Thursday, 18 April 2013

Pop Art & Pot Bellies

Recently I went to visit the Lichtenstein exhibition at the Tate Modern. I managed to scrape through A level Art all those years ago, and unfortunately all this left me with was a vague interest in modern art. Unfortunately I cannot profess to be a culture vulture and hadn't been to the Tate for years.

I dragged along two buddies who did Art A level with me (probably to a much better standard than me, those A level years are a haze of doing as little as possible and having far too much fun) and we mooched around the exhibition, choosing our favourite in each room and, despite Annie's best efforts at intelligent comments and knowledge, not taking ourselves too seriously. Proven by the decision to lie on the floor of the Turbine Hall and a bit of impromptu yoga training from Luce....

Me, Lucy and Annie
After more culture than we could bear, we hopped across the Millenium Bridge for something to eat and a much needed glass of wine (ok ok I was the one desperate for the wine - it was well after noon on a Saturday after all). I'd been into Bread Street Kitchen a couple of times just for a drink or two, so I was looking forward to chowing down on their burger.

Photo Credit goes to Annie (I scoffed mine)
It didn't disappoint. It was a juicy, meaty treat. Really nice amount of cheese and good pickles. I normally really dislike ketchup on anything, especially burgers which is a bit controversial but this was just the right amount to compliment the burger. I blame my parents for the summer trips to France for my obsession with mayo on chips. Anyway, the burger was delicious, as was the homemade mayo I had with the enormous chips. I normally prefer slightly less wedge-like chips but these were fluffy and crispy. My only criticism is that the burger doesn't come with chips, so £16 for burger and chips isn't cheap but it's worth it. For a much better review, have a look at what Burgerac thought.

Oh hi St Pauls, don't you look beaut
After we had decided we couldn't eat another thing, we decided we could definitely fit in some more beverages so we headed upstairs to Madison. I should add that we were right opposite St Paul's in a complex - for want of a much better word! - that houses Bread Street, Barbecoa, and lots of shops and restaurants called One New Change. On the top floor is Madison, a large bar and restaurant with pretty dam good views. I'd been up before but you would not know this was here unless you had the inside track, and quite a few people do. always help me out and they introduced me to Madison.

Quite the view
As the sun went down over St Pauls, we decided to go in search of Disco Bistro because we hadn't eaten enough... Thanks to my iPhone we found it - above a closed pub with only a sign to lead us to this fabled place. You would not know it's there unless you go looking, which is kinda the point.

I ran up the stairs to suss it out as I didn't imagine it was going to be that busy at 6.30 on a Saturday - and I was right. Running up the stairs, I passed who I now realise was Carl Clarke, who is at the helm of this much-reviewed, much-loved pop up. He offered chicken wings and cocktails and I managed to persuade the girls to give it a run. We got straight into a cosy little table in the corner and commenced the consumption of a few too many cocktails called something like 'Live East Die' - champagne & gin, you can't go wrong.

There was no way I was leaving without some wings, having read numerous blogs about their fabulousness. So we chowed down and they were truly fabulous. I'm not a massive fan of wings normally but I find myself scouring my diary for a time when I can return before this amazing pop up closes on 26th May.

Sadly, there are no pictures of the wings as they were gone before you could say 'Another round of Live East Die please' but we did order more. Annie's one true love is white chocolate, so a basket of doughnuts with white chocolate and rhubarb sauces were ordered.

Being devoid of a sweet tooth, I ordered 'Cheese Crackers'. These came.

Probably the best 'Cheese Crackers' I've ever had. Cashel Blue, micro herbs, and a strange but delicious miniature broccoli type veggie. They were amazing, I loved them. I can still taste them now!

If you can get to Disco Bistro, I would really recommend it. I've heard it gets very busy and becomes as much a Disco as a Bistro... I've heard their burgers aren't too shabby either.

After paying the bill, which was really not much considering the cocktails we'd consumed, we disappeared into the night with full bellies and happy thoughts of a fantabulous day spent with lovely friends.

Pin It Now!

Monday, 8 April 2013

The First Dinner Party of 2013

I absolutely love dinner parties, hosting them at our shack and going to friends. As no-one ever has any money for a big night out like we seemed to be able to manage in those fabled days of our early 20's, it's the perfect solution to eating good food, 'punishing the red grape' as my gorgeous friend Branchy says, and seeing lovely people without breaking the bank.

I have long relied on a slow-roasted lamb shoulder as my dinner party staple, so it was time to switch it up and attempt something else. I also decided to take the chance of some well-needed days off to make my own cheese. My bro got me a cheese-making kit for Christmas and after reading and re-reading the instructions, I thought I could manage it. 

