Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Earlham Street Clubhouse


35 Earlham Street
London 
WC2H 9LD

When P emailed me about a place that was 90s themed and served cocktails and pizza, I immediately made arrangements with him to visit. Those are three of our favorite things! Walking in, I was struck by how much they tried to stuff it full of Americana - battered metal signs advertising PBR, license plates everywhere, etc. This whole obsession with the US is at full throttle in London.

Since P and I arrived at 6.45pm, we were able to take advantage of both the before 7pm special and the after 7pm special on this Tuesday night. Before 7pm, you can get a gigantic pizza and bottle of wine for £25. After 7pm, they had a 2-4-1 deal on one of the cocktails (Rolling with the Homies, Ketel 1 vodka, peach and strawberry purees, fresh lemon and sugar, topped with fizz). We opted for a "Ross and Rachel" pizza which meant you could get a half-and-half pizza - we chose the Vincent Vega (tomato, mozzarella, spicy Calabrian sausage and fresh basil) and the Ferris Bueller (tomato, mozzarella, chilli chicken, spicy salami, scotch bonnet chillies and red onion). Neither half was all that spicy, but I still really enjoyed the thin crust pizza. It took forever to eat the whole thing as it was so enormous! The wine was drinkable, and the cocktails were long and boozy and sweet, so all in all it was a pretty decent success. Just be warned - around 9pm the music suddenly got turned WAY up so P and I left in order to avoid screaming at each other for the rest of the night.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Stuck pot rice with lentils and yogurt


I've been trying out more vegetarian dishes lately - while A and I both enjoy meat, it helps to have some more vegetable based meals here and there for variety and health's sake. Plus our friend AB has gone vegetarian recently so when he's over for meals it makes sense to just find a tasty vegetarian dish that everyone can enjoy. This recipe called out to me as soon as I saw it, and it was a hit, even if the crusty bit didn't quite turn out as expected. This may be due to me messing around with proportions and not being so precise at measuring out yogurt, but who cares when it tastes good?

Stuck Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 6 generously (a main dish)

Ingredients

Salt
1 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed
1 1/2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed well
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion (or 5 small ones in my case), thinly sliced
1/4 cup plain yogurt, I used low-fat, plus additional for serving
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus additional lemon wedges for serving
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Method

Bring a medium-sized heavy pot with a tight fitting lid (so you can use one pot for all the steps) of salted water to a boil. Add lentils and rice and return to a boil. Simmer the mixture for five minutes without stirring. Drain mixture and transfer to a large bowl.

Heat the same pot over medium-high heat. Once heated, add 2 tablespoons oil; one oil is warm, add onions and a couple pinches of salt and cover with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized and brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Add onions to bowl with rice and lentils. Stir in yogurt, lemon juice, water, cumin and pepper, plus additional salt to taste.

Heat pot again over medium-high heat. Once fully hot, add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Once that is hot, return rice mixture to pot, pressing it in. (It will sizzle.) Wrap clean kitchen towel around lid of pot so it completely covers inside of lid; gather corners on top so they do not fall anywhere near stove. Place lid on pot, sealing tightly. Reduce heat to very low. Cook undisturbed about 30 minutes; rice should smell toasty but not burned and you might need to check on it once or twice if you’re making it for the first time. Remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes more.

Carefully remove lid and cloth, and turn pot upside down over a platter. If rice comes out in a single crust, terrific. If not, use a spatula to scrape crisp pieces out of pan and onto remaining rice. (I'll confess I didn't even really get crisp pieces, more like crisp bits - there was no crust, just crispy rice, but it was delicious anyway.) Garnish with chopped cilantro, and serve with lemon wedges and additional plain yogurt.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Duke of Cornwall


48 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9PH
 
S and I met up with some of her friends before a gig at the Hammersmith Apollo (this guy, if you're curious). While wandering the area looking for a place to have a drink and a bite to eat, we stumbled across the Duke of Cornwall. Its menu is not that promising - the pictures of the food are terrible and we were all a bit concerned, but when you're hungry and pressed for time you're willing to take a chance. Turns out, we're all happy we did - my pad thai (boring, I know) was actually delicious, if a little on the sweet side - it came with proper crushed peanut and chilli garnishes and was an absolutely enormous portion for under £7. We scarfed our food, along with some wine, and then hopped across the road for a wonderful evening of music.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Shepherd's Pie


 

Shepherd's pie is a dish that I've been meaning to try to make since I moved to the UK. It's basically the same thing as cottage pie (which is made with beef instead of lamb). And while it's called a pie, it's only topped with mashed potato - there's no pie crust needed. On a cold night, it makes the perfect warm dish to fill you up - and this could have easily served six people, which meant A and I had plenty of extra meals out of it.

