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
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!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Rosemary Lane in Wapping, London

I discovered an absolute gem of a restaurant in London this weekend thanks to my friend, Stian, who organised an evening at Rosemary Lane to celebrate his birthday.  We had a 9-course tasting menu.  It is not simply because a new plate of food landed in front of me 9 times that I am raving as I dig through my lunchtime salad.  Every single plate was cooked and presented to perfection.

You should definitely make the trip east to Wapping (no longer a hassle thanks to the Overground) to sample the delights of Californian chef Cristina Anghelescu.   Based in a former pub, Rosemary Lane is wonderfully unpretentious and just a great place to enjoy excellent food without any fuss from snooty waiters or obnoxious wanna-be-seens.  

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Spicy Sunday Soup

Do you also despise Sunday evenings?  Well, here is a soup to help you beat those awful Sunday blues.  I realise that I am in quite a soup phase at the moment, but having just discovered how easy they are to make, I can't seem to get enough!  Bon appetit and have a good start to next week!

To serve 4 friends: 
2 chopped leeks
300 g of sliced chorizo
1/2 deseeded and chopped chilli
1 chopped sweet pepper
3 chopped carrots
smoked paprika
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 chopped red onion
1 can of haricot beans
1 can of tomatos
1 bay leaf
0.5L vegetable stock
salt and pepper
olive oil

1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a big pot.  Add the red onion, chilli, chorizo and garlic. Fry for 2 minutes. 

2. Add the rest of the vegetables, 1 teaspoonful of smoked paprika, and the bay leaf.  Fry for a few minutes.

3.  Add the beans. Stir around before adding the tomatos and vegetable stock.  Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 20-30 minutes without a lid.

Serve with bread or just enjoy it on its own!  Add a tablespoonful of sour cream if it is too spicy for you. 

Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday Night Snack and Beer

Happy Friday!!  While Mr. Sprinkle prepares dinner, I'm digging into a "light" pre-dinner snack, an "amuse bouche" if you will, consisting of chorizo, olives, cashew nuts and some solid Belgian brew.  What better way to unwind and forget about the office?

If you can get your hands on La Chouffe beer then do it! It is one of my favourite Belgian beers; I discovered it while living in Brussels and, take it from moi, it is divine. 

Bon weekend! 

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Birthday Bagel To The Max

It was my better half's birthday yesterday.  He requested what I like to call a Salmon and Cream Cheese Deluxe Bagel for breakfast.  As I nearly ruined his birthday dinner last year at London's overrated St. John restaurant by complaining about the food from arrival till departure, I saw little choice but to get up extra early yesterday morning and to put together this bagel sandwich of all bagel sandwiches.  It is absolutely delicious and, truth be told, I would get up early every day to whack together a bagel like this if it wasn't so unkind on the waist and wallet (compared to musli and milk - booooooooring, I know).

bagels (sesame or multi-seed would be my recommendation)
a ripe avocado
smoked salmon
cream cheese
a peeled and chopped red onion
dill (if it's your thing)

1. Toast the bagel. Apply the cream cheese.  Put a slice of salmon on top to cover the hole.  Add a few thing slices of avocado.  Sprinkle with red onion and capers.  Squeeze some juice on from the lemon and add dill if you like.

2. Dig in and make sure you have enough to make a second bagel like the one above.  They are THAT good.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Easy Detox Soup for a Monday Night

Here is a recipe for a quick easy-to-make healthy soup, perfect to fix any bad conscience stemming from the weekend's activities.

To feed 4 people:
1 can of tomatos
1 can of haricot beans
1 chicken/vegetable stock cube
1 chopped red onion
2 chopped cloves of garlic
2-4 carrots
a handful of mushrooms (chestnut or champignon)
1 chopped and deseeded sweet pepper
1 chopped and deseeded chilli pepper
0.4 L of water
smoked paprika
1 bay leaf
olive oil
salt & pepper

1. Heat a bit of oil in a big pot.  Add the onion, chilli pepper and garlic; fry till the onions turn light brown.  Add the rest of the vegetables plus 2 teaspoonfuls of smoked paprika.  Fry for a few minutes.

2. Drain the beans and add them to the pot together with the bay leaf.  Stir for a minute.  Add salt and pepper.

3. Now add the water, stock cube and canned tomatos.  Stir well. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes without a lid.

 Serve with bread or simply enjoy on its own!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Chilli Con Carne

 Tonight I'm going for dinner at Green and Red Bar & Cantina, a Mexican restaurant in London.  And let it be said, I adore Mexican restaurants. I love that it is ok, no, expected, that you down Coronas and tequila with your food. I love that a big basket of tortilla chips lands on your table faster than you can say dos tequilas, por favor.  I am enthralled by the fact that you can order pitchers of Margaritas.

I, however, do realise that the Mexican cocina is way more diverse than you are led to believe in most Mexican restaurants outside Mexico.  I am aware that American-style Mexican food aka. tex-mex has distorted the public understanding of Mexican food and that people who haven't actually visited this large country ( Spring Break ´04 in Cancun doesn't count) have a skewed image of the place and culture; Mexicans probably don't celebrate Cinco de Mayo by consuming Corona through a beer bong and eating nachoes while wearing a pink sombrero and blasting King Africa's La Bomba song.

I intend to explore Mexican food a bit over the coming months (please give me a shout if you have any recipes), but for now I'd like to share this recipe for Chilli Con Carne.  How Mexican this version is I am not sure, but it is a favourite in this household.

To feed 4 amigos:
500g of minced beef
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of tomatos
1 deseeded and chopped chilli pepper
1 chopped onion
1 chopped  bell pepper
cayenne pepper
olive oil
salt & pepper

1. Heat a bit of oil in a pot, then add the onion.  Fry till  the onion pieces are light brown.  Add the minced beef and the chilli - stir it well to get out all lumps in the beef.

2. Once the beef is brown, add half a teaspoonful of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Stir well.

3. Add the bell pepper and fry for a few minutes.

4. Drain the kidney beans and add them together with canned tomatos.  Add 0.3L of water.  Bring it to a boil before turning down the heat and letting it simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Keep it simple and serve with rice or turn dinner into a fiesta by serving the Chilli Con Carne with all the trimmngs: salad, diced tomatos, taco shells, soured cream, cheddar cheese, salsa and guacamole.

Salsa and guacamole are super easy to make and don't even compare with the miserably coloured stuff they sell in supermarkets.

Guacamole for 4 people
2 ripe avocados
1 chopped red onion
1 chopped tomato
soured cream
salt & pepper

1. Peel the avocados and mash them using a fork or a blender.  Add the chopped onion and tomato.  Squeeze the juice of a lime or half a lemon into the bowl.  Taste with salt and pepper.  You can add 2-3 tablespoonfuls of soured cream to make the guacamole more creamy.

Salsa for 4 people
6 chopped tomatos
1 chopped red onion
1 deseeded and finely chopped chilli pepper
a handful of roughly chopped coriander
salt & pepper

1. Mix all these ingredients together and add salt and pepper to your liking.


The last two photos were taken by my friend Toni - I'm sure he won't mind!