Monday, 29 December 2014

Bar Snacks - Clove Club, Merchants Tavern, The Empress, The Hemingway

Ah, 'tis the season. My first ever festive season where organised fun doesn't just have to be organised by me but also, often by an organisation which pays me in return for me spending 40+ hours a week there. I'd like to think of myself as a good host - I try to make sure that my guests are merry and always have a drink in their hand at the expense of both our flat's bank balances and also my own enjoyment. (I spend the whole time freaking out that no one's enjoying themselves and then that I didn't talk to anyone because I was too busy freaking out about no one enjoying themselves which is ridiculous, I know.) But as it turns out, my spirit for Christmas drinks are far surpassed by work's. My November to December have been filled with the reds (wine) and greens (gin) of the festive season, much more so than I could have apprehended. The more casual (i.e. not boyfriend- or friend- affecting) implications of this are that I have spent a lot of time worrying about my skin. (Am I going to break out in spots? Will I age terribly? Yes. To both of those things.) I have also been secretly glad that it has meant that I miss meals despite my rational self knowing that I have been more than consuming lost calories in wine. And that small grace disappears when I have bar snacks. Which I've done a lot recently! Let me give you a run down of what each is good for.

Clove Club
AMAZING bread. It REALLY tastes. And the fried chicken somehow tastes Michelin starred! All lemony and zingy in the crust. Plus the meats, cheeses and wines are as wonderful as you'd expect.

Merchants Tavern
I think they have the best bar snacks - the meatiest, gamiest, chewiest terrine. The best sausage roll I've ever had, buttery and hot and gleaming with egg wash. The aioli skins are so melty and coated in parsley and butter. Also, the bar is possibly my favourite in London and has the cosiest fire and an excellent sound system (even if this means they play their music too loud).

The Empress
I was somewhat snobby about the Empress - it has an air about it that's just a bit too polished and sometimes I'm not into the Mediterranean take on pub food mood.  But, it also has the best whitebait I've ever tasted so I can deal.

The Hemingway
I've been back for bar snacks as well as for a full pub lunch. The cod goujons stayed on my mind for long enough that I returned for them. The scotch egg is by far the queen of breaded snacks. (Anyone who read that and thought I was implying it's the second best - SHAME ON YOU.) If Merchant's took gold for weeknight favourite, this is the winner of the lazy Sunday category.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

On the Korean food resurgence

'I'm just a bit sick of the whole trend of hipster foods with a Korean twist. I just want to eat something normal.' - last words of Ari c. 6.30pm, Tuesday 4th December. 

Jesus, it was the 4th of December when I started writing this. Almost three weeks! What have I been doing since then that's meant that I look at the Blogger app blankly every morning that I sit on the bus? Hmm? I'LL TELL YOU WHAT. A whole lot of nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing worth reporting. Eating out, buying unnecessary things, cooking, Roman Road, work work work, day trips North. I can barely remember the evening of the KFC (Korean fried chicken). Still, I suppose it's good to have a record of these things so that if ever I'm arrested for a crime I didn't do, I'll remember every evening with super specificity. (#Serial) In the first episode, she said that she interviewed teenagers and it was remarkable how little they remembered when something notable didn't happen. (Oh God I just re-remembered I am close to a decade away from being a teenager now.) Something notable happened when I went to Jubo - we had three different courses in three different places. That's what passes as notable for me these days. So the lack of anything interesting (that I want to share publicly) going on in my life-- Right, I did it again. I forgot to finish this post and now almost another week has passed. Let's give up and talk about the food.
Right, so, Korean food. In short, I'm not a fan. That is to say, if I had to eat at a Korean place, I'm sure I'd find something I want and I'd eat it. But I'd never choose it. I wasn't expecting to hold this opinion after really enjoying Kimchee. But then, it's telling that despite being surrounded by K-food central at work, I never choose to go to any of the others. But sometimes it's good to give other people a say - that's how I ended up at On the Bap on one Friday afternoon for lunch. I had the beef bulgogi - flavour high, texture makes me grimace to remember. Gracefully scented rice. 'Kimchi' a little too heavy on the mayo for me - now when I remember it I think of an odd pink, drippy slime slowly dripping down into my rice. Gross. Ew.
I'll admit that the Korean fried chicken looked pretty good - particularly in the context of the 'lots of chicken and beer' deal. So on that fateful Tuesday night, I decided to step out to Jubo. We went half medium, half hot hot hot - this was a good call because on reflection, my favourite thing about the food was that endorphin rush you get from eating lots of spicy food really quickly - where your lips swell up and you're wide-eyed and close to manic and it's all very sensual. However, when I remember the taste over the experience, I think of a very sweet, heady salt. And then I feel like I almost have a headache. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Recipes - Tomato Jam, Mushroom and Celery Stuffing, Beef Stew, HarissaLamb

Since I've been stuck in Groundhog Day rotating Victoria Park village / places near where I work in Shoreditch / nothing cultural / dinner on Sunday. Even the things that I've cooked have been stuck on a semi-loop. There have been roasts of pork belly with celery and mushroom stuffing, roasts of chicken with a less punchy take on candied yams, stews and dumplings. It's all been heavy and autumnal. There's also been a significant amount of cheese! The question is, is any of it blog worthy? A lot of it doesn't get blog-documented as I don't need to make notes to myself so much anymore. I can cook! I can officially cook! But it's bad news for the blog. Anyway, I'm trying my best and I suppose there's value in documenting recipes even if I think they're so commonplace that I forget to take pictures.

