Thursday, 30 December 2010

Birdmania: Thanksgiving and Christmas 2010

Another year till Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Phew.  The last month has been a haze of food, drinks and airports. I am secretly glad it is over and I look forward to getting back into my daily routine.  

Although I feel like I don't ever want to eat anything but salad again (this will hopefully and probably go away soon), I thought I'd share the turkey Mr. Sprinkle and I made for Thanksgiving and the gorgeous duck that my mum cooked for Christmas.  Bless her - she cooked Christmas dinner two nights in a row so Mr. Sprinkle and I too could enjoy a traditional Danish Christmas feast despite arriving a day late due to the snow chaos at Heathrow Airport. 

But first let's go back a month to Thanksgiving. We had 10 friends over who helped us eat a beautiful pheasant from the amazing Clapham butcher Moen & Sons. We roasted it on top of garlic, cellery, red onions, carrots and parsnips.  

         

Like last year, we made Jamie Oliver's stuffing which consists of minced pork, sage, red onions, dried berries and chestnuts.  It is divine!  I also use Jamie Oliver's tip of mixing butter with lemon and orange zest and tucking it under the skin on the turkey breast together with fresh sage.  

                      













We served the turkey with potato gratin (courtesy of friends Pawel and Rena),  mashed sweet potatoes with marshmellows, green beans, lots of gravy and red cabbage.  No wonder my waistline slowly started expanding after Thanksgiving! 

Now to Christmas.  Traditional Danish Christmas dinner consists of roast duck, caramelised potatoes, gravy and red cabbage.  Due to popular request my mum also serves boiled potatoes and crisps heated in the oven.  The latter may sound weird, but is actually quite a common side dish with Christmas dinner in Denmark. My mum stuffs the ducks with apples and prunes.  It is delicious! 


I am happy to send full recipes your way should you be interested.  For now I would just like to wish you and yours all the very best for 2011! 

Monday, 20 December 2010

Two Nights in San Francisco

What was supposed to be an 8-day trip to Northern California has turned into a two week trip due to the snow which is paralysing Heathrow Airport.  I am with Mr. Sprinkle visiting his family. We spent some days in wonderful San Francisco last week, walking up and down the steep streets and, of course, enjoying some of the many culinary treats Fog City has to offer.
 

Like last year we decided to stay at Hotel Tomo in Japantown, a great little hotel in the midst of excellent Japanese restaurants and a stone's throw away from the lovely Filmore Street with its' great boutiques, bars and restaurants. This Japanese-inspired hotel is also in walking distance to Union Square and the Marina where you get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. 

 

Anyways, lets get to the food!


Right next to Hotel Tomo you will find the small Japanese supermarket Super Mira (
1790 Sutter Street).  It is a gem.  You can buy freshly made sushi for very cheap and you fill find an impressive selection of sakes and Japanese snacks.  We picked up a delicious selection of sushi - california rolls, bbq eel rolls and spicy tuna rolls - and some dumplings.

We had dinner at Beretta (1199 Valencia St) with two friends. This Italian bar and restaurant is located in the Mission District where you will also find several bike shops and a lot of people in flanel.  Yup, this district is favoured by San Fran hipsters. 

This trendy restaurant has a no-reservation policy, but staff will kindly point you in the direction of the bar where you can sip cocktails or wine while you wait for a table.

Normally this would annoy me, but the bar is long and the cocktails are divine.  You will encounter many interesting cocktails on the menu - ever heard of an Airmail or a Mumbai Mule?  I hadn't but I am sure glad to have been acquainted! All are made with fresh citrus fruits and herbs such as basil and rosemary.  There are big bowls brimming with lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits on the bar.  The bartenders use these in your drinks meaning that you won't find a dry slice of lime that has spent two nights in a fridge in your drink.  It may sound strange, but the cocktails feel healthy because the ingredients are so fresh. 

I tried the Lonsdale (gin, apple, lemon, basil, honey) and the Mumbai Mule (saffron vodka, lime, ginger and fresh mint). The latter was my favourite, but both rank among some of the tastiest cocktails I've had in a long time. 

