Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Central Hall Cafe at the Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road

After a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Darwin Centre, A and I popped into the Central Hall Cafe to grab some lunch before heading out. There were loads of tasty looking pastries but instead we tried to be healthy and ended up with tuna and rocket baguettes. These were quite disappointing - I could barely taste the rocket, the tuna was mashed with too much mayonnaise, and the baguette was bland and too soft. Plus, they were over four quid each.  I will make sure to avoid this place if I go to the Natural History Museum again - their deli and restaurant look a bit more promising.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Barley Soup al Verde with Mushrooms

Call me weird, but I love pearl barley. I had a bag of it from when I used to throw it into every vegetable soup I made. Every veggie in the fridge that seemed appropriate for soup would go into a pot with a big handful of pearl barley. Then I forgot about it for a while, until I saw this recipe, and then I realized I had an onion, mushrooms and a small head of cabbage in the fridge. I picked up a bag of spinach and was ready to go. I love mushrooms and I thought they really helped the soup and gave it a meaty umami flavor. Next time I would probably add the spinach closer to the end of the cooking time - if you put it in near the beginning of the cooking time, like in the recipe, it disintegrates a bit and loses most of its spinachy character. This is not the prettiest of soups, but it makes up for it by tasting good.

Barley Soup al Verde with Mushrooms

Adapted from the Silver Spoon via Dinner Tonight


8 cups stock, boiling (I used some homemade chicken stock and topped it off with some OXO cubes)

1 onion, diced
800g mixed mushrooms (I had 500g chestnut and 300g baby button), quartered
1 small head cabbage (about 1 1/2 cups, sliced)
100g baby leaf spinach
3 dried bay leaves
1 cup pearl barley
grated parmesan (optional)
olive oil


1. Put a large glug of olive oil into a large pot and add onions. Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms to the pot and stir, cook for 5 minutes. Add cabbage and spinach and bay leaves to the pot, and then pour stock into pot. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat.

2. Add pearl barley and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until barley is tender.

3. Serve with some grated parmesan on top (optional).

Monday, March 29, 2010


40 Strutton Ground

Popped in here to do some work before a meeting and decided to treat myself to a chocolate muffin. I have mixed feelings about the muffin though - see the gooey bit in the middle? That was awesome. See the rest of the muffin? It was a bit dry and not so awesome. If they could make the whole muffin as awesome as the middle part, I would be hooked on these things like crack. So it's probably a good thing they're not that great. This place mainly sells pizza (I know, I know, why was I eating muffins at a pizza place?!?!) and seemed to be doing a brisk trade in it, so I may have to give it a try sometime.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


66 Chandos Place

In a nutshell, Wahaca is a pretty good Mexican restaurant for London. If you transplanted it to California or Texas (or Mexico), I'm sure it wouldn't be nearly as popular. On a Thursday night, the wait was an hour to an hour and twenty minutes for a table for two. Thankfully there is a pretty decent bar nearby that does 3.95 happy hour cocktails until 8pm. P and I had some drinks and then went back to check on the queue - after ordering another drink at Wahaca's bar, we were seated. To make ordering easier, we decided to go with the sampler platter for two and tacked on an order of beef tostadas since P is unable to eat herrings. Platter is a bit of a misnomer, it's just a collection of small plates that come out willy nilly as they're ready, hence the sad photo above which is the first two tacos that came out - seasonal vegetables on top, pork pibil on bottom. Red and green salsas to the right, to add at will. Other dishes were chicken taquitos, huitlacoche quesadillas, black beans and rice and herring tostadas. The pork pibil was incredibly greasy and left a bright orange pool of oil all over everything I touched, which was not so nice. The herring tostadas were also very fishy - the last time I came I think they were making these with salmon, which was much nicer, but now they are using sustainable fish - too bad it doesn't taste as good. I liked the taquitos and quesadilla the most out of the selection. All in all, it's ok - not a raving success but not a failure either - and it still fares much better than what usually passes for Mexican food in London. If you don't order drinks, it's even relatively cheap for dinner.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Smoked Haddock Chowder

I picked up some smoked haddock from the supermarket even though I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. Then I had a craving for chowder and realized it would be perfect. I've taken quite a lot of liberties with the recipe from Serious Eats but it still turned out wonderfully. Next time I may try and mash a little of the potato into the chowder to thicken it, but I also quite liked this version where the broth was a little lighter than usual.

