Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lentils with Bacon

I know the picture above is unappetizing, but such is the fate of lentils. Delicious, but ugly. I started off inspired by a Spanish tapas dish involving lentils, bacon and sausage, but then got sidetracked by something I saw Jamie Oliver do on his recent TV episode in the Pyrenees. So it's a mishmash of two things, and while it was tasty warm, it also made for very nice cold salads the next day.

Lentils with Bacon


500g green lentils

1 carrot, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1 small onion, diced
250g bacon, diced (I used the super lean bacon in a nod to being healthy)
1 liter duck stock (I'm sure water would be fine, I just used this because I had some)
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
olive oil


Sweat onion, carrot and celery in some olive oil for a few minutes. Add bacon and stir, cooking for a few more minutes until bacon is cooked through. Add lentils, bay leaf, thyme and enough stock to cover the mixture by at least an inch. If you don't have enough stock, add water. Simmer over low/medium heat for 45 minutes. Taste the lentils to make sure they are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain everything in a colander and reserve liquid. The liquid can be used in soups in the future.  Serve lentils warm or cold.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Boscobel Beach Ginger Cake

I love anything with ginger - the stronger the ginger flavor, the better. My brother recently gave me a bundt cake pan for my birthday so once I saw this recipe I knew it would be a good way to break in the new pan. Because of my love for ginger, I doubled the amount of fresh ginger in the recipe, which worked well - the cake was moist and very gingery, and disappeared quickly alongside some custard. The funny looking spots above are from the molasses sugar, which I was trying to use up - next time I will stick to all brown sugar and the cake should lose its leopard spots.

Boscobel Beach Ginger Cake
Adapted from Allrecipes


1 cup (225g) butter
1 cup packed molasses sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the grated ginger root and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a serving plate. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yarde Farm Ice Cream

During our weekend jaunt to Dartmouth, we took a river boat to Greenway to see Agatha Christie's old holiday home. The house was left with all of the original furnishings and there are extensive gardens to walk around as well. Walking through gardens requires a snack afterwards, of course, so I picked up a little tub of Yarde Farm mint chocolate chip ice cream at the cafe. It's made in Devon and some of the flavors include clotted cream (though I couldn't tell if that was true of the mint chocolate chip). There's something that makes little cardboard tubs of ice cream feel like more of a treat than usual, but while I really enjoyed this ice cream, I think if it came in a big tub I wouldn't think it was as special. The mint flavor was good, and the chocolate chips were nice and bittersweet, but it seemed to be a little bit too icy and not creamy enough. This could also be due to poor storage, so I might give it another chance if I see it again.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Taylor's Restaurant

8 The Quay

Taylor's Restaurant is in a great location overlooking Dartmouth's harbor and makes the most of its first floor location - I thought it was quite unusual to go up stairs to get to a restaurant but the views are certainly nicer from a  bit higher up. I chose from the set menu in order to make things a bit easier - the a la carte menu is long and I didn't want to tempt myself with too many choices. I started with a smoked chicken and ham terrine which was decent but perhaps not the restaurant's strongest suit - it seems like the seafood items fared better in general. A had mussels which I envied after a couple of bites, and A's parents both had crab to start which looked very fresh and tasty. I chose the plaice and chips for my main and really liked it - the breading on the plaice was crisp and the chips were golden and full of potato flavor inside. My only complaint would be that perhaps plaice is a bit thin - there were a few bites where the breading overwhelmed the fish a bit. The homemade tartar sauce was great though - I have suddenly discovered a fondness for tartar sauce which is odd considering I hated it for most of my life. With all this food, we were too full to contemplate dessert and instead headed off to the pub for a nightcap. Great choice for our one proper meal out in Dartmouth!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Coleton Fishacre Cafe

Brownstone Road

A weekend trip to Dartmouth was full of sunshine (well, on the Saturday at least). We started off on the Kingswear side of things, at Coleton Fishacre, a beautiful Art Deco house and 12-acre gardens that used to belong to the D'Oyly Carte family (mostly known because they owned the Savoy Theatre in London and brought Gilbert and Sullivan together). Before we had a look around though, we decided to fill our bellies at the cafe which boasted a lot of local produce. Above is the Dartmouth smokehouse platter with trout, mackerel and salmon alongside local gooseberry  & elderflower chutney. A generous bread basket accompanied it full of freshly baked white and wheat rolls. This was the perfect lunch to have in the bright outdoor terrace - light but flavorful and fresh. I think the rest of the family enjoyed their meals as well, so this is a cafe that gets a thumbs up from me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies

So my friend A happens to be a terrific baker as well as illustrator - while browsing her new blog I saw a recipe for gingerbread cookies that inspired me to pull out my Texas-shaped cookie cutter again. (I only have one cookie cutter, so everything around here is Texas-shaped). I included black pepper since I saw a different recipe that did that and it sounded intriguing, and threw in some ground cloves as well since I had them sitting around. The black pepper added a nice kick to the cookies in occasional bites - I might even try adding more next time.