As for the food, we shared a couple of starters: 
roasted beets with ricotta salata, arugula & fennel salad with shaved parmesan and some herb onion bread with extra virgin olive oil.  I especially enjoyed the beets.  We shared two pizzas for the main course.   It was pretty good pizza though I would have liked to try their risottos or meat dishes.  Their butternut squash with rosemary and crescenza risotto certainly sounds very good.  For dessert we went for a scoop of vanilla gelato and panna gelato with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. What? Gelato with olive oil and sea salt, you may rightfully ask (I did), but it is surprisingly good. 

Moving on to breakfast.  A favourite of ours is The Grove (2060 Filmore Street) which is 5 minutes from Hotel Tomo by foot.  Like so many other good breakfast places it is full of Macbooks, but the food and service is good.  I opted for Huevos Rancheros (when in California....) while Mr. Sprinkle went for the poached eggs with hashbrowns and bacon.


A final restaurant tip - if you find yourself shopping in Macy's on Union Square (you most probably will) then treat yourself to a burger in Hubert Keller's Burger Bar on the 6th floor. Overlooking Union Square, this is paradise for burger lovers.  

The menu has everything from your standard beef burger to the $60 Rossini burger containing Kobe beef, foie gras and truffles to the Surf & Turf Burger which consists of black angus and half a grilled lobster.  Not to be missed, but be sure to bring an appetite!  I devoured my American Classic Burger before I could take a photo. I guess sometimes no photo says more than a thousand words. Yes, it was that inviting. 


Do you have any tips on where to eat and drink in San Francisco? 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Brunch at No. 67 in Peckham

I went for brunch at No. 67, a café in Peckham, this morning.  I am not a big fan of brunching - I always worry that the service will be slow as I am a pretty unpleasant person when my stomach is empty. I admit to it though I take some comfort in the fact that it runs in my family. 

Nonetheless I agreed to meet my friends, Pawel and Rena, for brunch at this café between Camberwell Green and Peckham High Street. I'm really glad that I did.  I had never heard of the place, but it has a cosy vibe and, most importantly, the service is fast and friendly.  

The menu has a Spanish twist so the closest you will get to a full English is a full Spanglish where the sausage and bacon is replaced by chorizo and morcilla.  Two in the group went for this option and very much enjoyed it.  I had the salmon and scrambled eggs.  Simple, but good and it came with nice fresh sourdough bread.  Two others in the group went for the baked eggs - eggs baked with tomatos and a side of beans.  They were happy with their choice.  The bill came to £48 for 5 meals, 5 large coffees (cappucinos, lattes etc.), 1 orange juice and 1 vanilla milkshake.  

The space is very clean and light thanks to its white walls and big windows. It doesn't feel sterile though and it is clearly popular with the hip and trendy locals.  

No. 67 is in the South London Gallery.  We had a look at the current exhibition after our meal. I am no art critic, but I'd definitely make the café my reason for heading down here.  The lunch menu looked good and I have no doubt that it would be a great place for an afternoon coffee and a cheeky piece of cake. 

Being part of a gallery it is closed on Mondays, but otherwise open from 10am - 6pm.  On Wednesdays it is open till 10pm. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Tuesday Night Pizza

After a long day at work I gave myself a pat on the shoulder for remembering to take out pizza dough from the freezer this morning.   I made pizza last week and, as usual, I made a huge batch so I could freeze half of it for another meal.  You might as well make life easy for yourself every now and again!  

I used to be sceptical about making pizzas, always imagining opening the oven only to find a soggy pizza, but luckily I discovered Jamie Oliver's pizza recipe.  It is easy to make and the base comes out really crisp and delicious.  I second Jamie's suggestion to use Tippo 00 flour.  It makes all the difference.

As for the tomato sauce, I fry a thinly sliced clove of garlic in a bit of olive oil before adding a tin of tomatoes and either fresh or dried basil.  Let it simmer for a bit and you are ready for the fun part: toppings.  

I'm pretty traditional when it comes to pizza - prosciutto with mushrooms is a staple as is pepperoni (with mozarella of course), but there is no reason not to be more adventurous with your toppings.


What are your favourite pizza toppings? 