Smoked Haddock Chowder

Adapted from Serious Eats


4 cups whole milk
250g smoked haddock (fresh or frozen)
4 rashers unsmoked bacon (sliced and diced into 1/2 inch pieces)
1 cup onion (medium dice)
1/2 cup celery (medium dice)
1/2 cup carrot (fine dice)
1 large potatoes (very fine dice)
2 large potatoes (medium dice)
2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley (rough chop)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. Put milk and haddock in a pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Take the pan off the heat and allow to infuse at room temperature until cool.

2. In another pan, cook bacon over low heat until the bacon has shrunken in size, given off a little of its fat, and turned a light brown. Add onions, celery, carrots, black pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook over low heat for about 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Add the potatoes to the bacon and vegetables. Strain the milk into the vegetables. Flake the haddock into large chunks. Discard all skin, bones, and any dry bits. Add haddock to chowder and give it a good stir. Cook until the potatoes are tender (approximately 45 minutes), checking and stirring intermittently so they do not burn. Just before serving, stir in chopped parsley and lemon juice.

Friday, March 26, 2010


67 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4PF

Navarro's was the restaurant chosen for E's 30th birthday celebration - about 20 of us fit around a large table in their downstairs room. M did a great job of organizing and arranged for us to just have a load of tapas brought around for a set price per head. The picture above is probably only about 1/3 or 1/4 of the different dishes that ended up on our tables - from left, going clockwise, there are prawns (one of my favorite dishes, these tasted fresh and were cooked perfectly), garlic mushrooms (yum), tortilla Española, (passable), patatas bravas (good, but could have been crispier and spicier, I think) and chorizo (always good). Before dishes came out they had already set the table with cheeses, olives and roasted pepper salads (surprisingly delicious, I think the peppers were marinated in a vinegary dressing). There were also skewers of grilled chicken and lamb that were presented in fantastic stands, hanging over plates of vegetables and roasted potatoes. I also really liked the deep-fried calamari, which was tender and in a crisp batter. All in all, a lively and tasty dinner that got us all ready for more partying!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Healthy Veggie Soup

I was feeling slightly vegetable-deprived lately and also needed to free up some space in the freezer, so I pulled out a couple of quarts of chicken/duck stock that I had made a few weeks ago. I was hoping to make something with a light broth, so I just started cutting up whatever vegetables I could find in the fridge. The end result was surprisingly enjoyable, which is why I'm putting up a post on something so simple - I'd actually like to remember how to recreate this!

Healthy Veggie Soup


1 medium onion

3 carrots
2 stalks of celery
4 courgettes
1 tin of borlotti beans
1 tin of canellini beans
2 quarts of chicken stock (I had 1 quart chicken, 1 quart duck)
1 tablespoon gently crushed peppercorns
olive oil


Dice onion, carrots, celery and courgettes into bean-sized pieces. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, gently cook the onions in some olive oil over low heat until they turn translucent. Add carrots, celery and courgettes and cook for a few minutes. Add chicken stock and both tins of beans, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste and the peppercorns and keep simmering soup until all vegetables are tender. Serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Peppers and Spice

40 Balls Pond Rd
N1 4AU

After reading some pretty good reviews of this Caribbean takeaway that is close by, I decided to try it out for dinner. Our first trip was on a Monday night, when we ordered jerk chicken, rice and peas, potato salad, mac and cheese, and a beef pattie. Unfortunately, the chicken was dry, and mac and cheese was a bit glutinous, and the potato salad was unremarkable. The beef pattie was good, with a spicy and flavorful filling, and the rice and peas were tasty as well, but that's not a very good hit rate for a meal. Thankfully, we gave it another chance on a Friday night with some friends, and it was like eating at a different restaurant. This time the jerk chicken was spicier and more moist, and we also tried a lot of other dishes - curry mutton, curry chicken, and oxtail stew. One thing to be cautious about is the amount of bones in these dishes, but they were packed with savory sauces that the rice and peas soaked up. A side order of saltfish was a bit strange - very tough to eat and I don't think I'd get it again. The collard greens were great, though the other salads (pasta, potato and cole slaw) were reminiscent of Costco preprepared foods. I think I'd stick to the main meals here, especially the jerk chicken and curries, and avoid going on a Monday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Three-Way Drop Cookies

I started out looking for a recipe to use up some of my glut of oranges, lemons and limes (I have a weakness for the pound-a-bowl man around the corner). That's how I stumbled on this recipe, which I tweaked a bit to use up other things I had around the house. It's pretty fun to make three kinds of cookies with one basic dough recipe. Not sure that the molasses sugar worked - the cookies came out awfully dark. Also, they're very flat, so I'm not sure if that's because I didn't manage to cream the butter and sugar for long enough, or if the dough wasn't cold enough, or what. Oh well, they still tasted good.

