Sunday, 13 December 2015

Mien Tay (Battersea, London)

There seems to have been a surge of Vietnamese restaurants in London,  and as with most Ethnic establishments in this city, they seem to fall into two categories: you've got the trendy restaurants with chic logos graphically designed with modern fonts and a menu that's been heavily smacked with Western flavors, and you've got the Asian take-away-esque ones.  Places like Mien Tay, where it's bare and charmingly tacky, where it's just this down to earth Vietnamese family-run restaurant.

I went to their Battersea branch.  And as with all of their restaurants in London, there's something very authentic and endearing about its shabby interior.  Densely-packed incongruous furniture dotted with pots of plastic plants.  A theme of white and jade-green and... all a bit alarm-bell-ringing until you sit down and eat.

Late Autumn this year, they celebrated their 6th anniversary with 6 new dishes.  Yes, 6 years is quite some time especially as they've in this time managed to open up 3 or 4 branches not just in London.  The focus is on Southern Vietnamese cuisine made with authenticity and they've had rave reviews.

So of the new dishes there is a deep-fried monkfish which is pleasant.  The batter crisp, the flesh not overcooked.  There is a whole grilled squid that was on the bland and (extremely) chewy side, which, however, was the only disappointing part of the evening, as then there are some bright cheerful salads.  There is a fabulous pomelo salad with chicken and prawns that's got those lovely bitter and sharp citrus notes flowing through; and a kohlrabi salad with squid, where fortunately the squid is tender, the kohrabi crunchy and it's altogether coated with a fresh and zingy dressing.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Best Eats This Week: Yogiyo Cooking Sauces

Too often have we been set back by "exotic" recipes simply because of the long obscure list of ingredients.  Fresh turmeric? Dried kelp? Spices you can't even pronounce?  And when you finally do find that specialty shop that sells everything you need, you hesitate -- well, how many times will you use this?  Is it worth buying a whole jar of fermented tofu? What are you supposed to do with the rest of it?  Better to just go out for dinner and make pasta at home tomorrow.

Even me, a relatively adventurous cook, am faced with this annoyance.  I just don't like to waste, and my food cupboard is full enough as it is.  I don't want to squeeze in half-open packs of dried shrimp and palm sugar which I will just forget about until I move out.  One of my favorite cuisines is Korean, and I just never cook it at home for the aforementioned reasons.  But now, enter Yogiyo -- UK's first range of Korean cooking sauces that have just launched at a Sainbury's near you.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Chocolate Cherry Crumble Bars

It's been too long. 

It was nice to take Sunday afternoon off to just bake.  I like the hands-on stuff --- I like kneading a soft bread dough and have my fingers rub through butter and flour for that perfect shortcrust.  I like the anticipation of it in the oven whilst I make the kitchen spotless.  And I love the smell and the warmth and the happiness it brings to everyone.  I just think baking is the closest thing to love.  And I hate not being able to do it enough.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Shikumen - Shepherd's Bush (London)

Having grown up in Beijing, there's always a slight hesitation in visiting Chinese restaurants in London.  I hate being disappointed, especially when it comes to eating out, and with Chinese food, it's just more personal.  My heart sinks at the sight of soft wrinkled skin on Peking ducks, or the taste of oversweetened generic meat coated in grease.   I therefore had my reservations when I went to Shikumen -- the Chinese restaurant that has received praise by the likes of of Fay Maschler

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Quail, Pea Purée, Carrots, Jus

I was seriously spoiled in culinary school.  We had kitchen porters and limitless pans that allowed us to make dishes with five different components in two hours.  Now at home when I try to be just slightly ambitious it takes me twice as long and I'm twice as stressed because I'm just washing the same two pans over and over again.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Multi-Seed Spelt Crackers

I have an obsession with these multi-seed Norwegian crispbreads or knekkebrød.  I went through a phase of oat cakes, then Ryvita and now these.  The crackers I made featured in this post aren't exactly like those but I tried.  My Norwegian boyfriend is my supplier of knekkebrød but he can't keep up with my demand unfortunately and so sometimes I resort to making my own cracker equivalent.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Rustic Milk Cookies (Biscotti al Latte)