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Ale and Venison Stew

My brother and his girlfriend are visiting from Copenhagen. Yesterday I took them to some of my favourite places in London (guess where?): the farmers' market by Oval Station and Borough Market.  The result?  Loads of good food was sampled and we schlepped home a lot of delicious meats, cheese, herbs and vegetables.

After carefully browsing the selection of treats at the farmers' market, we set our hearts on some diced venison which we decided to stew last night.  Last time I cooked a venison stew I used red wine, but this time I cooked it in ale.  I also used smoked bacon so it came out quite different to the last one.  I prefer this one as it has more flavours and  I like the smokiness and saltiness from the bacon.

To feed 4 friends:
500g of diced venison
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
6 pieces of smoked bacon (I swear by Giggly Pig bacon from the farmers' market)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
3 cellery sticks, washed and sliced
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 pint of ale (I used Black Sheep Ale)
2 bay leaves
2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
5 large sprigs of fresh thyme
3 pepper corns
0.5 L of beef or venison stock
freshly ground pepper

  

1. Cut or slice the bacon into small strips and put them into a large hot pot on the stove.  Let the strips fry until light brown and the fat has melted.  Then add the onions and garlic.

2.  Add the venison and freshly ground pepper once the onions turn light brown. When the venison turns brown, add the bay leaves, carrots and cellery.  Stir it around and add the thyme and rosemary.  Fry for another couple of minutes while mixing everything around.



3. Add the pepper corns and pour in the ale and stock.  Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for at least an hour.

My brother made a mash out of potatoes, celeriac and garlic which went really well with the stew.  It would also be good with boiled potatoes.




  

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Pheasant Breasts with Apples and Bacon

My mum visited this weekend and cooked an amazing dish which I wanted to share with you.  My grandmother taught her how to make it so this is a proper hand-me-down recipe.   

It all started at the Farmers' Market by Oval Station where my mum and I picked up 10 pheasant breasts (for just £10 pounds!), bacon and apples.  Hard to go wrong with these 3 ingredients, ey?Well, add some cream and you are home free!

To serve 4 friends:

8 pheasant breasts
8 pieces of smoked bacon
8 apples (washed and cut into boats)
150 ml of single cream
150ml of water
pepper

1. Turn the oven on and set it to 200 degrees.  

2. Heat a pan on the stove.  Fry the bacon on the pan until crisp and brown.  Take the bacon off.  

3. Fry the pheasant breasts in the fat left from the bacon (add a bit of oil if there isn't enough fat left) for a few minutes until they turn brown.  Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper while they are on the pan.  Take them off the pan and place them in an ovenproof tray.  

4. Now fry the apple boats on the pan in the remaining fat for a few minutes.  Place them around the pheasant breasts in the tray.  Place a piece of bacon on top of each pheasant breast.

5. Pour the single cream onto the pan which you have just used to fry the bacon, pheasant and apple.  Add 150ml of water.   Mix it together.  Switch off once it starts to boil.  Pour it over the apples, pheasant and bacon in the tray.

6. Place the tray in the pre-heated oven for 30 - 45 minutes.


Serve with boiled potatoes or potato wedges. 


Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Minestrone Soup

"Oh no, I forgot to take meat out of the freezer" I exclaimed yesterday morning as I walked to work with Mr. Sprinkle to which he dryly answered that a.) things could be worse and b.) we do in fact not need to eat meat every day.  Fair enough, I suppose, although I always have a hard time coming up with tasty vegetarian options (as any vegetarian friend who has dined chez moi will know).

My main ideas tend to be salads or pasta with pesto or tomato sauce.  But walking home last night I
, partly thanks to the cold,  had an enlightening moment and a bowl of minestrone appeared before my inner eye.  That good old Italian classic. Here is how I made it.

To serve 4 people:

1 large peeled and chopped onion

1 washed and chopped leek
3 washed and chopped celery sticks
4 small washed and peeled potatoes
3 washed and peeled carrots
1 bay leaf
2-3 tablespoonfuls of dried thyme
2 peeled and chopped cloves of garlic
tomato paste
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of flageolet beans
0.5L of chicken stock 
150g of small pastas or spaghetti
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Heat some oil in a big pot.  Add the leeks, celery, onion and garlic.  Fry for a few minutes.  Then add the rest of the vegetables, the bay leaf and thyme.  Fry for another couple of minutes.


