Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pancake Day

I hadn't heard of Pancake Day until I arrived in the UK - I always heard it referred to as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday in the US. I'm not too knowledgeable about religious things but pancakes are something I can solidly support (even English pancakes, which are much thinner than American pancakes). Our friend A once worked as an au pair in France and the family had a fabulous pancake making machine - she was so delighted by it that she bought herself one before leaving. It only made sense that the machine should be put to work on Pancake Day - it has six little circular areas in which you pour pancake batter and it cooks them to perfection with no sticking. This meant an endless supply of pancakes for a dozen people, along with an abundance of different fillings. There were even separate bowls of savory and sweet pancake batters - above is a sweet pancake topped with ginger chocolate sauce (bought at the Ferry Plaza farmer's market in San Francisco), strawberry slices and toasted slivered almonds. Heaven in a bite. Other combinations of note were goats cheese & creamed spinach, and smoked salmon & cream cheese & asparagus.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

James Rotisserie and Cafe

21 James Street

I used to live on James Street, back in my student days, so it holds fond memories. It's certainly changed a lot since then - this cute cafe was certainly not part of the landscape. F and I were having a wander around Marylebone and ended up here to get a snack and some hot drinks - she got a hot chocolate and an apricot danish, and I had the pain au chocolat above. It was served warm, though I suspect it was microwaved. Flaky, buttery and with rich dark chocolate in every bite, it was sweet refuge from the cold downpour outside. I seem to remember a lot of gilded birdcages in the cafe as well - a touch of whimsy.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Best Cocoa Brownies

So after reading about these brownies, not once but twice, I was convinced that it was time to try these out sharpish. Thankfully all the ingredients are things I tend to keep in the kitchen, so it was the perfect thing to do when I was home one afternoon, feeling under the weather. Chocolate fixes many ailments, and the scent of them baking was enough to cheer me up.

Note: do not be dumb like me and try to stick your metal bowl full of butter, sugar and cocoa directly on the stove. Ugh. The simmering water method works but next time I might melt the butter first and then mix in sugar and cocoa.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (I advise smaller since they are so rich)

10 tablespoons (141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams) all-purpose flour

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F / 165
°C. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.

3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

5. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


City Point, Unit 1b
1 Ropemaker Street

I used to get takeout sushi from Blossom for dinner at least two or three times a week. Alas, the dinner expenses were eventually revoked and then with the discovery of Whitecross Street Market, even lunches were a rare occurrence. But on rainy, dismal, cold days, it's a good choice when meeting people who work in the offices above - no need to even carry an umbrella. Seafood bibimbap was chosen for its warming qualities - along with a bowl of miso soup that was included, it thawed out my icy fingers quickly. My favorite part is the screaming hot stone bowl that it comes in, frying bits of the rice that get stuck and quickly cooking all of the raw shrimp, salmon and mussels in the bowl once they're mixed in. I throw in the accompanying kimchi as well to make it a bit spicier and then remember to eat carefully so that I don't burn my tongue. Fantastic.

Sorry I have no picture - that is totally due to my own stupidity, I somehow deleted it. Oops.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Viet Hoa

70-72 Kingsland Road
London E2 8DP

Viet Hoa is the first Vietnamese restaurant I went to in London, back in 2006. Little did I know that I would end up moving into a place only 10 minutes away by bicycle - and that it would undergo a complete renovation, setting itself apart from the other Kingsland Road Vietnamese places with its modern and clean  design. Apparently we can even expect a bar area to open soon.  Thankfully, the renovation has not changed the tasty menu, and there has only been a slight increase in prices. C and I had fried tofu to start and then both ordered the Bun Xa with pork and lemongrass. This is a giant bowl of rice vermicelli noodles, grilled pork, bean sprouts, coriander, crushed peanuts, fried shallots and a fish-sauce based marinade that you pour in and mix with everything. Every bite is full of sweet, salty and sour flavors balancing against each other, and all for under six quid. I will be back.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Special Smoked Salmon

