Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Spanish Lasagne

I found a packet of lasagne sheets a while ago and have been trying to think up ways to use them. Then we had a Rioja night which resulted in some leftover chorizo, and Spanish lasagne was born in my head. A quick Google showed me that I was not the first to think about putting chorizo in lasagna rather than minced beef, but instead of using the recipes I found, I went ahead and just made this up as I went, based on what was in the house at the time. Sometimes these kinds of recipes are the most fun!

Spanish Lasagne


1 spicy chorizo sausage, diced

1 onion, diced
1 cup pitted black olives, sliced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
500g white mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
500g baby spinach
12 sheets of lasagne
250g mature cheddar, grated
grated parmesan to top
1 tsp sugar 
olive oil


1. In a large pan over medium heat, add the chorizo. Let some fat render, then add the onion and celery and cook for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes and olives and then cook over low to medium heat until the sauce thickens. Taste the sauce - if it is very acidic, add a little sugar to sweeten it. Take off heat.

2. In another pan over medium to high heat, add a little olive oil and then the mushrooms and garlic. Saute the mushrooms until they begin to brown. Take off heat.

3. In another pan, steam the spinach until it wilts. Place it in a colander and press down to drain out as much water as possible.

4. Depending on the type of lasagne sheets you buy, you may need to cook them first. Check the packaging and follow those instructions.

5. Preheat the oven to 180C.

6. In a large baking pan, place a little bit of the tomato sauce and spread it into a thin layer to cover the bottom. Place one layer of lasagne sheets on top. Scatter about 1/3 of the mushrooms and spinach, then a little less than third of the tomato sauce. Scatter a handful of grated cheddar on top of that, then another layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat until you have placed a fourth layer of lasagne sheets in the pan. Top that with the remaining tomato sauce and another good handful of cheddar, then grate parmesan over the top to finish.

7. Bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until bubbling hot and cheese on top is browned. Let it cool for about 15 minutes before serving - it will help it hold together when you cut into it. Serve slices with salad and garlic bread on the side.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

David Street Cafe

109 Water Lane
LS11 5WD

We were looking for a big breakfast so that we wouldn't be starving by the time the wedding dinner was served. We refused to pay the extortionate hotel prices for their breakfast buffet and instead found this little cafe serving up bacon sandwiches and the like. A and I had eyes bigger than our stomachs and went for the big breakfast sandwiches. If you look at the thing above, and then notice the size compared to the bottles of condiments, you will start to get an idea about why it was a terrible idea. Basically a full English breakfast stuffed into one of the largest buns I have ever seen - I had to discard a lot of the bun to make it slightly more manageable. I certainly wasn't hungry until dinner though, so I guess it did the job.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Piazza by Anthony

Corn Exchange

A Friday night in Leeds before A & D's wedding was a bit rainy and cold, but getting to see a lot of non-London friends made it all worthwhile. I had spotted Piazza by Anthony on some lists of top cheap eats in Leeds. I might place it more in the moderate category, but I think it is pretty good value, which is why it's mentioned in those lists. The boys had steak and chips, which were decent, though not extraordinary by any means. My beautiful scallops over chowder were a highlight, and C enjoyed her fish and chips, though what really blew us away was the sticky toffee pudding. I've started making that at home as it is by far my favorite British dessert - don't worry, a recipe will be up on here soon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Imjadara (Lentils and Bulgur Wheat)

I love it when you see a recipe, think to yourself that it looks good, and then also realise you have every ingredient required at home. I was so enthusiastic that I accidentally put in 2 tbsp of tomato paste instead of the original 1/2 tbsp, but you know what, I like the tomato flavor. Time to get more bulgur wheat so I can make this again.

Imjadara (serves 4)

Adapted from A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit


2 cups stock (I used vegetable)

2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
a pinch of cayenne
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/2 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
2/3 cups coarse-ground bulgur
olive oil
1 large onions, halved and thickly sliced


In a large heavy based sauce pan bring the stock to a boil. Add the tomato paste and all spices except the salt and pepper. Add the lentils, re-place the lid and simmer for about 15minutes.

Whilst the lentils are simmering, heat the olive oil (I used chicken fat since it was in the pan already) in a large frying pan.