Drop Cookie Dough
Adapted from Serious Eats
- makes 45 cookies (15 of each flavor) -


225g (1 cup or 2 sticks) salted butter, softened

150g (3/4 cup) dark molasses sugar
60g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
250g (2 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

For Chocolate Chip:

1/2 cup chocolate chips or finely chopped dark chocolate

For Oatmeal-Blueberry:

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons rolled oats
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dried blueberries

For Citrus:

Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime
Zest of 1 orange


1. Preheat the oven to 160C / 325°F.

2. Line three baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

3. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy (I used a hand mixer).

4. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and continue to mix one minute.

5. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and continue to mix until well combined.

6. Divide the dough into three equal parts in separate mixing bowls.

7. Add the flavoring ingredients—chocolate chips, oatmeal and blueberries, citrus zest—to each bowl and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined.

8. Spoon teaspoon-sized drops onto the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

9. Bake cookies until they are golden brown and slightly soft in the center, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

10. Let cool at room temperature.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lemon Curd

Another wonderful Nigel Slater recipe - I consider myself fortunate that A has to buy the Observer every Sunday. As soon as A spotted the lemon curd recipe, he asked if we had all the ingredients in the house and lo and behold, we had exactly four lemons in the fruit bowl. I think that's enough of a sign to make something immediately, don't you? This tastes like lemons and sunshine in a jar - good for beating off the winter blues. Spread some on some toast and smile.

Lemon Curd

From Nigel Slater in the Observer Magazine
Makes 1 big jar full


Zest and juice of 4 lemons

200g sugar
100g butter
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk


1. Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter, cut into cubes, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stir with a whisk until the butter has melted.

2. Mix the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork,then stir into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like. It should feel heavy on the whisk.

3. Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools. Pour into spotlessly clean jars and seal. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ramoush Restaurant

41-43 Lisson Grove

Found myself near Edgware Road the other day around lunchtime and needed a place to eat and do some work. This little cafe/restaurant fit the bill - I picked a sunny window seat and settled in. The man and woman running the cafe were incredibly nice and friendly - hot tea arrived quickly, and they let me sit and work for a while before ordering lunch. I chose the grilled half chicken lunch for 3.50. Unfortunately, the chicken was a bit dry and the chips were under fried and a little greasy. The little pot of chili sauce (which the waitress recommended) did redeem the chicken a bit though. A few hours later, I was finished and off to my next appointment and received big smiles and goodbyes when I left. I like the people here enough that I think I would go back if I was in the area, but I'd probably try a different dish.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Almond Cookies

I was given a copy of Jamie's America for Christmas and have finally gotten around to making something from it. The recipes look delicious so when I was scrabbling around for some kind of sweet thing to make for an after dinner treat, I fell upon an almond and pine nut cookie recipe. Sadly, the store closest to me does not carry pine nuts, so I've adapted it a bit to make use of toasted almond flakes instead. These are fabulous - crispy and crunchy around the edges with a bit of chew in the middle, and full of nutty, buttery flavor.

Almond Cookies

Adapted from Jamie's America
Makes about 45 cookies


200g toasted almond flakes

110g sugar
75g soft brown sugar
100g melted salted butter
1 large egg
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
35g porridge oats


Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.

Blitz 150g of almonds in a food processor until you get coarse crumbs. Put into a large mixing bowl along with sugars, butter, egg, golden syrup, vanilla extract, flour and baking soda. Mix well.

Add the remaining 50g of flaked almonds and porridge oats and fold into the mixture really well.

Line baking sheets with baking parchment. Drop heaping tablespoons of mix on to trays, leaving space between the cookies for spreading. I managed about 9 cookies per baking sheet. Do not flatten them, they will spread themselves in the oven.