It's approaching midnight and I'm contemplating what I should have for breakfast tomorrow.  If I were like my Italian peers, I'd have cookies and coffee.  But I'm difficult.  See, these would be the ideal breakfast cookies for Italians, especially the children, because of their simplicity.  They're uncomplicated in terms of flavor, texture and aesthetics, but they're perfectly lovely.  Plain but soft, light and delicate. Very Italian. It's what the kids would eat.  Or my mother, she loves them.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Best Eats This Week: Maison Blanc's Wine & Patisserie

It is romance at its peak.  In the back garden of Fulham's Maison Blanc, you have trees, flowers, wood decking, climbing plants intertwined with colorful fairy lights.  Simple wooden round tables are adorned with mini candles and a small vase of flowers.  At the corner there are two men playing Latin music on the guitar.  And it's a place to have dessert and wine. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Italian Red Wine Cookies

They smell like Christmas but look like Halloween.  It's a rather off-putting grey-caramel, I know, but the burgundy doesn't quite come through without food coloring I'm afraid.

 With a half open bottle of red wine in my house, instead of appreciating the act of drinking alone, I just thought of marinades, stews and cookies, as I'm still a child.  

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Best Eats This Week: Corkers Crisps

Crisps in the market have gone through a transformation -- from the factory processed junk food with an ingredient list incomprehensible to anyone without a Chemistry degree, to all the artisan hand-cooked crisps that have been loved and cared for from beginning to end.   Crisps have gone gourmet and healthy(-er). 
Corkers is one of such, with a family potato farm in Cambridgeshire that's been around since the 1800s, and all their crisps are cooked on site.  They have been awarded UK Potato Grower of the Year, which I suppose is as prestigious as it gets in the crisps world.  But more importantly, they have been named Best Regional Supplier by Waitrose and three of their crisp flavors have been awarded gold stars from The Great Taste Awards.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Best Eats This Week: DRINKmaple

Gluten-free, dairy-free, nutrient-rich and environmentally-friendly -- it's so good it's making coconut water look bad.  Maple water and coconut water are similar with their electrolytes and vitamins but Maple water contains significantly less sugar and has proven to do better in taste test in labs.  It has a delicate maple sweetness -- imagine water mixed with a tiny bit of maple syrup.  It is the sap from maple trees, and DRINKmaple is just purely 100% that with no added nonsense.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Best Eats This Week - Ibérica's Pinchos (London)

Ibérica - the renowned Spanish restaurant group in the UK has launched a new menu exclusive to their beautiful outdoors terrace in Cabot Square.   Designed by three Michelin-starred Executive Chef Nacho Manzana, it features a series of imaginative pinchos along with their usual tapas. 

Notable mentions include their mini Butifarra burger - a thick slice of fatty Catalan sausage meat encased between soft toasted brioche, with sweet and tangy pickled fennel and a sharp mustard mayonnaise. 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Chocolate Arancini, Raspberry Coulis, Chantilly Cream

Chocolate's always a crowd-pleaser.  It's evocative of childhood, of innocent indulgence and simple pleasures.  It's funny when you think about how much consolation a bar of chocolate brings to a child.  My father used to give me chocolate whenever I was sad and I remember vividly that at that precise moment, when the chocolate was handed to me, nothing else mattered.  My watery eyes would dry and I would just be happy.  It was all so uncomplicated.  And this feeling can be carried onto adulthood and maybe that's why chocolate's always so popular as a dessert option in restaurants.  There always needs to be a silly calorific chocolate pudding on the menu -- be it a chocolate fudge cake, a soft-centered fondant or a dark chocolate pie.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Best Eats This Week: YO! Sushi's New #YOLO Dishes

YO! Sushi has changed gears and launched three dishes for the summer that are fantastically fun and exciting. It's the theme of "East meets West" which, yes, has been done to death, but they deserve a good pat on the back for this one.

