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

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)
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


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

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: 

- 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. 

- 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. 

- 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
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.