Bake in oven for 10 minutes until golden around the edges. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cornish Cheeses

Part of our cheese plate for St. Piran's Day involved these two Cornish cheeses (another one being the Cornish Cruncher Cheddar, already discussed here). The top one is Cornish Yarg, which is a delightful name for a cheese, but is somewhat brought down once one learns that Yarg is actually just Gray (the surname of the maker) spelled backwards. Yarg is a light-tasting, cow's-milk cheese covered in nettles, which is what gives it the pretty outer coating - you can see it better in this picture. The other cheese is St. Endellion Cornish Brie, which is hand-made using Cornish double cream. It is certainly oozy enough that I believe a lot of double cream was used. My feeling about both of these cheeses is just the fondness that I have for cheese in general - neither of them particularly stood out for me in either a good or bad way, but they made for suitable candidates on a Cornish cheese platter.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cheese and Wine Party

Being cheese-lovers and wine-lovers, we decided to have a party involving the two. Everyone was asked to bring one bottle of wine and one cheese. But because we have incredibly enthusiastic friends, between the five of us there were 11 cheeses. A list of the contenders:

  • Camembert (Coeur de Lion) - very mild, though I think we could have aged it for a few more weeks
  • French Chevre Blanc Goats Cheese (Sainsbury's) - lovely and tangy and creamy, I could eat loads of this
  • Somerset Goats Cheese (Sainsbury's) - too mild, not enough goats cheese flavor
  • Manchego Gran Reserva (Sainsbury's) - this stuff is extra matured and it is fantastic
  • Smoked Cheddar (Sainsbury's) - great smoky flavor goes well with cheddar
  • Brie de Meaux (Tesco Finest) - this was really ripe and ready for eating, it oozed all over the cheese board
  • Cornish Cruncher Cheddar (M&S) - apparently the most mature cheddar that M&S sell, makes for amazing cheese toasties
  • Halloumi (M&S) - we ate this fresh and it was squeaking like crazy when you chewed, I think halloumi is still nicer when it's been grilled or fried though
  • Romont Reserve Gruyere (Tesco Finest) - similar to aged Comte, this was complex and nutty and delicious
  • Blue Monday (made by Blur bassist Alex James) - creamy, relatively mild, but I still hate blue cheese
  • Stilton with Cranberries (M&S) - I also dislike cheese with fruit in it so I didn't try this one

To go with the cheese, I experimented with making some baguettes. I used the bread machine to make dough for "French sticks" but when shaping the dough into baguettes, I apparently made them too big - they came out of the oven more like loafs than baguettes, though they were still crusty and warm and perfect for eating with cheese.

You can read about our wine tasting here - all in all, an excellent evening that I'm sure will be repeated again soon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


135 Wardour Street
Soho, London W1F 0UT

On A's birthday, we made the unfortunate mistake of not eating before drinking, so as we were switching from a pub to a cocktail bar, we dashed across the street to Princi to grab something to eat. Everything looked amazing but I wanted something a bit portable and chose this piece of pizza with cheese and ham. Admittedly, after a few drinks, anything would have tasted good, but this was particularly delicious, even in my slightly impaired state. It was certainly tasty enough that I will be returning to start my evening there soon and try a few more of their offerings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Crêperie Bretonne

67 Rue Charonne, 11e
75011 Paris

T & A's upstairs neighbors recommended this place for dinner, so we gave it a try and loved it. The menu is very simple - savory and sweet crêpes are available, and there is Bretonne cider to drink alongside. I had a very traditional crêpe - ham, cheese and egg - while others at the table experimented with ham and mushroom, egg and cheese, and tomato, cheese and mushrooms. Everyone scarfed their crêpe down quickly as they were so delicious, with crispy edges. We couldn't resist dessert crêpes as well - I had one smothered in Nutella, of course. Read all about the amazing cider here - all in all I think this was my favorite meal in Paris due to the quaintly decorated restaurant, the great food, the reasonable prices, and the company.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Treacle Tart

I must admit, this is another one of those British desserts that I found a bit horrifying to start with - I had my first taste at a bakery in Crouch End and it was just so much sugar in one bite that it made my whole mouth cloyingly sweet and I felt like my teeth were rotting while eating it. Fastforward several years to a party A and I are attempting to throw in honor of St. Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall. Most of the Cornish dessert options seemed to involve a lot of dried fruit. Treacle tart to the rescue - easy to make, simple ingredients, and perfect with some Cornish clotted cream. Though as you can see from the picture above, perhaps something was slightly off - it was chewier than expected and very dense. Maybe more golden syrup next time?