2. Add 3 tablespoonfuls of tomato paste and the beans.  Mix it all together. Add the canned tomatos and chicken stock.  You want everything to be covered so add a bit more water if necessary.  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 15 minutes.


3. Bring it to a boil again.  Add a bit more water if you don't think it is enough to boil the pasta.  Then add the pasta/spaghetti and boil it according to the instructions - usually 11 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to your liking and enjoy!





I had some leftover bread from the weekend which I sliced thinly before putting on cheddar cheese.  I grilled these in the oven till the cheese started melting (about 3-4 minutes) and served them with the soup.  Very good combination!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Friday Night Tacos (Great with Martinis)

Dislike Tuesdays?  Me too.  Apparently most people find it to be the worst day of the week.  There are some very simple ways to beat the Tuesday blues though.  

In my office we introduced "Cake Day".  Every Tuesday one of us brings in home-baked cake. It helps improve the general mood - at least until someone realises mid-way through slice number three that they've just broken their diet.


Another way to beat the Tuesday blues is by planning your Friday dinner.  In our house every Friday is a cause for celebration. Last Friday we celebrated with Martinis and tacos.  Imagine a Mad Men scene set in Taco Bell if you will.  
It is a winning combo. I passed out happy and content before 10. 

The idea came about because I had made
chilli con carne with rice the night before and we had loads left over.  All I had to do was pick up some soft tacos and toppings on my way home.

Tacos for 4 amigos:


8 soft tacos
chilli con carne + rice (leftovers)
 
lettuce
sour cream
salsa (recipe for homemade salsa)
guacamole (recipe for homemade guac
freshly grated cheddar cheese

1. Slowly heat the leftover chilli con carne and rice in a pot with a bit of water.  Mix it together and keep a close eye on it as it re-heats.  Or you can make the chilli con carne from scratch (if you do this then you will also have to boil some rice).

2. Make the salsa and guacamole and grate the amount of cheddar cheese you find appropriate (skip this if you bought salsa and guacamole at the store).

3. Heat the tacos in the oven or microwave (look at the packaging for instructions).

4. Put a bit of rice and chilli con carne on the middle of a taco.  Sprinkle on some grated cheese and lettuce.  Add salsa, guacamole and sour cream to your liking. Fold it together and dig in!





The tacos went well with Mr. Sprinkle's Martinis (5 parts Gin and 1 part Dry Vermouth shaken over ice and served with a couple of olives). 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Venison Stew

Last night I made a stew with the venison I bought at the farmers' market by Oval tube station.  I paid just under £4 for 400g!

The stew was very easy to make and incredibily delicious. Venison really is one of my favourite meats and it goes hand in hand with autumn and red wine. 


To feed 4 friends:

400g of diced venison
4 peeled and sliced carrots
4 sliced cellery sticks
2 peeled and diced white onions
3 peeled and sliced cloves of garlic 
half a bottle of red wine
half a litre of beef stock
thyme (fresh or dried)
1 bay leaf
olive oil
salt & pepper (preferably fresh ground)

1. Heat some oil in a big pot.  Add the onions and garlic and fry them for a few minutes.  Add the venison and bay leaf.  Fry for another couple of minutes.  


2. Add 2-3 tablespoonfuls of dried Thyme/ 4 fresh Thyme sprigs. Add salt and pepper.  Add the carrots and cellery.  Fry for a few minutes.  



3. Add the wine and stock. You want to cover everything in liquid.  Bring it to a boil before reducing the heat.  Cook for an hour with the lid on.

I served the stew with boiled potatoes and a big glass of red wine.  It would also go well with mashed potatoes or fries. 



Saturday, 6 November 2010

Pho-nomenal

One of the perks of working in trendy Clerkenwell is the abundance of great places to eat no matter what cuisine or price range you are after.  You can eat very well for a fiver at Whitecross Street Market  and Exmouth Market or splash out and enjoy the marvels of places like The Modern Pantry and Moro.  