 The new series of limited edition #yolo dishes will only be on the menu for a few weeks.  These include J-Dog:  Japanese arabiki sausage in a brioche bun topped with spring onions, nori, crunchy shallots, misotchup, teriyaki -- and it comes with a cute little Sriracha keychain.   Flavor and textural sensation and the best thing is you get to have hot sauce on the go at the end of it,  if anything, that's your reason for ordering it.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Potato Latkes

For my exam I need to make fondant potatoes which need to be 5x6cm and 80g in weight.  So after practicing for two hours at home I was left with a dozen perfectly shaped bar-soap potatoes and a kilo of potato trimmings.  Okay, "perfectly shaped" is pushing it but the point is I had too many potatoes.  So came the latkes for breakfast.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Maison Blanc's Summer Range

I love the change of seasons because it inspires the entire food industry to launch new items.  The progression to Summer is a favorite as everyone goes towards lighter, fresher and more colorful food, especially in the UK, as it suffers from winters of achromatic produce and so summer just brings a whole new food scene.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Best Eats This Week - Carlo Rotta Chocolates

Gianduiotti are perhaps the most underrated of chocolates outside of Italy. It’s a genius combination of cocoa and Piedmontese hazelnut paste that was invented in the 1800s in Turin. Think of Nutella and imagine it in the consistency of a chocolate, now imagine a more sophisticated flavor profile with proper cocoa and more hazelnut and no added nonesense. Oh when a gianduiotto is good, it’s simply sublime - and Carlo Rotta is tapping into the London market with his.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Quail, onion puree, hazelnut granola, peas, jus

 Oh man I'm so glad I can finally use some of my culinary school stuff for Happy Belly. It's two birds with one stone. This is actually an exam dish of mine, and I need to make two plates of this plus two plates of a main course dish that involves a dozen different elements in 4 hours.  With setting up and cleaning, I'm in the room for over 4 and a half hours.  An exam for four and a half hours.  You know what my main concern with these things are?  My bladder.  I've got a bladder of an 80-year-old and simply the idea of being restricted the bathroom for that long makes my bladder fill up with nerves.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Guinea Fowl, Sandwich, Charred Corn, Spiced Fennel Puree & Jus

Sometimes in class we get to do a bit of whatever we want.  We're given a list of ingredients and we're told to go wild, and this was that. 
 I can only imagine attempting this at home without 12 different pots and pans and all the equipment and porters washing after you.  Maybe you're luckier than I am, so maybe this is easily achievable at home under an hour. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Best Eats This Week: Doodle's Dockside Diner (London)

With the sandals on, sunglasses out and skins exposed, it is officially summer in London.  Long gone are the days of requesting a table away from the door in fear of the cold drafts and spending the evening eating potato soup -- for the next three months, The Doodle Bar is collaborating with The Grub Club to bring about a series of weekend alfresco lunches with entertainment.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Confit of Salmon

Forget about everything this salmon comes with - forget the sauce, the crunch, the courgette, those are mediocre at best, I want you to focus on that piece of salmon.  It melts like butter in your mouth.
Three years ago at a restaurant I had a piece of salmon poached in duck fat and it blew my mind away.  I think it also came with some fancy garnishes like lobster foam, duck yolk raviolo and other bits and blobs but those were not memorable.  It was the salmon, the taste of it lingered on for days as its texture was simply sublime.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Best Eats This Week: Bun Bo Hue (Salvation in Noodles, London)

A pho is like a warm hug - it's reassuring comfort food on a cold day and a hungover morning.  With its mellow flavors, its aromatic broth, it is as soothing and curative as food can get.  It is the noodle dish we think of when we think of Vietnamese cuisine.  This weekend, on a particularly sunny and hot afternoon, I was introduced to Bun bo Hue at Salvation in Noodles and it was the complete opposite.  It wasn't delicate or gentle or calming, it was a bowl of full-blown excitement.

Friday, 22 May 2015

White Chocolate and Cardamom Mousse Cake

Okay I kind of cheated a little.  I needed to test out a recipe, just the mousse, and I was too lazy, so the sponge is store-bought *gasp*
I am in search of a new hobby.  I'm thinking something artsy, like oil painting or pottery.  School's been stressful and I come home with the life drained out of me.  I am physically and emotionally parched.  I'm tired, I'm lost, I'm sad, and time's ticking away and I desperately need a new therapeutic activity to restore some joy (cooking's long gone -- this was just so I could test a recipe for my exam dish at school).