Gingerbread Cookies

Adapted from Paper Scissors Stone
Makes 36 cookies


350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
100g butter
175g light brown sugar
1 large egg
4 tbsp golden syrup


1. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture – it should resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix well.

2. In a different bowl, beat the egg and syrup together. Pour it over the flour/sugar and mix.

3. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 190C and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface so that it is about 3mm thick. Cut out your cookie shapes using a cutter.

5. Bake for 5 minutes and check to see if the cookies are brown. If not, keep checking every minute or so until they are nicely brown all over. Some of my batches took 5 minutes, others took 8, so I just kept checking until they looked right.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Panna Cotta

There was leftover cream sitting in the fridge and I wanted to find a way to use it up. Since I was bringing dessert to a friend's house, I came up with panna cotta, one of my favorite desserts, and looked up several recipes online. It is super easy to make - and though mine is certainly the low-fat version since I only had skimmed milk and single cream, it still tasted rich and lovely. I think next time I would make sure to infuse the mixture with the vanilla pod for longer to get a stronger vanilla taste. The small amount of sugar works here though, as the final product isn't too sweet. My unmolding process went a little wonky, as evidenced by the picture above, but the wobbly softness of vanilla cream made up for it.

Vanilla Panna Cotta
Adapted from BBC Food


3 gelatine leaves
350ml skimmed milk
150ml single cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds scraped out
25g sugar


1. Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until soft.

2. Place the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds and sugar into a pan and bring to a simmer. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.

3. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves, then add to the pan and take off the heat. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved.

4. Divide the mixture among four ramekins and leave to cool. Place into the fridge for at least an hour, until set.

5. To serve, turn each panna cotta out onto a serving plate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

El Camino

25-27 Brewer Street

For Cinco de Mayo, a few of us decided to celebrate with margaritas and Mexican food. P recommended El Camino, after a look at the line at Wahaca drove fear into our tiny hearts. El Camino has a wall lined with multiple types of hot sauce, but they're for decoration (though a few have clearly been opened and used, perhaps by patrons who didn't ask first). We started with some guacamole, which came out in a stingy portion, but then the pork carnitas nachos we ordered were actually good so we became more positive about the place. My pork burrito was decent, but overly full of beans (a common complaint, I think) and a little on the small side, compared to other burrito joints in town. A bit of a mixed bag - service was slow, but friendly, and there was a hopping bar scene downstairs, and the booths were comfy for our party of four - I guess I might come back if I was in the area but not if I was specifically craving a burrito; Luardos and Benito's Hat are much better for that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Super Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies

I have an incredible weakness for snickerdoodles. Somehow, though, the ones I make at home look nothing like the ones I remember eating when I was younger - they're much browner. Perhaps I roll them around in too much cinnamon, but at least they taste wonderful. These do indeed become super soft, especially after they are stored in an airtight container for a day. Not sure whether I like this recipe more than this one, but it never hurts to have more than one way to make a snickerdoodle!

Super Soft Snickerdoodle Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from The Kitchn


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown molasses sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar:

1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Heat the oven to 425°F. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave and let it cool while you mix the dry ingredients. Stir together the sugars, flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the eggs into the cooled butter and add the vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring just until it comes together.

In a soup plate or shallow bowl, mix together the white sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Form small 1 1/2-inch balls of dough and roll them in the cinnamon sugar. Place them on an unlined, ungreased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 7 minutes then remove and let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack.

The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, well-wrapped. It can also be frozen in logs.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Proud Cabaret

4 Minster Court
Mark Lane

Proud Cabaret runs supper club evenings from Wednesday through Saturday - you get a three course meal and a full evening's entertainment (and on the weekend your dinner comes with a glass of bubbly as well). The evening I was there, entertainment included swing dancing, cabaret-style singing, and a bit of burlesque stripping (including a surprising act where 'Agent Lynch' started off in an astronaut suit before getting down to her tassels). The venue is pretty plush - lots of red velvet and comfy banquettes - unfortunately our party was seated behind a giant pillar which meant a few of us had to get up and stand somewhere else to watch the show whenever someone came on stage. The food is decent - I certainly wouldn't go just for the food, but as something to eat while watching a show, it was better than expected. My beef carpaccio was tender, and the sea bass was cooked well and tasted fresh. The cheese platter was a bit disappointing - I was not really that fond of any of the cheeses, but oh well. It was a great night out to celebrate K so that's all that really matters!

