Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Parmesan Celery Salad

So as I was staring at a large bunch of celery in the fridge, I remembered this recipe I saw that seemed incredibly simple and used only ingredients I already had. Of course, I had to go mess with it a lot, since I also wanted to use up a slightly withered carrot, and then to turn it into more of a main meal I wanted something more bulky in there (hence the chickpeas, in a totally different quantity). So basically by the time I was done it was a very different dish, but still, I know exactly where the jumping-off point was!

Point is, you can make the original, which I'm sure would be great, or you can tweak to your heart's content, and still make something wonderful.

Parmesan Celery Chickpea Salad
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks


8 large celery stalks, stripped of strings
1 large carrot
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
2 cans of chickpeas, heated
40 g roasted salted peanuts
sea salt
freshly chopped herbs (or herb flowers), or reserved celery leaves


Slice the celery stalks quite thinly - 1/8-inch or so. Do the same to the carrot. Then, in a small bowl, make a paste with the olive oil, lemon juice, and Parmesan. Set aside. In a large bowl toss the heated chickpeas with the olive-Parmesan mixture. When well combined, add the celery, carrots and the peanuts. Toss once more. Taste and add a bit of salt if needed. Serve in a bowl or platter topped with herb flowers and/or celery leaves.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


70-72 Liverpool Road 
N1 0QD

I've already been back to Yipin, which given the number of restaurants on my must-try list, is quite a feat. There are good reasons for this though - 1) the food is fabulous, 2) they're very nice and never empty but never too full, and 3) it's in my neighborhood. Above you can see dry-fried green beans and braised pork belly. Not pictured is the deep fried beef with cumin, which I liked but A had objections to as he's not a huge fan of cumin. On a different visit with my adventurous friend Paul, we went for some more off-piste items that definitely included quite a lot of offal, and we scarfed down every morsel.

One thing to note - Yipin is technically a Hunanese restaurant, though they also include Szechuan dishes and some more "regular" dishes that you would typically see in a Chinese restaurant. I'm enjoying the trend in London of more specialised Chinese restaurants, as each region really does have very different flavors. I think it's just a level of care that people are taking with their food now - they want to see and eat things that they might not have had before, and especially amongst food-lovers there's a whole new vocabulary around ethnic food. Anyway - if you're curious as to what Hunanese food tastes like, go check out Yipin - you'll at least get an accurate idea (and hopefully you'll get addicted!) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Vietnamese Shrimp and Quinoa Salad

Another Vietnamese-inspired dish that is being written about completely out of season. But just think what you can do with it next year when the veggies are fresh and you want something light but packed with flavor!

Quinoa, by the way, is one of my favorite grains - it cooks very easily and is apparently incredibly healthy for you, but most importantly, I love the texture and taste it adds - a sort of nutty, lightly popping / crunching sensation between the teeth.

Again, any in-season veggies that you would have in a salad would work below, so just use it as a guideline - the most important components not to forget are the dressing and quinoa. The vegetables and proteins can all be swapped out for alternatives.

Vietnamese Shrimp and Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Serious Eats


For the dressing:
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more if desired

For the salad:
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (or pre-washed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin bite-sized strips
1 carrot, peeled and shredded

1 courgette, sliced thinly
1 avocado, diced
1 small cucumber, diced
 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander


Add quinoa, salt and 1-2/3 cups water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool.

In the meantime, make the dressing by combining the lime juice, Asian fish sauce, sugar and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add shrimp to the dressing and let marinate until ready to assemble the salad.

Once quinoa is cool, add red bell pepper, carrot, courgette, avocado, and cucumber to the bowl. Right before serving, add the dressing, shrimp and coriander and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, sugar or crushed red pepper flakes if necessary. Serve cold.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tierra Peru

164 Essex Road  
N1 8LY

I am late to the party, but there has been a sudden appearance of Peruvian restaurants in London. One opened up just down the street from where I live, so J and I arranged to meet up there to give it a try. She has a Taste Card which entitled us to 50% off, making the meal a bargain. Of course we had to start with Pisco Sours - one traditional and one with the addition of algarrobina syrup (apparently made from some kind of desert fruit). They were refreshing but quite sweet - I'll need to try some more before I determine whether or not a Pisco Sour is better for after dinner rather than before.

