Sunday, 26 October 2014

Recipe - Chicken Stew with Dumplings

The new thing that I say is 'woo hoo', a souvenir of young Earnest's dialogue. She's moved in now, a stringy gum meaning that we all hang out instead of coexisting. To celebrate her new found guminess, we rewarmed our house. I usually hate parties at my own house but this was a good'un. I was debilitated until 4 the next day with a smug and vaguely annoying Explorer swinging between moaning that I'd had a better time than him and cajoling me for being hungover. My main issue was that he was rewatching LOTR for the seventeenth time rather than lying with me in my misery. Oh, and he's thrown away the vin for my coq.After I roused, I was filled with a new lease of life and a desire to make dumplings. Chicken stew and dumplings, to be precise.
Chicken stew and dumplings
5 chicken thighs

Brown the chicken thighs over a high heat in a casserole. 

2 leeks
2 carrots 
1 onion
4 cloves garlic

Wash and chop the vegetables. Sweat over a medium heat for around 10 mins until browned. Return the chicken to the pot and I turned up the heat. 

1 glass white wine
Tsp dried thyme
Half tsp tarragon 
2 bay leaves 
1 stock pot 

Add the wine to the pot and let it bubble away. Add the herbs, stock and around 700ml water - enough to cover and for the water level to be about 1 inch over the top of the stew.

Place in the oven at 180, uncovered for 20 mins.

100g self raising flour
100g butter
1 piece toast, turned to crumbs 
Handful of dill
Handful of parsley
2 eggs 

In my mini food processor, I blitzed the butter and flour to make crumbs. I placed this in a bowl with the crumbs and rubbed together to combine. I blitzed the dill and parsley in the food processor and added these to the mix along with some salt and pepper. I cracked in two eggs and brought the sticky mixture together. I shaped the mix into five dumplings. I added these to the top of the chicken at the 20 minute point and let the whole stew cook for another 30 mins.

Review - Machete

I've been avoiding restaurants where you have to queue recently in favour of making reservations and then flaking out on said reservations. That's what went down in Victoria Park Village on one date night. It all started because I was craving meat. A big fat juicy steak. Fish House doesn't lend itself to steak. So we went to The Empress for a drink and instead of piping up with an 'I want entrecôte', we made a new booking at Machete, the reasoning being that I could get a steak burrito. Or, as it turns out, steak tacos with rice and beans on the side. The Explorer got a pork burrito. 
It's a testament to how successful it was that I remember the succulence of the meat three weeks on. I can particularly remember an acidity of the vinegar marinade (I think) - juicy and pungent without overpowering. The beans were creamy and soft, salty with a refreshing salsa sitting next door. The rice was spiced and, crucial for restaurant rice, didn't leave me feeling like I could have made it myself.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Review - The Joint

The other thing about Friday is the influence is the undue influence it has over the rest of the weekend. Getting Friday wrong can mean scuppering painfully wrought plans on Saturday. That being said, if that happens, my confidence is restored that not planning every moment won't end in boredom and loneliness. So, as carefully perfected Saturday plans went out of the window, they were replaced by a laissez-faire trip to Brixton where I was comically underdressed for the weather. We ate at the Joint.

The people sat next to us had slammed the pulled pork but I wasn't keen on it anyway. I went for the Asian style panko breadcrumbed chicken. It was well crumbed and went well with the sweet bun and the fresh slaw. It came with a sticky suspiciously American BBQ tasting sauce which made it difficult to distinguish where the Asian element came from. It was nice enough but not outstanding. The ribs, on the other hand, really were great. Falling off the bone and the right mix of sugar and tang. The onion rings were similarly well done. I wouldn't mind going back and nor would I discourage it but there's not enough to be enthusiastic about.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Review - Gaby's

Friday nights are a nightmare. As you're bored of hearing me say, there's the logistical pressure of turning up to all social occasions mildly tipsy. Then there's the tiredness and sense that your life is slipping away if you don't make it to your plans or the expense and despair the next day if you do. As previously discussed, I've been keen to break the cycle. So this week, I left mega early, learnt a fraction about Assyria and then got a pedicure. Pedicures are great! I fear I've found another thing to waste my money on but my feet feel so good. It was in aid of a friend's (24th!) birthday and she picked the restaurants afterwards.
I was apprehensive when I saw the outside until I saw the vats of colourful salad. On her recommendation, I went for the small salad plate and got falafel as my first choice. Oh my god this falafel. It was phenomenally crispy, a crunchy little savoury treat. With my salads, I went two ways - half slaw and beetroot and vaguely central / Eastern European and half middle eastern. Best in class at both! The creamy, dill covered crushed potatoes went effortlessly with the beetroot. Oh and the slaw! I was slightly less a fan of the cauliflowery middle eastern half. Except that the falafel was faultless.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Recipe - Stuffed Courgettes, Squash and Ricotta Lasagne, Coconut Cake