Beef stew with dumplings
For the stew
800g stewing beef, chopped into cubes
Half tbsp olive oil
1 leek, sliced and washed
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 glass wine
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
25g butter
25g flour
1 stock cube, made up to 300ml stock

Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Heat a casserole until very hot.
Brown the beef in two batches, making sure to get a good colour on it.
Set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the oil.
Add the leeks, onion, carrots and garlic and fry until very soft and brown, about 15 mins.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, melt the butter.
Add the flour to make a roux.
Add the stock, slowly, whisking constantly, to make a thick sauce.
Now, add the herbs and wine to the casserole, turning the heat up. Allow alcohol to boil off for 2 mins.
Add the sauce from the frying pan.
Bring to a simmer and place in the oven, partially covered.
Let stew for 2 hours before adding the dumplings.

For the dumplings
100g self raising flour
100g butter
The end of a good bit of boule, turned to crumbs 
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp whole milk
1 egg

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 added the thyme and rosemary to the mix along with some salt and pepper. I added the eggs and milk and brought the sticky mixture together. I shaped the mix into six dumplings. I added these to the top of the stew after 2 hours - then left the stew uncovered and cooked for a further 30 mins.

A Camembert with a Monday night tomato 'jam' on the side
Not-so-candied yams 
1 Camembert
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped up

Remove the plastic from the Camembert. 
Make small slits with a knife and stuff with the garlic and rosemary.

2 red onions, chopped
6 tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Worcester sauce
Couple of drops of Tabasco 

In butter, fry the onions until sticky and caramelised.
Add the tomatoes and the condiments and about 100ml water and simmer for around 20 mins until sticky and thick.

Mushroom and celery stuffing
1 onion
2 stalks celery
250g myshrooms 
2 apples, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
Bunch of sage
Bunch of parsley 
Few sprigs thyme, leaves picked 
2 slices toast

Food process the vegetables, apple, garlic until finely chopped.
In 1 tbsp butter, fry the food processed mixture over a medium heat until the onion is translucent and any water has evaporated - about 15 mins.
Food process the sage and parsley with the toast until it turns to breadcrumbs. 
Add thyme, sage parsley breadcrumbs, salt and pepper to the mixture. 
Tightly pack the stuffing mixture into an ovenproof dish.
Bake for twenty to thirty minutes until crispy on top.

2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges lengthways 
4 cloves garlic 
Few sprigs thyme, leaves picked 
Handful of sultanas, soaked in 1 tbsp sweet white wine 

In a bowl, toss the sweet potato in a tablespoon of olive oil with the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. 
Bake in an oven at 200°C for 45 mins until crispy.
Scatter over the sultanas.
Harissa lamb chops with mint sauce with burnt Harissa aubergine
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Few sprigs thyme, leaves picked 
Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
Salt and pepper 
8 lamb chops

Marinade the lamb in the above ingredients for at least an hour to tenderise.

2 tsp harissa powder 
2 tsp veg oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed 
Half lemon, squeezed 

Mix the powder with oil and garlic and whisk into a paste.

2 aubergines, each sliced lengthways into 4

In a dry cast iron frying pan, scatter salt.
Over a high heat, burn two slices of aubergine at a time, about three mins on each side. 
Add salt for each new batch.
Place on a baking tray and then in the oven for 15 mins at 200°C until cooked through.
Brush each slice with the harissa paste then return to oven for 5 mins.

Brush the remainder of the harissa onto the lamb chops.
Place the chops in the oven at 200°C for around 7 mins.
Remove from oven then brown in a hot frying pan, couple of minutes each side without any oil.

Pour any remaining meat juice into the frying pan.
Add 2 tbsp finely chopped mint to make the sauce.
I served this with squash and brussel sprout pilaf.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Review - Rochelle Canteen

Who visits a hidden away cafe that requires you to ring a buzzer and is only open 10 to 4 on weekdays? Well, evidently me as otherwise I wouldn't have opened with that. But seriously, I'm surprised that this place gets enough customers to keep going. Except that when the food I came, I got it. They do very simple, classic plates without pretensions. The service is elegant and quick without being either forced or rushed. Being tucked away in a school yard on Arnold Circus only adds to its charm. Obviously none of this would matter a jot if the food didn't back it up - I had mackerel and potato salad, game faggots, chicken pie and tried some rabbit terrine.
The rabbit terrine was best - proper chunks of rabbit soaked (metaphorically) in warming clove-y spice. The bread that came with it seemed fake because it was so perfect. The mackerel was well doused in a tart and almost fruity dressing that made it sweet - nicely done but not what I fancied that day. The pastry was oh so buttery and so hot they you had to crack it open to let enough steam escape that it was edible. Within sat a luscious chicken and vegetable broth, simultaneously managing to keep the chicken moist but the pastry crisp. The faggots were a testament to simple food done well, almost falling apart they were so tender. The mash that sat alongside was both creamy and nutty and stood out for itself. Worth spending £25 on lunch.