Treacle Tart
Adapted from BBC Food


250g shortcrust pastry
135g golden syrup
125g fresh white breadcrumbs
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground ginger


1. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 25cm/10in pie plate or flan tin.
2. Warm the syrup over a gentle heat and add the breadcrumbs, grated lemon rind and 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, and the ginger. Pour into the pastry case.
3. Bake in the oven at 190C/375F/Gas 5 for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cornish Mackerel and Potato Cakes

St. Piran's is the patron saint of Cornwall and so for his birthday, March 5, A and I had a little St. Piran's themed dinner. It is actually quite difficult, thinking up Cornish foods other than pasties and clotted cream, so it took a little bit of searching before we came up with a starter of Cornish mackerel over Cornish potato cakes. I don't think they're usually served together like this, but I had to take some liberties.

The mackerel was incredible and I will definitely be making it again - the lime, coriander, garlic and chili marinade permeated the fish and it roasted up very quickly under the grill. It was probably helped by the fact that we got fresh fish from the grocery store that day.

Alas, the potato cakes did not fare as well - I wouldn't recommend the recipe below as it made cakes that I think were too gummy in texture. It seemed like a lot of flour when I was mixing it together, and after tasting it, I think that is the problem - I would prefer my potato cakes to taste more of potato and less of gluten. I should have stuck with the original plan - mash potatoes, shape into cakes, dust with flour and fry.

Cornish Mackerel With Lime And Coriander

From a Waitrose recipe


2 whole Cornish mackerel, cleaned, from the fish service counter
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp olive oil
20g pack fresh coriander, finely chopped (including the stems)
1 clove garlic, crushed


Make 4 diagonal slashes across the mackerel on each side, cutting down to the bone. Place in a shallow dish.

Make the rub by mixing the chilli, lime zest and juice, olive oil, coriander, garlic and a little sea salt. Place one-third of the rub into the cavity of each fish and rub the remainder over the skin. Cover, place in the fridge and marinate for 30 minutes-1 hour.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill to high - or heat the barbecue, making sure the coals are glowing red under a thin layer of ash before you start cooking. Place the mackerel on a grill rack, drizzling over any remaining lime juice from the rub, and cook for 6-7 minutes on each side until the skin is crispy and the flesh just-cooked.

(I filleted the mackerel before serving, placing half a fillet on each potato cake.)

Potato Cakes
Adapted from Cornish Recipes


4 medium potatoes 

2 oz butter
a little milk salt
4 oz plain flour white pepper


Peel the potatoes, chop into 1" cubes, and boil until soft in lightly salted water. Drain potatoes, mash with a little milk and season with salt and white pepper. Leave to cool.

In a bowl, rub the margarine into the flour, until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the (cool) mashed potatoes, and mix well.

With floury hands, form the mixture into patty shapes the size of burgers, and fry in a little butter in a frying pan, turning halfway through. Delicious served with a little butter on top.

(These can be frozen easily after forming into patty shapes. Flash freeze on trays, then gather up into bags later. Easy to make a lot in advance and then just pull out whenever you want a fry-up.) 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Beef Rendang

F was itching to try out his new pestle and mortar so A and I were invited over for dinner. F made this beef rendang recipe, which was quite tasty but I think we all agreed could do with some tweaks. Some extra chili, more finely ground lemongrass and perhaps some extra salt and longer cooking times could all help? The coconutty sauce was really good with the rice - I was making sure to scrape up all the sauce I could. Hopefully F will want to experiment some more with the pestle and mortar, since this was a delicious first dish. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sandwich Box

9 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6ED

On my way to a class, I stopped by the Sandwich Box for bacon and egg on a roll - I'm not sure why but I was feeling quite in need of something filling for breakfast. It's a small place, but the rolls are fresh and soft and the fillings are fine - nothing extraordinary, just a decent breakfast roll. If I recall correctly, it was also only 1.40, so it falls into the quick and cheap category. I certainly wouldn't go looking for it again, but nor would I avoid it in the future if I happened to find myself outside.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

French Farmer's Market

Avenue Daumesnil, 12e
Paris, France

Every Sunday morning, there's a farmers market outside of T & A's flat. We went out for a wander and I took these pictures of some of the many beautiful items for sale. T & A get their vegetables here each week, and A & I obviously couldn't go to a French market without picking up some cheese (Comte to be exact). It was nice to see a lot of people out doing their shopping - I would love for a market like this to be on my doorstep. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Convention Cafe