No fridge meant no cooking. I think that's what led me to feeling so underwhelmed by everything. My nature is to tire of habits - I know from experience that the remedy is to change something or do something new. So that's what I did Sunday / literally just cooked all the live long day. I even baked! My baking is coming along. It's not nearly as exact as I expected - I usually follow the recipe abd then do a few things to make it 'seem' right. Like with this coconut cake, I'm pretty sure I added more coconut cream and that that helped. Unfortunately, it also means that my recipes continue to be inaccurate. I've tried my best when writing up these though.

Stuffed courgettes
250g beef mince
1 large onion
2 carrots
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato puree
Sprigs of thyme
1 tsp oregano
6 courgettes
50g parmesan
2 slices toast, made into breadcrumbs
Handful of parsley

Filling 
Brown the mince over a high heat on each side.
Fry a diced onion, two diced carrot and 4 cloves of garlic over a medium heat until soft and browned.
Return mince to the pan with two tbsp tomato purée, two bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme. A level teaspoon of dried oregano and two wine glasses of water.
Simmer, half covered for about an hour and a half, or as long as you have.

Meanwhile, half six large courgettes lengthways. Roast in the oven at 200 for about 30 minutes, until very soft.
Remove from oven, scoop out the flesh and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and leave to stand for 15 mins. Squeeze out any excess water then mix the cooked bolognese. Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each courgette with the filling.

In a food processor, blitz together 2 slices of toast, 1 garlic, 50g Parmesan and fresh parsley. Too the stuffed courgettes with this crumb.

Return to oven for ten mins, loosely covered in foil. Uncover and cook for a further five until crumb is browned and bubbling.

Squash and ricotta lasagne
Half a pumpkin, peeled and chopped into cubes

Roast the pumpkin in a hot oven, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper until soft - about 30 mins at 200C

50g parmesan
150ml double cream
250g ricotta
Small bunch sage, chopped
10 lasagne sheets

Mix the ricotta with the sage. Once the squash is done, mix that through.
Whisk the double cream with the parmesan.
Layer as follows:
Cream - lasagne - squash - lasagne - cream - squash - lasagne - cream
Bake at 180, covered with foil, for 30 minutes followed by a final 5 minutes uncovered.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Review - Sushi No En

So you know how I was harping on about how reclaimed of my youth I felt for the pathetic reason that I managed to stay out to a reasonable hour? Well, I spoke too soon - the previous weekend took me out to the extent that I fell asleep in a pub on Friday night despite it being the return of a pal who I haven't seen in half a year. I felt so guilty and stilted the next morning because I'd just been sat there like a boring alien. It was difficult to tell if the alien feeling was tiredness or me being ill at ease. I haven't felt ill at ease for ages. These were the thoughts that I was pondering as I sat on a bus to meet the Explorer from his graduation. We were meeting for lunch but both so indecisive that we wandered for an hour before settling on Sushi No En. I was hesitant as previous Saturdays where we've ambled emptily have ended in bad food and oppressive boredom but this place stopped that happening.
It looks so scabby from the outside! It looks cheap and tacky and like the food is aimed solely at QM students. It's completely different inside. They have a whole section of traditionally sunken Japanese seating. And anime playing on a wall! 
And the food was spectacular. We had a salmon teriyaki bento box and the pork katsu. So many extras! The miso soup was warming and savoury enough that I had it all rather than getting bored. The little vegetable dumpling and sweet potato cake were, frankly, odd, but in a pleasant way. The salmon avocado sushi rolls were fresh and difficult to describe, as sushi often is for me. I think the salmon teriyaki is amongst the best salmon of any cuisine I've had. And the sauce! None of that horrid stickiness, just a golden sweetness to it. I haven't even mentioned the pork - my favourite. This is my new favourite restaurant.