While at F's birthday party, I ate some smoked salmon that her partner A had doctored and was delighted by it. When asked how he made it, A said it was simple - just put smoked salmon, lemon juice, chopped coriander and minced garlic together in a container and let it sit, ideally for at least two hours, before serving. I tried this at home with smoked salmon trimmings and boy it is good. I'm not giving quantities because it's mostly to your own taste - I really like coriander, but not raw garlic, so I have a lot of coriander and just one clove of garlic in the container I made. Add enough lemon juice so that all of the salmon is moistened, but not so much that it is swimming in it. If you want to gussy it up, like at the party, you should use posh slices of smoked salmon rather than the trimmings, but the trimmings are just fine for my lunches at home. I have it over warm toast.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia (Sausage Carbonara)

A asked if we could try another recipe from Jamie's Italy, and this is what we picked out. Freaking delicious, this is - go and make it as soon as you can. Original recipe is below, with my substitutions in parentheses. The lemon zest and parsley in the sauce really gives this a unique flavor and cuts through the richness of the egg and cream and sausage and bacon.

Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia (serves 4)

4 Italian sausages (I used 6 Sainsbury's pork with pancetta and parmesan sausages)

4 slices of thick-cut pancetta, chopped (I used 4 smoked streaky bacon rashers)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
455g dried linguine (I used 500g)
4 large egg yolks
100 ml double cream
100g freshly grated Parmesan (I used 40g)
zest of 1 lemon
a sprig of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
extra virgin olive oil (I omitted)

With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins and pop all the meat out. Roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.

Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil (or not). Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta (or bacon) and continue cooking for a couple minutes until it's golden. While this is cooking, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the linguine, and cook until al dente.

In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan (or all of it if you are only using 40g), the lemon zest and parsley. When the pasta is cooked, drain in colander but reserve a little of the cooking water, and toss the pasta with the egg mixture back in the pasta pan. Add the meatballs and pancetta and toss everything together. The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble. If the sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water, a little bit at a time, until the sauce becomes smooth and silky. Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan (or not), drizzle with olive oil (or not) and serve. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Battle Deli

57 High Street
Battle, East Sussex
TN33 0EN

We were looking for a light lunch and popped into the village of Battle where we spotted the Battle Deli. I zeroed in on the lunch special of a quiche and two salads for 4.95. Broccoli and mushroom quiche was delicious with a flaky buttery pastry layer, and the potato salad with pesto was phenomenal - must remember to try adding pesto the next time I make potato salad. The couscous salad was boring but it was the only salad option that wasn't soaked in mayonnaise. There are a lot of posh nibbles for sale there, including a good cheese and meat selection and lots of jars of pickles and chutneys and condiments. Cute place with well-priced lunch food.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Malaysian coconut and lime ice cream

If you really love lime and coconut, this ice cream is for you. There are lime swirls in it which are quite tart and really surprising, and then it mellows out into a coconut milk flavor. Goes really well with Asian rice-based desserts - it's nice that it's not overly sweet. Good creamy texture too.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bodiam Castle Cafe

Bodiam Castle  (near Robertsbridge)

East Sussex 
TN32 5UA

While waiting to meet up with R & S at Bodiam Castle, we popped into the cafe and picked up a warm cheese scone. I'm always sceptical of cafes at tourist sites, but this was fabulous - warm and cheesy and flaky, with little flecks of green herbs. I was almost tempted to get another one so that we could each have our own but managed to restrain myself. If you see cheese scones at Bodiam Castle, try one.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Duck Eggs

I think I've already mentioned the Farm Direct service, but one of my favorite things to get there is duck eggs. You can get six for 1.50 and they are giant and fresh. Just look at the yolks in that picture - this is the best hangover cure, fried duck eggs over toast. YUM.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chinese Potstickers (Dumplings)

This is a pretty traditional dish for Chinese New Year since dumplings resemble the gold ingots that people used to use as currency. If it looks like money, it must be lucky! Below is an estimate of my mom's recipe (though we never really follow a recipe, I just throw things in until it looks right). It makes a ton of dumplings, but these freeze really well and then you can have yourself a plate of dumplings whenever you feel like it.