You can also go to Pho on St. John's Street.  Part of a five restaurant chain, this Vietnamese restaurant serves high-quality tasty food at low prices. It is the definition of good value for money and the 
service is tip top.

The philosophy of Vietnamese cuisine is that you create your own dish - you decide how much fresh mint you want in your Pho and how spicy you want it to be.  This place abides fully by the philosophy as you will see from the plates with fresh chilli, mint and basil lined up on the bar waiting to be served. 


The menu consists of traditional Vietnamese dishes including the national dish Pho, spring rolls, salads, and noodles. Each dish looks inviting and oozes freshness thanks to the fresh herbs, sauces and toppings that accompany most dishes.

I have eaten at this place more times than any other restaurant in London.  Yes, it is a stone's throw away from my office and, yes, it used to be the prefered meeting place for my talented friend Gabriele and I before she left London.  
I would, however, gladly cross international borders for number 29 on their menu, Bun Ga.  

Here is why: you get a wonderfully big bowl of vermicelli rice noodles, stir-fried chicken seasoned with lemon grass, peanuts, grated carrots,  fresh herbs and a spring roll.   It comes with regular or spicy Nuoc Cham sauce.  I go for the regular one - the spicy one is very spicy and I am no sissy when it comes to spiciness. 




I have tried a number of the starters such as the traditional Vietnamese crepes and spring rolls which are all very tasty and leave you wanting more.  Desserts include fresh sorbet and ice cream - be sure to leave room for a scoop of honey and ginger ice cream. 


Pho is located on 86 St. John Street in Clerkenwell. 

Weekly Trip to the Farmers' Market

Another Saturday, another trip to the wonderful farmers' market by Oval tube station.  And what a gorgeous autumn day for it.  


    

As usual I wanted to buy everything, but I settled for a few treats:

3 slices of cake
4 crunchy chard falafels
oak smoked salmon pate
400g of diced venison
cellery
tomatoes
onions
garlic

All this for under £21!


I had the falafels, tomatoes, and salmon pate for lunch with fresh bread from our local bakery on Landor Road, The Old Post Office Bakery, which also has a stall at the market.  I am serving the cake for my friend Karen this afternoon when she comes for tea and I am going to cook a stew using the venison and cellery.  Quite a food day, but it is Saturday and I feel like sharing the wonders of this gem of a market with my nearest and dearest.

        

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Looking for a Good Cup of Joe in London?

There is an abundance of coffee places in London - some good, some bad, some terrible and some truly excellent.  Here are some of my absolute favourites: 

Benugo
- there are 6 of these cafes in London, all offering superb coffee and good food.  Check them out in Clerkenwell, St. Pancras, City Road, Curzon Street, Westfield and Great Portland Street.

Bean about Town
- these small mobile vans offer great coffee with a smile at low prices.  You will find them parked and ready to serve around Clapham North, Kentish Town, St. Katharine Dock, Camden Lock and Kensington Olympia. They will be opening one in Dalston soon too. 

Look Mum No Hands
- this cafe/bike shop opened earlier this year and has quickly become a popular hang out for the East London crowd and their fixed gear bikes.  They serve excellent strong coffees. 

Caravan
- right in wonderful Exmouth Market, this new bar/restaurant serves up great coffees.  And they serve them with a glass of water which I love. 

Brill - also in Exmouth Market.  Excellent coffee and they sell records too.  It will always have a special place in my heart as I used to hang out there while waiting to meet Mr. Sprinkle after work (this was before I moved to London).  Brill doesn't have a website, but you can't miss it if you're in Exmouth Market. 


Lasco
- one of my most treasured places in London.  An antique shop in an old mansion by Vauxhall Station where you can spend hours looking at everything from old chimneypieces to dining tables to radiators.  End or begin with an excellent coffee in their cafe where they also offer breakfast and light bites. 

Monmouth Coffee
- quite a London institution where you will find people queueing  for their delicious java on Saturdays when Borough Market is on.  They also serve excellent breakfast.  A special place as this was where 3 girlfriends and I held our final meal club before graduating from uni.


Got any comments or recommendations?  Please let me know! 