Convention Metro

I know, I know. Second place in a row where I don't have an address (or even a proper name). It's right next to Convention metro stop though - one of those corner cafes. Basically, we were starving after we finished at a photography exhibition and this place looked decent (and was still serving lunch). I went with one of the daily specials, a salad that was like no other salad I've ever seen. A giant plate came out, heaped with lettuce, then fried potatoes, cheese, ham, croutons and a poached egg. If all salads were like this salad, I'd be happy to eat salad daily! This was reasonable for 10 euros, but my friends felt a little more ripped off when their bowls of French onion soup rang in at 8.50 each, and a croque monsieur was 15 euros. Still, for a corner cafe, I suppose these prices aren't ridiculous, and I would recommend the salad, so I guess I'll give this one a pass.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A et H Jourdan Patissier

Rue de la Convention

Apologies for the lack of firm address, but I can't find this patissier anywhere online, and the photo I took of the exterior only says "A et H Jourdan Patissier". Anyway, we were walking along Rue de la Convention from Commerce metro to Parc George Brassens, so it's somewhere along there. I was on the lookout for macarons, having found a canele the day before, and this was the first one we spotted. It was larger than I expected, almost filling the palm of my hand. A nice, crispy exterior broke through to a smooth, sweet chocolate filling. A tried a pistachio one and liked it as well - I have no idea how she restrains herself from eating these goodies every day! It definitely satisfied my sweet tooth though - one of these large macarons is more than enough for a snack.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Brasserie Au Metro

8 Place Felix Eboue
75012 Paris, France

Something about being in France makes me crave steak tartare. I very rarely order it anywhere else, but once I step foot onto French soil, watch out. This was a lovely rendition, with plenty of capers, finely chopped onion, and egg mixed into the raw steak. Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco came on the side and I generously added both. The salad was dressed with a tangy mustard dressing that made it taste much nicer than a pile of leaves normally does, and the fries were wonderfully golden and crisp on the outside and soft and potatoey on the inside. Pretty good, considering this was a hastily thought up destination after the Cambodian place we had planned to go to was rammed. A found his bavette steak a little chewy and perhaps a tad too rare for his liking (but polished off the whole thing regardless), T had what looked like a pretty decent vegetarian lasagne, and other A said her duck breast with risotto was good. So, not destination dining, but if I found myself in the area craving steak tartare again, I'd go back.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Aux Désirs de Manon

129 rue St Antoine

75004 Paris, France

While rambling around the Marais, I kept an eye out for canelés. I happened to see Aux Désirs de Manon and lo and behold, a lovely pile of canelés were inside. A plumped for a pistachio
 éclair, and the other A got a pistachio marshmallow. What a nice way to keep your energy up when on a long walk. My favorite of these three was the pistachio éclair, surprisingly, as I'm not always that fond of pistachios. It may be blasphemous to admit this, but I preferred the canelé I had in Primrose Hill to the one here - this one was larger and dare I say, blander, with a less crunchy exterior. Ah well, I am just being picky, it was still good.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Belin Croustilles

I saw these in the supermarket by T&A's flat and grabbed them on impulse. They looked a little like Cheetos, which was enough to tempt me to try them. My goodness, was I right! They are luxury Cheetos, flavored with goat's cheese rather than bright orange fake cheese dust. I polished off this bag over the weekend and am now regretting that I didn't fill a bag with them to smuggle back to London. Why oh why do such delicious things only exist in foreign countries?!

Friday, March 05, 2010

Paris Cheese Fest #1

Lucky us, T and his girlfriend A live in Paris now so Eurostar tickets were booked for a weekend visit. Upon arrival, we quickly agreed that cheese would make for a nice lunch, so we popped out to the local grocery store and grabbed some interesting looking ones. From top and clockwise, they are a Mont d'Or, a St. Marcellin, and a cheese that resembles Comte (bought on the recommendation of an old man who was also cheese shopping). Next stop was Stéphane Vandermeersch's boulangerie for some baguettes (278, AVENUE DAUMESNIL, 75012, 12ÈME ARRONDISSEMENT, PARIS, FRANCE).