Chinese Potstickers (Dumplings)

2 kg pork mince

1/4 ginger, minced
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup oyster sauce
2 packages of Chinese chives, minced
1/2 head of garlic, minced
1/3 cup sesame oil
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
4 packages round dumpling wrappers (I use Golden Dragon brand)

Mix all of the ingredients except for the dumpling wrappers together in a large bowl. Sometimes it is easier to just get your hands in there and mix it all together. If you are worried about whether the mix tastes right, take a spoonful of the mix and fry it in a pan and taste - then you can add more of anything to the mix if you think it is missing.

To make the dumplings, take a wrapper and put 1 tablespoon of filling in the middle. Dip your finger in a bowl of water and then moisten the wrapper along the entire edge. Fold the wrapper in half, pinching in the middle, so you get a half-moon shape. Then with one side of the wrapper, make a fold towards the pinch in the middle, and then seal it against the other side. Do the same from the other side of the pinch. (If this is too difficult to understand, just seal the dumplings into half moons. The most important part is that the dumplings are sealed - the folds just make them prettier.)

Once dumplings are wrapped, you can either cook them or freeze them. To cook, either from fresh or frozen, pour some vegetable oil into a non-stick pan and place dumplings in the pan in one layer. Add enough water to the pan to come halfway up the dumplings, then put a lid on the pan that has a little vent for steam to escape and put pan on high heat. Check after about 10 minutes - the water should be boiling off. You can remove the lid at this point and then just keep checking them - once they are brown and crispy on the bottom and all the water has boiled off, they are done. Serve with soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and chopped scallions for dipping.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crispy Duck with Pancakes

More Chinese New Year festivities - had a few friends over for dinner and decided to attempt crispy duck with pancakes. Nigella has a recipe that just involves whacking a duck into an oven for 5 1/2 hours. I thought it was a bit odd that she doesn't call for any seasoning, so I rubbed my duck with lots of salt and Chinese five spice first. The skin goes all brown and crispy and wonderful and the meat is easy to shred with a fork. Pretty delicious, if I may say so myself.

Crispy Duck with Pancakes
(serves 5)

1 duck (mine was 2.6 kg)

Chinese five spice
Pancakes (I bought these in the Asian grocery store, they're frozen and heat up quickly in the microwave)
Peking duck sauce (comes in jars at Asian grocery stores)
6 spring onions
1 cucumber

Preheat oven to 170C/340F. Rub a generous amount of salt and Chinese five spice all over the duck. Place duck on a rack in a roasting tin and cook for five hours. Raise oven temperature to 220C/430F and roast for a further 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place duck on a platter to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Pour duck fat from roasting tin through a sieve and save for other uses (roasting potatoes!)

While duck is cooking, shred the light green and white parts of the spring onions into matchsticks. Slice cucumber into matchsticks.

To serve, shred duck skin and meat with a fork and place warmed pancakes on the table along with bowls of Peking duck sauce and the spring onions and cucumbers. Let guests wrap their own pancakes. Enjoy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bubble and Squeak

People joke a lot about British food, but there are a few dishes that I love, one being bubble and squeak. This was traditionally made to use up leftovers from the Sunday roast, so potatoes, cabbage and carrots are all you need. I had leftover cabbage, so added some boiled, mashed potatoes, some grated carrots and a couple of fried eggs to make a delicious and warming lunch. Rough recipe below:

1 cup of cooked, chopped cabbage

1 cup of mashed potatoes
1 grated carrot
2 eggs

Mix cabbage, potatoes and carrots together and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat some butter or oil in a non-stick pan, then press the vegetable mixture into the pan to form a thick pancake. Let it fry over medium heat until brown underneath, then flip sections of the pancake to cook the other side. Keep turning parts of the pancake until you see a lot of nice browned bits and remove it all to a plate. Fry two eggs in some oil or butter and top the vegetables with them. Dig in!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eagle Bar Diner