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Pork Chop Stew

This morning I took out some pork chops from the freezer without the faintest idea or inspiration about how to prepare them for dinner.  The cold weather helped.  By early afternoon I had come to crave a warm, hearty stew though I wasn't quite sure about the suitability of pork chops for this.  I decided to give it a go using some cellery hearts and beans.  The result was excellent. Try it out for yourself! 

To feed 4 friends:

4 pork chops
1 can of tomatos
1 can of Cannellini beans
2 washed and chopped cellery hearts
sage
smoked paprika
2 peeled and chopped red onions
2 peeled and chopped cloves of garlic
0.4L water
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Heat some oil in a big pot.  Add the onions and fry till golden.  Add the pork chops and garlic.  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoonfuls of sage and 1 tablespoonful of paprika. Fry for a few minutes.

2.  Add the chopped celery hearts.  Fry for another couple of minutes.  Drain the beans and add together with the canned tomatos.

3. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes with a lid on.

I served the stew with boiled potatos, but this dish would go well with rice, bread or maybe even couscous.



Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Whitecross Street Market

Nothing brightens up a drab day in the office like a trip to Whitecross Street Market situated 5 minutes by foot from Old Street Station.




Every day you can find an impressive number of vendors selling delicious meals including salads, burritos, pasta dishes, falafels, curries, noodles, and tapas. 



I am addicted to the £4 salad from Sunny's Olive Tree.  I need a substantial meal in the middle of the day to keep me going throughout the afternoon so I was sceptical the first time I tried the salad, but it really fills you up.  The ingredients differ from day to day, but you can always count on fresh vegetables, humus dressing, sundried tomatos, couscous and beans. It comes with a piece of foccacia. For about £1 extra you get feta cheese and olives.


                       This just made my day! 

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Killing 2 Birds with One Stone: Stir Fry

I tend to food shop in bulk much to the despair of Mr. Sprinkle who has more than once given me a severe silence treatment after making him carry home enough pasta and meat to feed our street. I can't help it; well-stocked kitchen cupboards make me feel at ease, and I firmly believe that when you see a good deal in the shop, you gotta jump at it!

Running out of kitchen basics like rice or eggs have become known as "major supply chain failure" in our home. I take it from my mum.  Growing up I would go to the supermarket with her once a week and buy in bulk.  I can count the number of times we ran out of something essential on one hand. She is a lean mean supply chain manager and alas, I am trying hard to follow in her foot steps.

Anyways, what the heck does buying in bulk have to do with stir fry you may rightfully ask at this point.  Well, when you buy highly perishable goods like vegetables in bulk it may sometimes be difficult to use them up before they expire.  A stir fry is an excellent and healthy way to use up excess vegetables sitting in your fridge.  And that is exactly what I did last night.

Just make sure to always have the following basics in your kitchen: sesame oil, fresh ginger, fresh chillis, garlic, oyster sauce and rice.

To feed 4 people:
Sesame oil
1 fresh chopped and deseeded chilli
a couple of slices of peeled, fresh ginger
2 cloves of peeled and chopped garlic
400 g of  chicken in bite-sized pieces
3 peeled and sliced carrots
2 chopped bell peppers
2 sliced pak choi
1 chopped broccoli head
2 peeled and diced white onions
a handful of washed and sliced mushrooms
sesame seeds
fresh ground pepper

1. Heat 2 tablespoonfuls of sesame oil in a wok or big pot.  Add the chilli, onion, garlic and ginger and let it fry for a minute.

2.  Add the chicken and let it fry till golden.  Add some fresh ground pepper.

3. Add the carrots, mushrooms and bell peppers.  Fry for a few minutes.  Then add the rest of the vegetables.

4. Add a bit of oyster sauce and mix everything around.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve!


This stir fry goes well with rice or noodles and a dash of soy sauce.

If you don't have all the above vegetables then go for it anyways - our fridge was bursting with greens just about expire last night so I saw little choice but to go all-in.




Sunday, 24 October 2010

Five Flies in Amsterdam

I was in Amsterdam this week in the name of work.   Great city, though my exposure to the "Venice of the North" was unfortunately pretty limited as I was stuck in a hotel most of the time for a conference.  

I did, however, have one excellent meal at a restaurant with the rather unappetising name Vijff Vlieghen which translates to Five Flies (apparently this was the last name of the first owner).  