Monday, 18 May 2015

Mirza Ghasemi (Persian Aubergine, Tomato & Egg)

Sunday afternoon I spent dogsitting.  It was sunny, we went to the park, we played in the terrace, we napped on the sofa - everyone needs some dog therapy.  It was such an uplifting day where I allowed myself to do absolutely nothing.  I had brought my laptop with the intention of doing some work but I just went 5 hours straight without doing anything.  I was at my friend's place who lives with three chefs and thus the house has an impressive cookbook collection.  That's where I found this recipe. Yea, 5 hours of sitting in the sun, playing with the dogs and reading cookbooks - more Sundays should be like that.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Sweetcorn and Spring Onion Fritters

Oh move over achromatic root vegetables and cabbage, it's time for some color on your plate.  With blinding sunlight, I say, instead of greens, you need warm colors.  Yellows, reds, oranges, adjust your diet accordingly.  Think about getting some of those beautiful yellow squash, some scarlet tomatoes, and putting some bright citrus wedges into your salads.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Sunflower & Pumpkin Seed Cookies

 They're just simple cookies, with the texture akin to biscotti, crunchy and satisfying with nutty notes coming from the seeds.  I needed to make something simple.   After two days of making an entremet that consisted of a white chocolate and cardamom mousse, a sesame sponge, a lime sable base, a mango and lime gel insert, and then a white chocolate glacage, altogether topped up with tuile and chocolate garnishes - I just wanted to do something simple at home.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Summer Corn Salad

I remember as a child, the best thing about a mixed salad was the kernels sweetcorn that laced through the lettuce leaves and tomato slices. I remember the Pizza Hut salad bars, and how I'd get scoops and scoops of sweetcorn.  Then there are also the ears of hot steaming sweetcorn in the winter sold on the streets for literally pennies.  I've always liked sweetcorn.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Matcha Fortune Cookies

Fortune cookies -- make them and they will a) make you very popular amongst your friends and, b) make you lose all sensation on your fingers.  You need to bend and shape them while they're still hot and they are very hot.  I do it with the oven door open, with the silicon mat still in the oven because these cookies cool and harden faster than you can imagine.  And on a side note, did you know that fortune cookies aren't Chinese?  Give a Chinese person a fortune cookie and she/he will wonder why you put paper in her food.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Miso Braised Cabbage

Yes, I am aware, cabbage times are gone.  After months of gale, showers and achromatic vegetables, Britain has eased into Spring.  It's time for asparagus, for wild garlic, for morels - exciting produce and here I am still eating cabbage.  Braised, too.  Not even shredded and tossed with a zesty dressing served as a slaw in a spring picnic. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Best Eats This Week: Seeded Scone with Vegemite Butter (Grain Store, London)

As much as I love London's prolific food scene, the sheer number of options for a simple meal can be painfully overwhelming. Take brunch, everywhere does brunch, and everywhere serves the same pancakes, fry-ups and porridge. So when convenience and cost are taken out as factors, how does one choose? Restaurants must make themselves stand out with something different, some imagination, something that makes your eyes light up in anticipation --- and with Grain Store, its brunch menu was just a beautiful list of exciting and original dishes.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Sweet Potato Chips with Curried Aioli

As a child in China, roasted sweet potatoes were a favorite street food of mine.  They would be sold out of big barrels, with the skin charred and crispy and the flesh soft and sweet, they were just the most comforting thing to have in the winter.  Later on I discovered that most of the barrels were stolen from factories and contained lead residue #childhoodruined.
So I no longer buy them on the streets and just make them at home. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Roasted Cabbage with Spicy Salsa

Spring has hit us quite abruptly - the days have suddenly been stretched out with all this blinding sunlight and high temperatures.  The gales have stopped.  The rain has taken a break.  The chill is gone.  It's mid-April and it's Spring and it's sunny and it's warm and it makes you realize that the harshest thing about the world is that it moves on without you.  That you're not as connected with nature and humanity as they say we are.  The sun won't stop shining, people won't stop celebrating, and good things won't stop happening just because you're sad.

Similarly just turn on the news when you're having a good day. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Salted Ginger Millionaire's Shortbread

It's a Friday night and I have just finished having dinner with a friend.

“Let’s go out for a drink now?”