Add the onions and fry over low to medium heat for about 30-35 minutes, stirring often, until they’re soft and brown.

After 15 minutes check the lentils, add in the bulghur, put the lid back on and cook over very low heat for another 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and rest for another 10 minutes or so, after which time the bulgur should be tender and nicely plumped.

Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the lentils and bulgur topped with the onions and serve with salad. Apparently Greek yogurt is also nice on the side - next time, maybe.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spiced Mackerel, Broccoli and Peas Rice

Since I love everything about smoked fish, when I saw this recipe I knew it was going on my list of things to make. It ended up being tweaked - broccoli rather than mushrooms, cilantro because I would add it to almost everything if I could, doubled to make extras for packed lunches - but it adapted well to the adjustments and A has wholeheartedly approved.

Spiced Mackerel, Broccoli and Peas Rice

Adapted from Donna Ross
Serves 4 with leftovers


2 onions, finely chopped

1 head of broccoli, diced into small pieces
375g white rice, basmati or long grain
6 teaspoons of (hot) curry powder
900ml stock (or water plus one bouillon cube)
3 smoked and peppered mackerel fillets, skin and obvious bones removed and broken into chunks
1 1/2 cups of frozen peas
chopped cilantro/coriander to garnish


In a large pot, fry the onion in a little oil for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the broccoli and fry for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and curry powder and stir round to fry the curry powder and coat everything in some spice. Pour over the stock along with a little salt and pepper and give everything good stir around. Bring up to a bare simmer and cover. Leave the rice to cook for about 7-8 minutes. After that time is up, taste the rice - it should be almost cooked but with a little bite left in it, and almost all of the stock will have been absorbed. Add the mackerel and peas to the rice, and stir round gently with a fork. Put the lid back on and cook for a final 5 minutes to finish cooking the rice and heat the fish through and cook the peas.

The original recipe suggested to top with a poached or soft boiled egg, which I'm sure would be great - we did without as I was too lazy to take that extra step.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sea Fish

205 Upper Street
N1 1RQ

Due to the lack of fish and chips in Paris, T requested some for dinner while he was in London. We decided to get them takeaway and eat them at home. A ordered some scampi, I had some cod, and chips were had by all. (I made the peas myself at home.) The fish and scampi were both pretty well fried - not too greasy and still retaining some crunchiness despite the travel back to ours in a bag. However, the chips were quite flabby and sad - I very rarely enjoy the chips from fish and chip shops (A agrees) - I'd so much rather have chips at burger chains such as Byron. Has anyone found a fish and chip shop that actually does justice to the chips?

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Unit 1, Covent Garden Market

A's mom was in London before Christmas so we had a fun girls' day out - a bit of window shopping, and then tea and macarons
 at Ladurée in Covent Garden. When you consider the luxury of being in a beautifully decorated tea room in central London and being served tea in silver pots with elegant china and some of the best macarons in the world, the prices are actually quite reasonable. The three macarons we split were salted caramel, orange blossom and black forest. My favorite was the salted caramel, followed closely by the black forest, which managed to taste exactly like a piece of black forest gateau. We then bought a boxed set of macarons as a gift for S - who we found out later had just asked T to buy some for her in Paris... so double macarons were received, but that was fine with everyone - it just meant more for sharing!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Chicken, Lemongrass, Cauliflower and Potato Curry

When I saw this recipe on Serious Eats, and found out the little fruit and veg shop at the end of the road had lemongrass, I knew I would try this out - I was given several different curry powders by a friend and am always looking for interesting ways to use them. The original recipe didn't include cauliflower, but I thought it would be a nice addition (and it was). I also didn't have as much chicken as the original recipe called for, but you know what, with the extra cauliflower, I didn't miss it.

Chicken, Lemongrass, Cauliflower and Potato Curry

Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4 generously


3 to 4 hefty lemongrass stalks, trimmed and coarsely chopped (about 2/3 cup total)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder (or other curry powder)
1/2 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
One 13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk
800g bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 lime, cut into wedges

4 cups cooked long grain or basmati rice
Handful cilantro


Toss the chopped lemongrass into a food processor. Process until it turns into a "fine, fluffy mass," scraping the sides with a spoon occasionally, about three minutes. Add the ginger, and pulse until it is chopped finely. Then add the onion. Process, scraping the sides with a spoon occasionally, until it is a paste.