We had a delicious four-course tasting menu at an old table covered with the famous blue and white Dutch ceramic tiles.  What more could you ask for?  Not much.  

Now I realise that for this post to qualify as a proper review I should list what I ate and comment on it.  That ain't gonna happen as I was hungry and out with clients so I didn't write down what I ate.  I can, however, tell you that every course was - pardon the cliché - an explosion of amazing flavours.  Should you ever find yourself in Amsterdam then make sure you check in at this restaurant, dating back to 1939. 

Monday, 18 October 2010

Traditional Morocco: Harira

I read a recipe in The Times two weeks ago on how to make the tradtional soup of Morocco, Harira.  I've already cooked it twice and, let me tell you, it is fantastic!  Harira is quick to prepare, but takes about two hours to cook so you may wanna save it for a Saturday or a day when you're working from home.

Something between a soup and a stew, Harira is tasty and well, just plain comforting.  It is like stepping onto a heated floor after a steaming hot shower and tucking into a big fluffy bath robe.  

To feed 4 people:
olive oil
2 peeled and chopped onions
3 chopped garlic cloves
1 can of tomatoes
2 cans of chick peas
70g of brown lentils
tomato paste
ground cumin
paprika
1 bay leaf 
400g-500g of lamb shoulder
1 litre of beef stock 
salt and pepper

1. Cut the lamb shoulder into bite-sized pieces.

2. Heat some olive oil in a big pot.  Add the onions and garlic.  Fry for a few minutes.  Add 2 tablespoonfuls of paprika and 2 tablespoonfuls of cumin. Add the lamb and fry for another minute

3. Add the canned tomatoes, the bay leaf, 3 tablespoonfuls of tomato paste and the beef stock.  Bring to a the boil before turning down the heat and letting it simmer for 45 minutes with the lid on.

4. Rinse the lentils under cold water and drain the chick peas.  Add both and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour.  

5. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. 

You can eat this hearty dish on its own, with bread or perhaps with a bit of rice if you are really hungry. It is traditionally served with lemon wedges - haven't tried, but I can see why that would work. 


Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Awesome Farmers' Market by Oval Tube Station

Just came back from my usual Saturday trip to the Farmers' Market by Oval Station in South London.  I've been going almost every week since moving to the area over a year ago.  Slowly, but very surely I have tried the various cheeses, meats, vegetables, baked goods, fish, and drinks for sale in this little churchyard. It is a really cosy market with friendly vendors, proud of the products they are selling.

We picked up a few treats for the coming days: 
  • 1 pheasant for £3.75 (you can get 4 for £12!)
  • 3 packs of the best sausages ever for £10
  • salmon mousse £2.75
  • goat cheese with chives and garlic £4.00
  • porcini mushroom paté from The Parsnipship  £2.50 
The market is open every Saturday from 10am - 3pm. 


We had the salmon mousse, goat cheese and porcini mushroom paté for lunch with fresh bread from The Old Post Office Bakery.  The bakery is located on Landor Road (7 min. walk from Clapham North Tube Station).  You can also find their delicious bread and cakes at the market. 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

In Search of Good London Pubs?

You can hardly walk down a London street without finding a pub, but how do you know which one to pick?  My dream job would be to trot around town sampling each and everyone, but till then I will continue doing it on a sporadic "volunteer" basis. Here are a few of my favourites.  Working in Clerkenwell and living in South London, I realise that these pubs are all in those areas, but I will keep researching!  

The Easton
 
near Exmouth Market.

The Canton Arms
 on South Lambeth Road. 

The Trinity
 
right next to Borough Station. 

The Fentiman Arms
 
between Vauxhall and Oval. 

You can expect quality food, beer, and wine at these pubs.  The menus at the Trinity and the Fentiman Arms consist mainly of well-cooked standard pub items, i.e. if you are craving fish & chips or a Sunday roast, these are places to hit up.  


The Easton and the Canton Arms, on the other hand, are "gastro-pubs."  My goodness that term reeks of hipster-yuppie-snobbishness, but I'm lacking a better word to describe the food at these pubs right now.  What does it mean?  You will find risotto on the menu.  You will also find a variety of fresh meats cooked to perfection served with the season's vegetables prepared in a clever and delicious way. You will find freshly baked cakes and homemade ice cream for dessert.  