Friday, May 07, 2010


341 Upper Street
N1 0PB

Thank goodness Byron has opened up in Islington - finally a proper, tasty burger in the area! Used to go to The Diner but was always a bit disappointed with them - now I will be at Byron instead, having a juicy, cooked-to-order burger with some amazing courgette fries. This place rocks, even if the decor is a bit too unfinished for my taste (the ceiling joists are exposed, making it look like you're eating in a building site). Our party of six was seated quickly and service was friendly (perhaps even overly friendly for England?) Jugs of tap water get them even more bonus points. Next time I'm trying the Oreo milkshake.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lemon Yogurt Cake

I decided to make myself a birthday cake this year. New decade, new skills. Of course, on the night of the party, we totally forgot to bring out the cake, so I think that might turn it back into a regular cake rather than a birthday cake. Either way, it was fabulous - really lemony and moist.

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


1 cup lowfat plain unsweetened yogurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F degrees. Grease the sides of a 9-inch springform pan with oil or butter.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, lime zest and juice. Add the eggs one by one, whisking well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, right over your yogurt batter. Stir with a spoon until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Unclasp the sides of the springform pan. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Chilli Chutney

20 - 21 The High Parade
Streatham High Road

SW16 1EX

I was lucky enough to get invited to a Qype event at Chilli Chutney - we learned how to make samosas (those are my attempts above, the potato filled one on the left and the lamb filled one on the right). The chefs are experts - they make loads of these every day from scratch, so their demonstration was deft and graceful. Once they let us normal folk have a try, things went a bit haywire, but everything still tasted nice after it was freshly fried. We're supposed to get recipes for these so I will add those to this post if I get them. After our samosa lesson, we sat down to eat some curries and naan and rice - looking at their menu I think we had tarka daal (yum) and chicken achaari, along with keema naan, roghni naan (my favorite, covered with sesame seeds) and regular naan. I was stuffed at this point but when shahi keer (similar to rice pudding) came out, I had to try a couple of bites of that as well. Everything tasted fresh and was distinctively spiced - I'll have to go back and try more of the menu. 

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Euphorium Bakery

202 Upper Street

N1 1RQ

K and I were going to watch The Habit of Art at the Screen on the Green - part of the National Theatre's live broadcasts that they're doing a few times a year. I'd highly recommend it - they have several camera angles and can zoom right in on the actors' faces so it's more like watching a film than watching theatre - really fantastic experience. Anyway, back to food - before the show we grabbed some 'pizza' from Euphorium. I put pizza in quotes because it was more like flatbread with a load of vegetables and cheese piled on top - very tasty, but not exactly what I think of as pizza. I'd like to try some of their sweet pastries sometime - it's such a nice place to stop for a nibble and a cup of tea - plenty of seating and I like the big glass windows so that you can people watch on Upper Street.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Smoked Mackerel Pate

A's mom made this fantastic pate while we were visiting for the weekend so I got the recipe from her before returning home. The next weekend was a big party so I made an enormous triple batch of this - it went down well with crudites and breadsticks and crackers. If you like smoked mackerel, you will like this - just make sure when you're using the food processor that you really get all the fish blended in until smooth - it's much nicer without lumps.

Smoked Mackerel Pate


350g smoked mackerel
150g greek yogurt (I used Fage fat free)
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
juice of a lemon
black pepper


Place mackerel and yogurt in a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer contents to a mixing bowl and add horseradish, lemon and pepper to taste. Chill. Serve with crackers, breadsticks, or crudites.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

I kept seeing recipes for tomato sauce made with just tomatoes, onion and butter. LOTS OF BUTTER. Finally I couldn't resist and had to try it out, and am so glad I did - never thought three ingredients could come together so magically. I messed with this recipe the first time and added red wine because there was some that needed using, but next time I will definitely just go with the untouched recipe. I threw some grilled artichokes on top and it made for an incredibly satisfying dinner.
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter 
recipe adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
2 400g cans chopped tomatoes
5 tablespoons salted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved

Heat a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low to keep a steady simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. Discard the onion. Serve over cooked pasta.