I look at my watch – 21:00.  I hesitantly say yes. We go to a bar where the general clientele is in their 20’s and early 30’s, well-dressed, heels, suits, beautiful.   The drinks list is too elaborate,  the music's too loud and the lighting's too dim. After one drink and too many desperate attempts at trying to talk over the music, with a hoarse throat and exhausted patience, I say I need to go home. I’m back at 11pm and with all the energy in the world from the coffees I've had in the afternoon, I decide to bake, finishing at 2am and I go to bed.  That's a Friday night.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Best Eats This Week: Vietnamese Pesto and Bánh Mìs (Whaam Bánh Mì, London)

I’m quite good with table manners in public. Even with burgers, shell-on prawns and chicken wings -- I can neatly eat with grace. However, there are times when I’m just shamelessly picking things with my fingers and licking the plate like a starving child in an effort to not waste any trace of the food. That was the case with this Vietnamese pesto that accompanied the summer rolls at Whaam Bánh Mì – the new Vietnamese joint in Soho.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Persian Courgette Frittata (Kuku Kadoo)

Weekday brunches are just a pure luxury.  I'm currently on holiday and my days have been made up of job-applications and too many coffee breaks in the sun.  Yesterday, after lying awake in bed for a good couple of hours until it was a reasonable time for the holidays, I got up and spent a a significant part of the morning making brunch.  That's what holidays should be about, right?  Waking up each day with too much time on your hands and not enough to do.
Eggs are great for breakfast - this is a a frittata with a luxurious make-over. It's got ginger, garlic and a ridiculous amount of onion -- it was a lot of emotional chopping at 9 in the morning.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Grits with Braised Spring Onions and Fried Garlic

As a vegetable, onions are often overlooked.  It's my favorite vegetable - red, white, shallots, spring onions - I like them roasted and braised so they're all soft and sweet; I like them raw, thinly sliced, so they're crunchy and spicy.  And it's got to be one of the cheapest vegetables to get. 

I also love garlic.  That's got to be the biggest plus of being single - I can shamelessly have all the garlic I want.  I love roasted garlic smeared on some toasted sourdough with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and flaked sea salt. Mmmmm.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Tofu with Peppers and Spicy Oyster Sauce

As I write about this tofu dish, all I can think about is meat.  I have been very good these last few weeks in avoiding meat for a variety of reasons and right now all I want is something bloody and preferably with bones attached -- like a proper steak or a roast.  That's all my carnivorous side craves for at the moment. 
BUT.  Everyone should reduce their meat consumption, as we all know.  I try to limit it to once a week when it comes to red meat, so here's another one of those meatless recipes for you, and tomorrow I'm going to the butcher's.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Matcha, Ginger & Sesame Granola

So many green recipes lately - and it's all right after St Patrick's Day.  Oh well, I'll remind everyone of these next year.  I woke up early this morning to make these so that I could take a photo them while there was still natural light.  That's what I've been having to do in the winter and in the deep dark days of January it meant that I could only take photos in my lunch break #lifeinBritain.  However,  to my surprise, I got home at 7pm today and it was still bright out.  Okay, "bright" is a strong word but there was still light.  It's still cold, and it was windy as f*ch today BUT all is looking up because it's brighter. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Stir-Fried Okra with Oyster & Fish Sauce

You know what oyster sauce actually is? "True" oyster sauce is made by boiling oysters in water and then reducing that liquid down to pretty much a caramel -- nothing else is added.  But most of the oyster sauce you find is probably just made with oyster extract, cornstarch, salt and caramel.  You probably already know about fish sauce - simply fish and salt left to ferment under the sun for months and months until the fish rots and breaks down creating a liquid that is then filtered and seasoned.  Yum. 

Vietnamese fish sauce has long been a staple in my cupboard but I only bought my first bottle of oyster sauce a few weeks ago - I know, and I'm Chinese.  I was looking for gochujang at my local Asian supermarket and you know when you go grocery shopping with a specific dish in mind?  I wanted to use gochujang to roast some squash and then top it up with lots of fresh herbs and toasted pumpkin seeds.  To my disappointment, however,  the supermarket wasn't very well stocked in Korean products.  I lingered at the sauces aisle for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out what else I could use to roast my vegetables until I was suddenly interrupted by the store manager. "Do you need help?"  I must've looked so confused, looking like a poor foreigner in the midst of all these Asian products and words.  "Oh no, no, thank you, I was just looking for my favorite..oyster sauce and here it is." I wanted to be proud and Asian and that's how I ended up with my first bottle of oyster sauce.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tofu with Porcini Mushroom Jus

"A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life."