3-5 Rathbone Place

London W1T 1HJ

Happy Valentine's Day
everyone. In honor of it, I am going to tell you about something hot that will make your heart explode - the Eagle wings at Eagle Bar Diner. J had a bison burger, but I wanted wings, and the Eagle wings were listed as "very hot" in the menu. THEY ARE NOT KIDDING. At some point, I must have accidentally inhaled a chili seed that then got stuck in my throat. I proceeded to cough up my lungs for a few minutes while crying from the pain. Poor J just watched me, aghast. I managed to cough it out, but my throat burned for the next 30 minutes. So beware. Nothing seemed very eventful after that incident, but I guess I should point out that the wings did not include any of the little drumstick parts, just the bits with two bones and the wing tips. I have never seen wing tips included before - I assumed everyone cut them off and used them for stock or threw them away - they're not edible, really. But here was a bowl full of wing tips. And we were at a table so tucked away that the servers couldn't see us, so I had to go wave down someone to order. But, and this is a major but, the skinny fries are delicious. Crispy, salty, and served in a generous bowl. Are they enough to make up for the other failings? Hmm.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

OCD Pizza

After a series of mishaps, P and I needed something quick, comforting and hot for dinner. Enter Domino's Pizza and their Two for Tuesday deal. Pepperoni on one, mushrooms on the other. When we opened the pepperoni box, I had to take a picture. Look how incredibly carefully someone has put exactly three pieces of pepperoni on every slice! Maybe this is how Domino's does their pizza, but I've never seen anything like this before. Thank you, Domino's pizza maker, for being so detail-oriented so no one feels like their piece of pizza has less pepperoni than another.

Friday, February 12, 2010

One Pot Pasta

So I admit the picture above may not be the most appetizing thing you have ever seen, but it certainly tasted lovely and was made with a minimum of things to wash later. You basically poach some salmon in a pot (I bet chicken would also be lovely) and once it's done, you remove the salmon to a plate you intend to eat off of. Then you bring the poaching water to a boil and boil some pasta in it. While pasta is cooking, flake or cut up the salmon into bite size pieces. Once the pasta is done, drain it, toss the salmon pieces in, add pesto, salt and pepper to taste, and voila - quick and easy lunch. Only one pot and one plate to wash up afterwards. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chinese Steamed Fish

Steamed fish is one of the easiest dishes I know - the key is getting really fresh fish. You put one or two fish in a microwaveable safe dish and cover with cling film. Microwave them until done (I had about 1.5 kilos of rainbow trout in this dish and microwaved on high for 10 minutes). Remove the cling film and then scatter sliced ginger, spring onions and coriander over the top. Heat up a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan until it is screaming hot, and pour over the fish and herbs. Add a few tablespoons of soy sauce over the top and serve. SO GOOD.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu with Mushrooms

This is not exactly authentic, so apologies in advance if you're looking for a real ma po tofu recipe. Instead, I'm using things that are relatively easy to find in a Chinese grocery store. Ma po tofu is usually made with ground beef or pork, but I substituted various mushrooms for the meat. Often you'll find peas in it as well, but I don't have any around so the mushrooms will have to do. Went down a treat at our Chinese New Year dinner, so I think it's a pretty good substitute for the meaty version!

Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu with Mushrooms

2 800g blocks of tofu (you can use silken tofu, but be careful how much you stir since you don't want it to fall apart; I used semi-soft tofu this time), diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 spring onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 inch piece of ginger, finely minced
1/3c black bean sauce
1/3c chili sauce
1 tbsp ground Sichuan peppercorns, plus more to garnish
10 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and diced
1 425g can straw mushrooms
50g dried black fungus, rehydrated
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

To rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms, cover them with hot water and let sit for an hour. Remove from water and squeeze out excess moisture, then dice. Reserve the mushroom water.

To rehydrate dried black fungus, soften in warm water for 30 minutes, then cut off the tough stem bits and discard. Slice the remaining fungus into smaller pieces if necessary.