Pour the oil into a large saucepan set over medium heat. When shimmering, add the lemongrass paste. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until very fragrant, about two minutes. Add the curry powder and red chiles flakes, stir well, and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, and coconut milk. Stir well with the wooden spoon, and then add the chicken pieces. If the liquid does not cover the pieces add a little bit of water to do so. Once liquid starts to boil, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cauliflower, stir well, and turn heat up again to bring to a strong simmer. Then reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer, and cook until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. When done, turn off the heat, cover the saucepan, and let rest for at least 10 minutes. (This dish just got better and better in the fridge - by day 3 the leftovers were incredible.)

Serve the dish with the lime wedges, cilantro, and white rice.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Black Bean Soup

During our kitchen clear out, I found some extra packages of dried beans, including some black beans. A coworker had been reminiscing recently about the black bean soup she had in Cuba, and that reminded me of the black bean soup I used to have at Tex-Mex restaurants back home. I cobbled together a few recipes to come up with the below - the bacon is an addition due to my belief that very little makes beans taste as good as a bit of smoked pork. Cumin gives it some warmth, oregano is thrown in because it was in one recipe and I am trying to use up some dried herbs, and I added a few drops of Tabasco to give it a little kick. The picture is quite drab looking, but the flavors are anything but. I topped servings with a little grated cheddar and cilantro/coriander - sour cream would also work for those of you who like that kind of thing.

Black Bean Soup 

Serves 8 generously


500g black beans, soaked
8 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt

8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons cumin (or to taste)
4 teaspoons white vinegar (I used rice vinegar as it was all I had on hand)

1 tsp dried oregano
8 dashes of Tabasco (optional)
grated Cheddar cheese (optional)
chopped cilantro/corinder (optional)


In a large pot, add the water and salt. Add beans and simmer until soft (approximately 90 minutes). Cut bacon strips into lardons and fry until crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and place into pot of beans. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and carrots in remaining bacon fat until the onions turn golden brown. Add garlic, cumin, oregano and vinegar. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Drain about 1/2 cup water from beans and add it to the sauté.

Cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

Combine vegetables with beans.

Cook for another 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary. Add Tabasco if using. If you like a smoother soup, you can use a stick blender to blend some of the soup - I did this for a few pulses so that it remained quite chunky but thickened a bit. Also, if you want it to be vegetarian, just omit the bacon and saute the vegetables in olive oil instead.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Fat Cat Cafe

119 Church Street
N16 0UD

While F was visiting we thought a walk to Stoke Newington might be fun. We'd been out late the night before, watching some bath-related comedy, and the thought of some rejuvenating brunch was quite motivating. We ambled down Church Street, pausing to look at menus of various restaurants, and Fat Cat caught our eye with its promise of bacon and sausage sandwiches. A and F quickly ordered those, while I went with eggs benedict with some of the thickest cut bacon I have ever seen. The hollandaise was bright, creamy and lemony at the same time, and the toasted English muffins provided a nice crunch. Eight quid isn't the cheapest price for this dish, but at least it was executed well, and when I was finished I was full, so it's not like I needed larger portions. All in all, much better than I expected for a place none of us had ever heard of.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hotel Chocolat Valentine's Chocolates

Season Of Love Goody Bag

The cheesiest holiday of the year is fast approaching. Thankfully, while I try to avoid eating out with the crowds, A and I still like to have a nice dinner at home. A nice dinner isn't complete without some sweets at the end, and Hotel Chocolat is here to oblige with some tempting Valentines Chocolates. In the Season of Love Goody Bag they sent me, I found what is possibly my favorite chocolate in the world, ever - chilli caramels. They have a dark chocolate shell with a spicy liquid caramel filling, and it was hard for me to not just stuff all six in my mouth. I'm not even much of a sweets person, but these chilli caramels have converted me. A also raved about them and has asked for more, so I know where I'll be heading before February 14th...