These are the wise words from Coco Chanel and on Sunday morning I just had the urge to cut my hair.  I had had long hair for the past 7 years but new look, new attitude, new life.  I found a hairdresser that took walk-in appointments and in thirty minutes I came out as a changed woman. And I felt better.  Changes, no matter how insignificant, from a haircut to a piercing to a tattoo -- somehow signify something so much bigger. 

And since I felt better, I came home and I cooked.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Matcha & Dark Chocolate Chocolate Granola Bars

Mail makes me happy.  It doesn't have to be from friends, as long as it's addressed to me, those letters in the post will put a smile on my face.  That's why I subscribe to so many things and that's why I like ordering things online too just so I can have them delivered. 

A few weeks ago though I received the loveliest little surprise -- a tin of matcha powder and a tin of Himalayan salt with truffles.  It was one of those preciously rare occasions where I get mail from my friends and I could not have wished for better things to discover at my door step.  Thank you, Grace <3
Speaking of mail, I just ordered yet another set of earphones on Amazon (love Prime, free next day deliveries are life-changing).  I've gone through 5 sets of earphones since September because they keep on breaking or disappearing and for the past week I've been walking around with those big massive headphones like an obnoxious teenager because that's all I have.  They act as earmuffs too though which is quite nice.  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Mattar Tofu

I'm so envious of people who can just wing it when it comes to spices.  With spices, especially in Indian cooking, I need to follow the recipe like a robot. I'm scared of making adjustments, because I'd mess up the harmonious balance of flavors.  Indian cooking's difficult and I'd argue that it's one of the most difficult cuisines to cook.  Using 7 different spices in a dish and creating the perfect symphony of flavors where all of them sing individually and together is a skill I yearn to have.  I have a very well stocked cupboard with all the lovely spices but I'm just lazy to cook Indian food because I hate following recipes so strictly.  Well, we all have to start somewhere.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Mushroom and Ricotta Toast

I love bread.  Bruschettas, crostinis, sandwiches -- just anything involving things on bread I love.

I had a dream.  I dreamed of opening up a crostini bar --  an aperitif bar where people can order sweet and savory crostinis with a drink.  It would have an excellent wine list and a series of different crostinis and simple bar snacks like spiced nuts and crackers made in house.  I would have the best bread and cheese suppliers to create tasty and imaginative toast and toppings.  I think that dream died somewhere along with my friend last month.  He was the best foodie who knew all the ins and outs and the whos and whats of the London food scene.  He was going to be my consultant, my guinea pig and my supporter.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Double Chocolate and Ginger Scones

Sunday morning, while the rest of London was hungover and asleep, I baked scones.  I first woke up at 6:20, and through my skylight it was just a lifeless gray so I hid back under the covers, shut my eyes and waited for the time to pass and the sun to come out.  Twenty minutes later, I woke up to the rain splattering against the window.  Mid-March and it's still winter here in the UK but despite the depressing climate, I love this place.  And as I stared out my skylight and thought about all the wonderful British things, I decided to get up and make some scones.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Queensbury Kitchen (London)

Located all the way out in Willesden Green, the Queensbury Kitchen claims to bring something different to the local area.  Perhaps.  It's a straightforward bar and grill serving the expected ribs, burgers and fried chicken, but I rarely venture out to Willesden Green, I wouldn't know.  That said, it does what it does well.