Heat vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add garlic, ginger and all but 2 tbsp of spring onions and fry briefly until garlic is just beginning to get some color. Add Shiitake mushrooms, straw mushrooms, and black fungus and stir fry for a few minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add black bean sauce, chili sauce, and ground Sichuan peppercorns and mix for one minute. Add tofu and reserved Shiitake mushroom water and mix, then add salt and additional chili to taste. Cover and cook for five minutes. Add some cornstarch slurry to thicken sauce and keep adding and mixing until sauce is thick enough to coat the tofu.
Garnish with a sprinkle of ground Sichuan peppercorns and the reserved 2 tbsp spring onions before serving.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Mena Wang's Baked Nian Gao

This is a traditional dessert for Chinese New Year - 'nian' is the word for sticky, but it sounds the same as the word for year, and 'gao' means cake, but sounds the same as high or lofty. We like eating things that are homonyms for fortunate or auspicious things, so this is the perfect dessert for the New Year.

Usually, nian gao is steamed, but my mom always made it in cake form. Sadly she couldn't remember the recipe, so I had to go with an internet recipe that I found here. I had to make some adjustments - I don't have a 9" by 13" cake pan, so I baked it in a round, 10' silicone cake pan instead. Also, I took out the red bean paste because my mom's nian gao never had any in it. I think Mochiko is a popular brand of rice flour in the US but since I couldn't find any in London, I used Chewy brand rice flour from Thailand. This makes a very runny batter - it doesn't resemble what normal cake batter looks like at all. While the result tasted ok, it was nothing at all like my mom's cake, so the search continues...

Nian Gao

16 oz. (454 g) Mochiko sweet rice flour
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbl baking soda

Mix everything with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed.

Sprinkle rice flour over a 9"x13" baking dish that has been oiled or sprayed with Pam.

Pour batter into the baking pan.

Bake in oven at 350F / 180C degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.

Test for doneness by inserting a chopstick (this is Chinese New Year’s Cake after all)—if it comes out clean, it is done.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Cocoa Banana Muffins

We always seems to have extra bananas around the house that are past their prime - the only good use for them is in baked goods. Those of you who know me know I hate bananas, so the more I can do to disguise them, the better. I stumbled on a recipe for cocoa banana hazelnut muffins, and with quite a lot of tweaking I managed to come up with a variation using ingredients I already had in the house. These turned out amazingly well - there is still a faint hint of banana in there, but the cocoa makes it chocolatey enough that I don't mind. They're also only slightly sweet, so you could eat one for breakfast without feeling too strange. Plus, they're no more unhealthy than normal banana muffins - cocoa powder is fat free and sugar free!

Cocoa Banana Muffins

Inspired by La Tartine Gourmande


Heaping cup of plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg

1/2 cup sugar
90 g salted butter, melted (or use unsalted and then put a pinch of salt in the mix)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork


Preheat the oven to 350 F/200C.
In a bowl, combine the flours with the baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt; set aside.
In another bowl, mix melted butter with bananas, egg, vanilla and sugar.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Spoon into a muffin tin (you can line with paper cases, or use a non-stick tin like I did). Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Pan-Baked Lemon-Almond Tart

I love Mark Bittman's column, The Minimalist, in the New York Times - it's all about simple recipes for delicious dishes. This caught my eye - a flourless lemon-almond tart that is done in under 20 minutes. I reduced the sugar a tiny bit and it was lovely - it had a really fresh lemony tang and an amazingly creamy texture. The recipe says it serves four - those are very generous portion sizes, but it is yummy, so plan accordingly.

Pan-Baked Lemon-Almond Tart

4 eggs
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup sliced almonds, more for garnish
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tablespoons butter
Powdered sugar, for garnish.

1. Heat oven to 400F/200C degrees. In a bowl, combine eggs, sugar, salt, ground almonds, cream, sliced almonds, lemon zest and juice.

2. Melt butter in an 8-inch ovenproof skillet over low heat; when foam has subsided, add almond mixture to pan, tilting pan to distribute batter evenly. Continue to cook tart on stovetop until edges just begin to set, then put pan in oven and finish cooking, about 15 minutes more.

3. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and sliced almonds. Serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Bisbrooke Ostrich Farms Burger

Market Street

Surprise, surprise, there's a market on Market Street. Bisbrooke Ostrich Farms had a stall there, selling ostrich burgers, hot dogs and ostrich steak sandwiches. Having never tried ostrich before, A was curious so we ordered one to share. The signs said these were low fat, and the way they were being cooked (smashed, poked and prodded on the grill) made me worry that they would be overcooked and dry, but I was wrong - it was juicy and full of flavor. Definitely different from beef, with a bit more of a coarsely ground sausage texture? They were very well-seasoned, and we heard them tell someone in front of us that there were some breadcrumbs in the burger mix. I'd certainly have more ostrich if it ever came my way...

Friday, February 05, 2010

Chocolat Chocolat

21 St. Andrews Street

While in Cambridge for a day trip, this chocolate shop beckoned us in with promises of hot chocolate and goodies. We managed to restrain ourselves and only chose one small chocolate each, in addition to a tiny cup of intensely chocolatey hot chocolate.  We picked out the Moliere and the Buchette that are in the picture above - one is a 'ginger cream covered with dark chocolate' and the other is 'dark chocolate and pistachio marzipan'. There are dozens of varieties to try and you use tiny little tongs and baskets to pick out whatever you'd like. If you're into fancy chocolates, check this place out.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Bloomsbury Deli

14 Great Russell Street

Since we were in the area for a conference and needed to grab some lunch, A and I popped into this deli, which had a little bit of seating in the front. We ordered two paninis - a chicken escalope and cheese, and a tuna and cheese - they were basically baguettes that were pressed in a panini machine. The crispy toasted exterior encased a tasty filling - great for a quick lunch and so much better than prepackaged sandwiches. I'd recommend this place if you're close by and need something warm and fast.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tomato and Pesto Focaccia

The breadmaker we have has a dough setting and includes a recipe for focaccia. After it makes the dough, you just pat it out into a big flat rectangle and make some indentations where you push in halved cherry tomatoes, and then you spread about two tablespoons of pesto on the surface. You let it rise somewhere warm for 30 minutes, then add a quick sprinkling of sea salt, and then bake for 30 minutes at 190C.

I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong, but I think of focaccia as a much lighter, springier bread than what was produced - this is more like pizza dough. I might need to try again with a different kind of yeast or something - I'll post a real recipe when I get this exactly how I like it.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Winter Bean Soup

I bought a piece of smoked gammon the other day, even though I've never cooked it before. So after reading about gammon on the internet, I decided to boil it with some carrots and onions before roasting it. While it was roasting, I was pondering what to do with the lovely broth in my pot, so I used an immersion blender and whizzed it all up into a pretty orange colored silky soup. Some cannelini beans and herbs were thrown in, and voila, a tasty soup was born!

Winter Bean Soup

500g smoked gammon

2 carrots
1 large onion
1 small potato
2 tins of cannelini beans
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp ground black pepper

1. Boil gammon, carrots, onion and potato with enough water to cover for 30 minutes. Remove gammon and use it for a different dish. Blend liquid and vegetables until smooth.

2. Add beans, basil, black pepper and salt to taste (make sure you try it before you salt it since the gammon may have left quite a bit of salt behind).  Simmer for another 15-20 minutes and then serve.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Tai Ka Lok

18 Gerrard Street

J and I were going to see a movie in the Chinatown area so decided to eat dinner there. Tai Ka Lok had come recommended by another blogger so we gave it a try. Prices are very reasonable - around 5 quid for the roast duck and crispy pork over rice, and 6 quid for the Chinese mushrooms with seasonal vegetables. However, you really get what you pay for - the duck had very little meat on it and was incredibly fatty, and 'seasonal vegetables' meant napa cabbage and carrots. While it all tasted fine and the crispy pork had very crispy skin indeed, I think I'd actually be ok with paying a bit more to get better quality dishes. Still, there are a lot more places to try in Chinatown so onwards ho!