Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Royal Standard

For the August bank holiday, a few of us went to A's mum's house in Falmouth, Cornwall. For one of our meals out, we chose The Royal Standard in Flushing - I've written about it before here but it was noteworthy enough the second time around that I'm posting again - definitely one of my favorite restaurants in Cornwall. Above is a glorious plate of fish and chips - crunchy batter, fresh fish, and peas that taste very much like peas (none of this weird mushy pea stuff, thank you). Can't wait to go back again and again!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chickpea stew with pork sausage meatballs

Amazing recipe, as usual, from HF-W in the Guardian. Some recipes make you want to make them as soon as you read them, and this was one for me. Of course, being impatient (and knowing I had sausages in the freezer), I subbed in pork sausages which worked wonderfully. This made excellent lunches and dinners for several days.

Chickpea stew with pork sausage meatballs 
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

A great, spicy stew for a chilly day. Serves eight.


6 pork sausages
3 onions, peeled and finely diced
6 dried bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs
1 head of garlic, peeled and sliced
3 small red chillis, membrane and seeds removed, finely chopped
3 tsp ground cumin
3 400g tin plum tomatoes
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
500g dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked
500g baby spinach
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


First make the meatballs. Take the sausage out of the casings and pinch off walnut sized chunks of sausage. Wet your hands and roll each chunk into small meatballs. Place in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, and fry the meatballs until lightly browned on all sides, about five minutes. Set aside.

Next, make the stew. Warm the remaining oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and fry the onions gently with the bay leaves and thyme, stirring from time to time, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli and cumin, and fry for a minute. Add the tomatoes (crushing them roughly against the side of the pan with a fork), stock and chickpeas. Season and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add the meatballs to the stew and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the spinach and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve. Add parsley garnish on top if using.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mussels in White Wine

As much as I love mussels, I have never cooked them at home. I know they're easy, I know they're cheap, but somehow I never found time to grab some and make them in my own kitchen. (Perhaps this is because my local grocery store doesn't carry them and I am too lazy to go to the fishmongers. This is where
Farm Direct steps in - fresh mussels to your door! And no, I don't get paid by them, I just love them.) Anyway - my first bag of mussels was obtained, and then I had a rummage around for what else to throw in. Onions, carrots, thyme, sage, chives, two puny red chillies - all of it was in the fridge or garden, so that's what went in. Oh, and the duck fat I've been using in everything lately - crazy good with every dish so far. And last but not least, a bottle of white that has been sitting on our counter, waiting for a chance to be used/drunk. So here you go - and yes, it is as easy to cook mussels as everyone says. This felt like a luxury lunch even though it was cheap and quick.

Mussels in White Wine
Serves 4 as starter, 2 as main
1 kg mussels
1/2 bottle white wine (I used a pinot grigio from Italy)
2 small carrots, finely diced
1 small onion, finely diced
4 sprigs of thyme
10 sage leaves, shredded
2 small red chillies
handful of chives to garnish
butter (or duck fat, if you have it on hand)
crusty baguette for dipping
1. Add 1 tbsp butter (or duck fat) to a large pan/pot that has a fitted lid. Place over medium heat until fat is melted, and then add carrots and onions and give it a good stir. Cook for a few minutes until onions are translucent.
2. Add wine, thyme, sage and chillies. Bring the liquid to a boil and let it boil for a couple of minutes.
3. Add the mussels and put the lid on the pot. Cook for 10 minutes - all of the mussels should be open now.
4. Serve portions of the mussels in bowls (make sure you get some of the cooking liquid in the bowl to dip the baguette into). Garnish with chives. Serve with sliced baguette.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bahn Mi Bay

4-6 Theobald's Road

I always get excited when I see bánh mì on a menu - these sandwiches are absolutely amazing when they are done right. I pass by this place on my walk to and from work so it made sense one day to pop in and see if they were making bánh mìs to my specifications. The guy behind the counter recommended the Bahn Mi Bay Special, which includes pork pate, pork roll and spiced pork. They also have an option of a special Vietnamese baguette - it costs a bit more but is more authentic as it is made with rice flour rather than wheat. 

When I took a bite, I was a little disappointed by the bread-to-filling ratio - the flavors of the filling weren't punchy enough to stand up to all of the bread. I love all of the ingredients that go in, especially the pickled vegetables and cilantro, but for some reason everything tasted a bit muted. That said, it's still a bánh mì and so I still finished it - it just wasn't one that I would necessarily rave about or go back for.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Driver

2-4 Wharfdale Road
N1 9RY

The Driver is just off Caledonian Road and occupies a lovely building with five floors of options, from the pub downstairs to the restaurant on the first floor, going up to the the additional bars and roof terrace on top. A Groupon deal was what attracted A and me to the place and it was lovely to find another nice place to have dinner in the area. 

We started with pan fried queen scallops and a chorizo, halloumi and new potato salad. Of the two, the salad was definitely the winner with the spicy savoury chorizo playing well with the halloumi. Mains were a venison steak (perfectly rare and with a great hint of gamey flavor) and a rib-eye with Diane sauce that A polished off with a smile. We were so full that we didnt' attempt dessert, even though I am usually unable to resist sticky toffee puddings.

Service was friendly and even though the upstairs floors were occupied by private parties, our waitress went to ask whether the roof terrace party was winding down and when she found out it was, she encouraged us to go up and finish the last of our wine there since it was such a unique spot. Roof terraces are hidden gems in this city, and now I've got one more filed away for sunny days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Big Chill House

257-259 Pentonville Road
N1 9NL

King's Cross is becoming a better area for eating and drinking, as The Big Chill House has set up almost across from the station, providing a nice space to have a meal or snack or stiff drink before boarding trains to destinations galore. I was kindly invited to try out their new breakfast offerings, and not just once, but 5 times, so I could make sure that the experience was consistent. Each and every time, I was incredibly pleased with the food. The atmosphere was certainly a bit still on my first visit, as I don't think the breakfast option was common knowledge yet, but by the last visit I felt like it was starting to pick up, especially for weekend brunch.

The pictures show a Breakfast Muffin, two Full English Breakfasts (thumbs up from both me and the Brit), and the Creamy Scrambled Eggs with smoked salmon (a real bargain at 3.75!) Another early morning train meant that I grabbed a Breakfast Muffin to go, which was packaged nicely in a cardboard box with napkins. A Homemade Rosti was the weakest link, but it was still nicer than many breakfast offerings I've had elsewhere (and for a much more reasonable price to boot). So all in all, I would recommend The Big Chill House to anyone looking for a good breakfast place around King's Cross - there's no one else in the area doing such nice breakfasts at such good prices.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Melissa Clark's Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp

For those of you who read food blogs regularly, you're probably sick to death of this recipe (and also think I'm several years behind, which might be true...) For everyone else, let me just say that this recipe is beloved by many because it is easy and fantastic and makes your kitchen smell wonderful. It's healthy, it can be paired with different types of starches if you need something more filling, and roasting the broccoli and shrimp really bring out the best flavors in each. If you don't believe me, believe someone who lots of people listen to, the Wednesday Chef.

Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp
Serves 4


2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

2. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.