We dug in once we were back in T&A's adorable flat - I liked all of the cheeses, but I think the faux-Comte was my favorite. I have just now realized that perhaps the Mont d'Or could have been baked with white wine, which might make it a very different proposition - it was a bit dense and thick when we ate it straight out of the container, and I think baking it into an oozy creamy gushing cheese might be what it needs to reach its full potential.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Crispy Mongolian Lamb with Pancakes

I bought a rolled lamb breast from Farm Direct as it was so cheap (only 1.99 for 576g) but then I had to figure out what to do with it. I really like lamb but I've never cooked it before. Luckily for me, I found this recipe shortly after my experiment with crispy duck with pancakes, so there were leftover pancakes, cucumber and spring onion in the fridge already. With a little tweaking, my kitchen already had everything I needed. Game on!

Crispy Mongolian Lamb with Pancakes

Adapted from Around Britain with a Paunch
Serves two

50ml of dark soy sauce
100ml of Chinese wine
1 large chunk of ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
1 seeded red chilli
2 sticks of Chinese cinnamon
2 star anise
1 tablespoon of Chinese five spice
500g of rolled lamb breast (I had 576g)
Enough water to cover
3 dried Chinese mushrooms
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

The day before you want to eat this, chuck everything into a large saucepan and then cover with enough water to ensure the lamb is just submerged. Simmer for 3 hours with the lid on.

Remove the lamb and place it in a bowl. Cover in cling film and chill until needed. Strain the remaining, fatty liquid into a separate bowl, cover in cling film and chill.

Remove the bowls from the fridge. Lift the layer of solidified fat, which will look like a slab of white chocolate, off the sauce and discard. Pour the liquid into a sauté pan and reduce until it becomes syrupy. (My liquid never quite reached the syrupy stage. Ended up mixing it with a little bit of Peking duck sauce so it was a better consistency for spreading as it was too thin on its own.)

Shred the lamb and shake some salt over it (I forgot to salt mine but it was fine). Then place under the grill for around 10 minutes, mixing up the pieces every 2-3 minutes, until it crisps up.

Spread some crispy lamb in a pancake and accompany it with some sliced spring onions and cucumber before anointing with the dark sticky sauce. Devour.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


On a walk through Primrose Hill, A and I spotted these mini canelés outside Shepherd Foods on Regent's Park Road. The French woman selling them noticed us drooling and said they were three for a pound, so we quickly caved in. They were gone in an instant, but left this wonderful slightly burnt caramelly and orangey taste in the mouth afterwards. It's a good thing we only got three - I could have stood in front of the entire dish and hoovered it all up. I will be keeping an eye out for these in Paris...

P.S. Happy Birthday A!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

French Onion Soup

French onion soup is one of A's favorites, so when I had a glut of onions in the house I decided to attempt making it. After looking at a few different recipes, I settled on this one since it looked simple and I liked the idea of "secret" ingredients. It turned out well, but was even more delicious the second day so I would suggest making this the day before you want to eat it. The resting time really gives all the ingredients time to meld into a sweet and savory whole.

French Onion Soup
Makes four servings

6 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup port wine
1 quart chicken stock, boiling
4 pieces of toasted bread, preferably something crusty
1 cup of grated Gruyère cheese

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onions. Cook slowly over low-medium heat as the onions caramelize. This should take a while (20-30 minutes) as you don't want the onions to cook too quickly - you are aiming for a sweet, sticky golden mess of onions. Once the onions are caramelized, add the balsamic vinegar and port and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the chicken stock at this point, salt to taste and then simmer for another 30 minutes. If you can, let this all cool down and refrigerate it for a day before serving. Heat up the soup again, and then get 4 oven-proof bowls and ladle soup into each bowl. Float a piece of toast on top of each bowl and then 1/4 cup of grated Gruyère on top of each piece of toast. Put the bowls on a baking tray and place them under a hot grill or broiler for a couple of minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. 

Monday, March 01, 2010

Krispy Kreme

Our wicked friend C brought these over and shockingly we demolished them all over the course of an evening. (No, it wasn't just me and her!) I think my favorite is still the plain glazed donut, though I have a fondness for chocolate cake donuts as well. Strangely, I usually don't like donuts, but if you wave a Krispy Kreme in my face I will inevitably eat it. Don't know whether that is due to Krispy Kreme or to my inability to turn down anything that is put in front of me. Also, I am addicted to donuts when hanging out with K, as evidenced here and here. Sigh.