no into a yes. If I don't feel like clubbing (read: drinking enough to feel comfortable dancing and being able to sacrifice the day after to feeling horrible and perhaps throwing up), I will not be persuaded.
Sweet things - I LOVE sweet things. When I say 'I don't even like sweet things', I really mean 'I don't like sweet things compared to how much I like savoury things'. But that's only because I really, really like savoury things. As in, I spent most of my time thinking about them. Mmm. Anyway, I don't tend to buy sweet things as snacks because I'm not a snacker and I rarely crave something sweet. I go mad for elaborate desserts but lack of time/money/skill precludes me eating those on a regular basis. 
Jamie Oliver - I think he's a fine cook. He's a good cook. He puts together good combinations in simple, easy to follow recipes. Great. What I cannot get on board with is his stupid 'down with the kids' manner. It's particularly offensive because he's actually not THAT old so he, of all people, should know that that is not what the kids look like. Seriously, Jamie, just say 'pour' or 'put' or 'add', you don't need to bash everything in. Also, his 30 minute meals are annoying because they take so little time only because of the food processor. When I heard about the concept, I thought 'hey great he's going to come up with some simple but new flavour combinations which are quick to do'. No. He decides to make four different dishes using literally all of the pans and a food processor. WHO DOES THAT ON A WEEKNIGHT. No, Jamie. No. Anyway, there are still little flashes of what makes him such a successful TV chef to be found in these programmes. But they'd only take 30 minutes if you restricted yourself to one or two of the dishes. Which is OK. I wish he'd learn this. Bish bash bosh.
Greek chicken thighs with bulgar wheat and tzatziki
Chicken thighs
Salt, pepper

Sprinkle the chicken thighs with the herbs and seasonings. Place in a hot oven (gas mark 6) for 40 minutes, basting twice in the time.

250g bulgar wheat
Frozen chopped spinach
2 peppers, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
Handful of fresh dill, chopped
Handful of black olives, pitted and chopped
Lemon juice

Boil the bulgar wheat in vegetable stock, covered, for about 15 minutes until cooked. 
Add the frozen spinach for the last five minutes of cooking time and stir until separated and well mixed with the bulgar wheat.
Add the rest of the ingredients and season with lemon juice, to taste.

1 stick celery, finely chopped
Courgette, diced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Handful of fresh mint
Fry the celery and courgette in olive oil until tender. Stir in the chilli and mint. Add to the bulgar wheat.

150 g fat-free natural yoghurt
Handful of mint, finely chopped
Half a cucumber, finely chopped
Lemon juice

Combine the mint and cucumber with the yoghurt. Season with lemon juice, to taste.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Recipe - Arroz con Pollo

I'd like it to be known that I wrote a really long, detailed blog post following the rules about how to write that I pass on to all the children I teach. It was interesting, relevant, used connectives and an array of different verbs and adjectives. And IT ALL DISAPPEARED. Sometimes, I'm all 'why can't I do what I need to on whatever device I have to hand but then access it easily from all other devices'. But then something like THIS happens and I lose my appetite (ha, pun) for it completely. I'm particularly disappointed since that's happened recently to another post too. Sort out your affairs, Blogger. I had the time and enough memory to rewrite that one. But alas, my comments on the fair weather and Broadway Market are prithee, lost forever. (Little bit of closed book A level English Lit resurfacing there.) Anyway, let's talk about the recipe. I first made this two years ago back when I cooked a lot but didn't have a blog. We lived in a little cottage full of love and laughter and gruesome showers and everyone was happy (until the last 8 weeks where everyone was very, very angry all of the time). Arroz con pollo, adapted from Smitten Kitchen. It took everything in our power not to eat all four servings for dinner.

Arroz con pollo
4 chicken thigh fillets
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 level tsp salt

Marinade the chicken in the marinade ingredients.

100g chorizo, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
200g risotto rice
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
200ml chicken stock
1 can kidney beans in chilli sauce

Cook chorizo in olive oil over medium heat until the oils render.
Add celery, onion, garlic, chilli and green pepper and brown.
Add the herbs and stir.
Place the chicken in the pot and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
Add the rice.
Turn the heat up and add the beer.
Add the tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato puree and chicken stock.
Add a can full of water.
Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes until the rice is cooked.

1 poblano pepper
1 red pepper

Cut the peppers into strips and roast on a high heat until soft and charred, about 15 minutes.
Stir into the cooked rice.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Recipe - Grilled Coca Cola Gammon Steaks, Makeshift Slaw

I've rediscovered my cooking mojo! The past few weeks have been too exhausting for elaborate dinner so I have been cooking lots of eggs and even potato waffles. I've also been eating a lot of bread (and making some pretty great sandwiches) because I went shopping when hungry and bought a loaf, forgetting that I literally never eat bread (unless it's served to me). The good dinner on Friday really helped. It just got me all into cooking way too much food in the form of lots of little, summery dishes. And then I learnt that my housemate was having a dinner party which he would've have time to cook for. Perfect opportunity to make him let me cook! We made a spread. He made an insanely good beetroot salad, a potato salad and provided a selection of meats and cheese. I wanted mac and cheese, the sweet potato thing from Friday and gammon. Oh, I made the mint, tomato and cucumber salad that I'd tried on Friday as well. Anyway, we don't need repeats of previously attempted recipes so I'll just tell you about the gammon and a little makeshift slaw.

Grilled Coca Cola gammon steaks
1 can coca cola
2 tablespoon mustard
Black pepper
Gammon steaks

Marinade the steaks in the coca cola, pepper and mustard.
Place under a medium hot grill for 5 minutes on each side.