It's friendly and social as it's one of those food-sharing restaurants.  Not the ones serving dainty little small plates but ones with large platters and wooden planks of meat and sliders placed in the middle of long communal tables.  It's what you want for that kind of food, where you're not afraid to reach over the table and eat with your hands and shamelessly lick your fingers.  For rich fatty ribs - which are actually worth the trip to Willesden Green - it came big and bold in two racks, and were sweet and smokey and falling apart at the touch of your fork; for the fried chicken wings - spicy, juicy, crispy and so good that you're there picking off the remaining fried crumbs scattered at the bottom; for the sliders - both meat and vegetarian, served in cute traditional American burger buns.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Ethos (London)

It's hard to get vegetarian restaurants right and it's hard to get buffets right.  It's difficult to develop a vegetarian concept that can also draw in the carnivores and it's incredibly limiting in terms of the food you can prepare as they need to be served on a warming plate for 30 minutes before people eat it.  However, Ethos, a vegetarian buffet restaurant, has made a good effort.

It's not the standard falafels and roasted potatoes (though you get that too), but rather dozens of dishes ranging from rainbow salads to aloo scotch eggs to vegan Shepherd's pie to seitan ribs.  You grab a plate, take what you want, and then you pay at the counter by the weight.  Simple.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Salmon & Beetroot on Toast

There are those lessons you should've learned as a child.  You know, those annoying little things that your parents repeatedly told you - don't talk to strangers, look both ways when you cross the road, tie your shoe laces - things that should've been engrained in you, especially the last one.  So here's a fun little anecdote completely irrelevant to this recipe:  I was walking about in Camden Town and I saw from afar that the traffic light was about to turn red at the zebra crossing ahead of me.  I therefore picked up my pace and planned on sprinting to the end.  That was the plan.  However, just as I started running, just after a couple of steps, I trip on my shoe laces and fall right in the middle of the pavement.  In public.  In a rather busy Camden Town.  It all happened very quick, I fell and the first reaction was to pick myself back up and resume to normal activities, pretend nothing has happened, avoid the embarrassment, just pretend nothing has happened.  Only when you're up and walking does the pain kick in.  It was a Sunday morning and I had to walk in the city with my head held high, with ripped tights and bleeding kneecaps for a good twenty minutes before I finally managed to find a Boots that was open.  Yea but the embarrassment was the main thing.  I tried but I couldn't pull it off as a fashion statement.  If you don't know me, just know that ripped tights aren't my thing.  Especially not ripped tights and blood. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Spiced Sugar Palmiers

I always forget how short February is.  Twenty-eight days just doesn't seem right and so much has happened in this month that I haven't quite had time to process it all.  Every month is a new start, just like every year, every week, or even every day if you're optimistic.  We set these specific beginnings and ends to time to structure our lives and it helps us move on and make changes.  It does, for instance, they say that the most successful diets begin on a Monday.  New year, new you, and just like that, new month, new beginnings, you leave last month's worries behind but 28 days just isn't enough. 

A good thing this month was my flatmate's birthday party.  I made these palmiers along with some other canapes and really, palmiers are your best friend for parties.  They're cheap, they're stupidly easy and everybody loves them. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Olive & Ricotta Bruschetta

 We all need a couple of easy bruschetta recipes in hand for emergency canapé situations.  You have a party coming up and you're short on time - you want to minimize the effort and maximize the quality and good bruschettas are perfect for this.  I think the basis of many good bruschettas is toasting good sourdough bread in the oven with olive oil and then rubbing them with a sliced clove of garlic when hot.  With that, you can top it with anything sensible that comes to mind and it will be fab. 

L'ETO Caffé Brompton (London)

With already six locations in London and having opened only in 2011, the L’ETO’s caffé and restaurant chain has seen a lot of success. It is a simple business concept done well as it caters to a wide audience from the young to the families, the couples, the city workers, the fitness freaks and the sweet tooths. And after visiting their newest branch on Brompton Road for brunch, I’d say that its popularity is justified.

Apt for its location, the restaurant itself boasts sophistication and class with high ceilings, dark hardwood floors, round marble tables, Victorian chairs -- it’s a place screaming cha-ching. Yet despite all this, it is reasonably priced as for brunch you’re looking at £9-12 without drinks. Thus with its pricing plus the appropriate music and service, instead of a snobbery atmosphere, it’s casual and chic.
The brunch options are aplenty. There’s an impressive display of luscious cakes and pastries on black slate boards, and next to it are rows of colorful Ottolenghi-esque salads and other savory treats like quiches and fish cakes. From the menu there are varied pancakes, crepes, egg dishes, toast dishes and healthier dishes like quinoa granola.
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