Onwards to the starters - Anticuchos de Corazon de res (beef heart skewers) and Cebiche de pescado (marinated fish). While I love all weird cuts of meat, I have to say I preferred the cebiche as it was lighter and easier to eat more of. J went for additional seafood in her main - the Picante de mariscos which is described as fresh seafood cooked in a sauce of aji panca, aji Amarillo & fish stock served with steamed white rice and fried potato medallions. It was tangy and fresh and a good counterpoint to my very rich main, the Chicharrones de cerdo con chifles de camote frito y salsa criolla, which was basically deep fried slices of pork belly. Thankfully I adore pork belly, and managed to finish the plate which is pretty amazing given that the pieces of pork were enormous. We were stuffed but couldn't resist a traditional Peruvian dessert, Suspiro a la limeƱa, which is made of sweet milk and caramel topped with soft meringue. I'm not much of a sweets person and this was way too sugary for me, though of course as we sat there chatting, we found ourselves dipping our spoons in, even though each bite made me grimace a bit with the tooth-shocking sweetness.

Atmosphere is not the strong point here, but the food was tasty enough (and interesting enough) for me to go back - I'd say, based on what we had, that the seafood dishes are their strengths, and I'd skip dessert next time.

Friday, October 12, 2012


22 Charlotte Street

Nizuni is a gorgeous little Japanese place on Charlotte Street. I chose it due to its proximity to the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road, where P&P and I were going to watch Magic Mike, and because there was a Toptable deal of some sort. Turns out it was fabulous and much better than the movie. I admit it was so long ago I barely remember what we ordered - I can see edamame, sliced octopus with citrus sauce, deep fried squid and chicken gyoza in the picture, and we must have ordered some mains as well. But even though I might not have clear recollections of exactly what we ate, I know we really enjoyed the meal and that I would definitely go back if I was craving Japanese and in the area, so that will have to be enough.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Red Chilli

70-72 Portland Street
M1 4GU

Red Chilli is one of Manchester's well known Szechuan Chinese restaurants, and ever since Jay Rayner wrote about it I've been wanting to go. On a previous trip to Manchester, G & H took us and a bunch of other friends there, but I had a strange illness that made me lose my appetite and therefore missed out on the joy of all that spicy numbing food. So when I was back in Manchester for work, I made sure to detour to Red Chilli for a takeaway dinner. After some consultation with the waiter about what would travel well and be good with rice, I ordered two of their cold starters: Sliced Ox’s Heart, Ox’s Tongue, Ox’s Tripe in Chilli Sauce with Crushed peanuts, and Special Flavored Shredded Chicken. These were promptly wrapped up and I couldn't wait to dig in - I was starving and could tell from all the red hot chilli oil that I was going to need all the steamed rice and napkins that were included. It was wonderful - and perfect at room temperature, since the stinging/numbing chilli sensation didn't need to be coupled with burning my tongue. I valiantly tried to eat it all but had to give up about two-thirds of the way through. I might demand we go back there next time I'm in Manchester - it's possibly the favorite meal I've had there.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Vietnamese Beef Salad

Apologies for a long absence. There have been a lot of weddings, visitors, and travels recently, and I haven't been able to get myself in front of this blog for long enough to properly write up anything. 

It's a shame, really, since this salad was so delightful, and perfect for the bit of sunny weather we had. A and I were probably going through one of our many phases of trying to eat slightly healthier, lighter meals, and this was a huge winner. I'm pretty sure I used a cut of beef that was not particularly luxurious, but made sure to only sear it quickly so that it wouldn't get tough. I see a mix of lettuce, rocket, cucumbers, and peppers on the plate, so let's assume that is what I used, though really any leafy, crunchy, crispy vegetables would work as well. I think the crushed peanuts on top were the real kicker to this recipe, so try not to omit them if at all possible.

Vietnamese Beef Salad
Serves 2

250g beef steak - sliced thinly, against the grain
1/2 head of lettuce
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1 or 2 bell peppers, different colors, diced into bite-size pieces
1 carrot, sliced into thin coins
Handful of coriander (cilantro), mint and basil, roughly chopped
any other salad greens you like (nothing too bitter, I don't think)
1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts, crushed
4 tbsp lime juice
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp chili flakes

Marinade for beef:
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced


1. Mix beef slices with marinade ingredients, and set aside for at least 10 minutes but overnight if you wish.

2. Assemble your salad with all salad ingredients except for the beef and peanuts.

3. Put dressing ingredients in a jar or container and shake well.

4. When beef is done marinating, heat a pan over high heat. Toss beef in and quickly sear it on all sides before removing to a plate.

5. Pour dressing over salad leaves and toss well. Plate the salad on serving plates, then top with beef and a scattering of peanuts.