Shepherd's Pie
Adapted from Jamie and Nigel
 

Ingredients

1 onion
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery

handful of button mushrooms, chopped (optional)
2 cloves of garlic
a small bunch of fresh rosemary (I used dried)

Worcestershire sauce
olive oil
500g good-quality minced lamb
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
250ml lamb or vegetable stock

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 kg potatoes
100ml semi-skimmed milk


Method

Boil and mash 1kg of big, floury potatoes, adding a thick slice of butter as you mash (or, if you're me, skip the butter and just add some milk until the mash is the consistency you like). Soften the onion, peeled and chopped in a little butter. (You can add a few diced carrots and celery at this point, and the mushrooms if you're using them.) When the vegetables are softened a bit, add 500g minced lamb, letting it brown thoroughly. Now add your salt, pepper, rosemary and a shake or two of Worcestershire sauce, the tomatoes, and about 250ml of stock. Let the mixture simmer gently for 30 minutes. Tip the lamb into a shallow baking dish, top with the mash, use a fork to rake the top so that you get extra crispy bits, then bake for 35-40 minutes in a hot oven till the surface is crisp. Serves 6.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Quality Chop House


92-94 Farringdon Rd
London
EC1R 3EA

After seeing multiple Instagram posts about the food at The Quality Chop House, I finally decided to pay it a visit with A. It took us a while to find a suitable date but eventually we settled on mid-January and booked a table for two. They do notify you when they call to confirm the reservation that the seating in the restaurant is Victorian booths, so as a table of two you will likely be sharing with another couple of diners, but I figured we'd go find out whether or not sharing a table is uncomfortable. Thankfully the booths are quite long so you're not crammed up against each other - it's just a little annoying when you need to get out for any reason and you have to disturb the meal of the people next to you just to use the restroom.

The other different thing is that there is a different set menu every night for dinner, based on ingredients that the chefs feel like cooking that day. For £35, you get an amuse and bread, 4 different starters, a main, and a dessert. The cooking is excellent - no worries about eating too much that you think to yourself, I could make that at home. The first stunner we had was a Jerusalem artichoke dish where it had been prepared five different ways - pureed, roasted, pickled, crisped, and with the skin turned into crackling. I also loved the lamb's tongue with chorizo and chickweed, and cod with mushrooms (even A enjoyed the cod which he usually finds quite bland). For mains we shared a platter of venison, both as a sliced steak and as a braised pile of tender shredded meat, on top of cauliflower puree with beetroots and parsnips and kale on the side. And finally, dessert was rhubarb with hazelnut ice cream and meringues. We were absolutely stuffed by the end and ambled out into the drizzly night two hours later, satisfied and ready to go home.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bacchus Pub & Kitchen


177 Hoxton St
London 
N1 6PJ  

I should start this by saying I believe Bacchus is closed now. But I’ll forge ahead anyway. E, S and I were looking for a place to go for a Saturday lunch with our boys right before Christmas. When the first few pubs we tried wouldn’t take reservations, I remembered Bacchus – I’ve been here both in its previous incarnation as a fine dining restaurant but also in its current pub form and enjoyed both. At 2.30pm this day, it was essentially empty and we noticed loving goodbyes scrawled on some walls and pillars – indications that we were there for the last throes. But nevermind, my sea bass was still great, with crisp skin and fluffy roast potatoes underneath. A’s fish pie was good as well, and our two bottles of red helped us all celebrate merrily. And our final chocolate mousse with some tart Morello cherries was much darker and richer than expected, making the portion size perfect. So farewell, Bacchus – I hope something great comes back in your place.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Five Year Stats



So I suddenly realised I started this blog in 2009 and it’s now 2014 – in August I’ll have been blogging for five whole years. So this is jumping the gun a little, but who cares, if I don’t do this now I’ll probably forget when it actually rolls around.

Blogger is handy and tracks loads of fun data for you, so here are the top 5 posts of all time:

Also, while most of my readers are in the US and UK, which is no surprise, the next three countries are Russia, Poland and Germany. I have no explanation for this.

Finally, my page views peaked in January 2012 and have steadily declined since. Maybe I am getting more boring in my old age. Sorry.