If I'd had the time, I would've made the marinade into a syrupy, sticky glaze. But I didn't so I didn't but whatever. Similarly, I would've bought a red cabbage for the slaw but I wasn't willing to pay £4 for an organic, out of season red cabbage.

Makeshift slaw
1 white cabbage, shredded
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red apple, grated
1 green apple, grated
2 carrots, grated

2 tbsp coleslaw
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp mustard
Juice of one orange
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Combine the vegetables. Mix the dressing. Combine the vegetables with the dressing.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Recipe - Yoghurt Marinated Lamb Shoulder, Sweet Potato Salad, RoastedCauliflower

So when I went mad and decided that everything was a bad egg and everyone from Birmingham was a bad apple, I wasn't really considering the fact that actually, the course of action I was undertaking was unsustainable. Also, I was rather indiscriminate in my opinions. I knew not everyone was a bad egg or apple (or other food item) but decided it was better to just junk everything from Birmingham in a vain attempt to delete everything from a miserable decade spent there. MISGUIDED. Anyway, I knew this wasn't going to last since I made some concessions. I didn't unfollow everyone on Twitter and that led to me meeting one of the few that remained over Christmas for gluten-free treats. So I was already thawing to the prospect of bumping into people (a very small group of people) from Birmingham when I bumped into a particular one. It was to be expected. If you don't want to live in Birmingham forever (unlike a surprisingly high proportion of its residents), you'll probably move to London. If you have similar tastes, you'll probably go to the same events. And if you're at those same events in London, you'll probably bump into each other. And that's what happened here! I considered whether to confine the incident to a singular 'we bumped into each other but that's it' but with my newly rational goggles, I decided that actually that would be a silly thing to do since this person is a really nice guy and also almost entirely divorced from the bad apples. So I invited him to dinner! With his lovely girlfriend. And the Explorer. So this is probably the first thing I've ever done which could actually be categorised as a double date but it was organised by accident so it's not that lame. I made a summer lamb!

Yoghurt marinade
1 large onion, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 cloves garlic
0.5 inch ginger
0.5 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
Bunch of chopped mint

Place the ingredients in a food processor and blend away.

250ml Greek yogurt 
Juice of half an orange
1 tsp salt

Stir the blended aromatics into the yoghurt with the juice of half an orange and the salt.

Rub well into the meat and marinade overnight (if you can be bothered). I used lamb shoulder and roasted, tightly covered in foil, at gas mark 3 for 2.5 hours then for a further hour, uncovered.

Sweet potato salad (adapted from Whole Foods)

4 small sweet potatoes, diced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Black pepper
0.5 tsp cinnamon

Heat the oven to gas mark six.
Place the sweet potatoes and red onion on a baking tray.
Drizzle with olive oil and then grind over the black pepper and cinnamon.
Roast for 45 minutes until soft.

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Fresh parsley and coriander

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, mix with the parsley and coriander and dress with the balsamic and a dash of salt.

Roasted cauliflower
100ml yoghurt
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh coriander stalks
1 green chilli, finely chopped

Mix together marinade ingredients.
Toss 1 head cauliflower florets in the marinade. 
Roast until tender at gas mark 6, about 40 minutes.

Moroccan spiced aubergine
1 aubergine, chopped into small chunks
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp tomato puree
2 tsp white vinegar
100g Greek yoghurt
Bunch of coriander, chopped

Put the spices in a dry frying pan and heat at a moderate temperature until fragrant.
Add a dash of vegetable oil and fry the aubergine until golden.
Add the tomato puree then deglaze with the vinegar.
Drizzle the yoghurt over the aubergine and sprinkle generously with coriander.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Review - Shampan

As you've probably noticed, blog has fallen by the wayside. As I've said before, since so much of my time is spent writing (dissertation and job applications), doing it in my spare time has rather lost its charm at the minute. So I usually put it off for a while and then do a few at once. This is a Bad Idea when it comes to a food blog for purely practical reasons: it is very difficult to remember how something tastes after a few days unless it was exceptional. I nevertheless (probably my most used word at the moment) have some good news to report. My blog appears on Google quite frequently now! Last month, as many people found it through Google as through Facebook. I'm going to put search engine optimisation on my CV. So, today I'm going to write about a meal I ate on Sunday as it was far too unspectacular to leave for more than a day and a half. It was a Brick Lane curry house and, even though I'd heard slightly better things about this particular restaurant, it was the same as the rest. In fact, I left believing that several of the restaurants have a secret back kitchen whence all the food comes. Why did I think this? Firstly, when we tried to go to Aladin, the guy recommended the place next door because Aladin was shutting. Secondly, when we were haggling in Shampan, the waiter mentioned how he used to work at City Spice and they have a separate menu for people who haggle the  'main rice and naan for £10' deal. Lastly, and most tellingly, the waiter had one of those electronic buzzy things which alerted him when the food was ready. One of those would definitely be helpful if the food was actually being prepared in a secret back kitchen utilised by all of the restaurants nearby. Whatever, it was enjoyable and filling. No one goes to a Brick Lane curry house for the food. We ordered the lamb rogan josh, lamb saag, karahi lamb and vegetable korma.
The tomatoes in the rogan josh were fresh. The spinach in the lamb saag was probably frozen at the start of its life. I don't mind. It was woody and the flavours had developed, possibly because it had had time to from the constant reheating in the secret back kitchen. The lamb wasn't meltingly tender but it wasn't unpleasantly hard. The peshwara was too sweet and lacking texture and everything lacked a kick of heat. It was really all fine, particularly since they were keeping themselves open just for us, but nothing more. And I'm probably more unimpressed than most would be because my mum/dad/relatives can all do better. In fact, I probably could too.