Ps: Always leave room for the Easton Mess at the Easton. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Green & Red Mexican Restaurant in East London

I recently went for happy hour and dinner at Green & Red Restaurant just off Shoreditch High Street. It must have been the first time I left a Mexican restaurant without unbuttoning my jeans while swearing never to touch a tortilla again.  

Green & Red keeps their portions small, the idea being that you order a couple of dishes to share.  We got quite excited and ordered 3 dishes each.  I recommend the Chorizo Quesadillas and the Ensalada de Jicama.  I'd never heard about jicama before (have you?), but was pleased to discover this very delicious root vegetable.  I rounded off the meal with Churros con Chocolate. And we are not talking any old chocolate here.  We are talking spicy, thick, rich, to-kill-for chocolate. Three words: mas, por favor! 

The place has an impressive tequila menu.  Not knowing my Jose Cuervo from my Gran Patron I stuck to the awesome house margaritas, but two of my friends sipped some fine tequila and looked like they enjoyed it.  It was certainly eye-opening to see tequila served in a tasting glass and without the usual slice of lemon and on salt on the side.  Yikes, is this a sign of adulthood??

We had a beer after dinner in the bar/lounge in the basement; it never really turned into a fiesta, but we were on the wrong side of midnight to be fair.  All the ingredients are definitely under the roof for a good time. And the staff are lovely. 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Roasting Time - Chicken and Autumn Veggies

It may still be warm here in London, but it is also October and my body clock has spoken: it is time for roasts! I adore the UK-tradition of Sunday roasts though I don't limit myself to making them on Sundays.  Yes, they take a while to cook, but they are quick to prepare.  Just turn on the oven as soon as you walk in the door, prepare the meat and veggies, shove it all in the oven, and put on an episode of Mad Men or two episodes of SATC while you let the cosy smell of roast spread all over the house (or, in my case, flat).

There are so many great autumn vegetables out there begging to be roasted: pumpkins, squash, parsnips, carrots, leeks, celeriac, swedes, beet roots.  And the best part is that these vegetables cost next to nothing!

Chicken Roast for 4 people:
1 chicken
fresh sage
fresh thyme
1 lemon
1 swede
5 carrots
3 leeks
3 onions
4 garlic bulbs (yes, bulbs!)
1 kg of potatos
olive oil
sea salt and pepper

1. Turn the oven on and let it pre-heat to 200 degrees.  Take the chicken out of the fridge.

2. Wash the potatos and boil them for 10 minutes (this will make them quicker to roast).  Add a whole lemon to the boiling water too (you will use this for the chicken in step 4).

3. Meanwhile, wash and peel the carrots and swede. Cut them into pieces.  Cut the carrots into quarters and cut the swede into 3cm x 3cm pieces.  Peel the onions and cut them in half.  Wash the leeks and slice each of them into 2-3 pieces.

4. Put some oil in the bottom of a roasting tray.  Place the chicken in the roasting tray.  Put thyme and sage inside the chicken and squeeze some in between the legs and the body too.  Take the lemon out of the boiling water, poke some holes in it with a knife (this is a Jamie Oliver trick) and put it inside the chicken.  Rub the bird with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Arrange the vegetables and the garlic around the chicken in the tray.  Add a bit of oil, salt and pepper.  Mix it all around with your hands.

5. Put the potatos in a separate tray.  Add oil, salt, pepper, sage and thyme.  Mix up it and shake the spuds around a bit so that they get oil on them.

6.  Put the tray with the chicken in the oven for one hour.  Add the potatos for the last 30 minutes.

7.  The chicken takes about an hour to roast.  Here is a tip to make sure it is ready: take it out of the oven and break away one leg from the body.  If the juice is clear it is done.  If it is still a bit red then it needs more time.




Each person gets a garlic bulb.  Squeeze out the garlic and use it to smear over the meat and potatos. Bon appetit and who cares if your colleagues give you strange looks the next day? Could be worse - you could have forgotten to put on your skirt!