Good old Jamie has a tasty little marinated mozzarella recipe, which is really nice in the summer (optimistic). Never mind the weather, this was an easy 'recipe' that I can do before everyone arrives and the Prosecco starts flowing. 

Ricotta is up next...
It actually took two hours to do this - but it is easy. You need 8 pints of milk but everything else is in the box. The instructions are really clear and it did work. It looks pretty disgusting after the rennet (vegetarian) has worked it's cheesy magic, but as the instructions say, persevere. My main issue with it was that it wasn't really stretching like it shows in the instructions, so I kept microwaving it - I think this meant I got rid of too much whey and it became a bit hard.

About as stretchy as a pair of Spanx
I bought some back up Buffalo mozzarella at my local farm shop, as this did not turn out as well as I was hoping. Everyone enjoyed the dish, but my mozzarella left something to be desired (despite one of my overly-kind buddies telling me he preferred mine. He's far too good a liar). 

Next on my list was dessert - I'm really no baker but to be honest who needs to be with big Betty C helping you out? I grabbed the ingredients for Slutty Brownies and decided, thanks to Sarah from A Million Dresses, I added some Rolos. I couldn't find the salted caramel sauce, but I think we would have all fallen into a food coma. 

Yes that is cookie mix on the bottom, a layer of Oreos and Rolos and I was about to add the layer of brownie mix. I got this all ready so that by the end of dinner, I can throw these in the oven and carry on punishing the red grape (and punish it we did).

For main course, we had a standard menu change. Even the gorgeous Sambo commented on her excitement at the change - I really should try harder. My infamous Chorizo & Fennel spaghetti made it onto the menu - The Scouser's favourite.

Here comes the science part: 

It's a Jamie recipe, no surprises there - it does require proper chorizo sausage, which I get from Aldi. You may frown at Aldi, but once you get passed the random offerings of garden ornaments and deep fat fryers (yes I do not lie), there is some amazing stuff in there. A large chorizo sausage is £1.99, and this is comparable to at least £3 in M&S.

I've also started buying slightly better quality spaghetti as I think it actually makes a real difference. So you need 100g of spaghetti and I would say half a chorizo sausage per person. You'll also need a bulb of fennel which can be expensive unfortunately. Finally you'll need two tins of chopped tomatoes, teaspoon of fennel seeds, chilli flakes and garlic.

Slice the garlic and crack the fennel seeds in a pestle & mortar, through them into a pan with some olive oil - not too much as the chorizo will render it's own oil into the pan in a sec. For the chorizo  cut it into slices, then in half again. You'll need to cut up the fennel too and I try and make it the same size as my chorizo (long thin pieces). Let the garlic fry gently, then throw in the chorizo with the chilli flakes - as much or as little as you like. Turn the heat up so the chorizo fries and then add the fennel after say 3-4 minutes. Stir it all up and let it fry for another 3-4 minutes. Turn the hat down and add two tins of chopped tomatoes. Leave to simmer until you are left with a nice thick silky sauce, normally about 30 minutes.

Obviously you'll need to cook your spaghetti. Always best not to drain this too much until it's bone dry, as the excess pasta water loosens up the sauce and makes it mix well. Thanks to my lovely mum, I now have a large pan that I can do the mixing in - sometimes I serve the pasta then throw the sauce on top, but with this it's better to mix it all then serve. I kept some chorizo to the side to make sure everyone got plenty of the good stuff.

As a final fancy schmancy addition, you can add the green fennel tops to the dish. If you really want to, you can make pangrattato - fried crispy breadcrumbs which sounds completely odd on top of pasta but I tell you it works. You need some chunks of bread, made into breadcrumbs. You can add to that whatever you like - I whizz mine up in a food processor/blender, so add some herbs like rosemary, dried chillies, anchovies, garlic, lemon zest, whatever you fancy. Fry the breadcrumbs in a splash of olive oil until crispy, then drain on kitchen paper and just sprinkle over the dish.

No pictures of the food, so here is Pippa the dog waiting for the guests to arrive
My love for dinner parties continues and soon it will be time for BBQs - homemade burgers, chicken eaten with your fingers and beers in buckets of ice. This weather needs to be buck it's ideas up.

Little Note: You can now social network my posts to the max using the buttons at the bottom of this post, perhaps a like on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter? I'm also now on Bloglovin' if you want to get involved there too - Follow my blog with Bloglovin  

Pin It Now!

Follow me on Bloglovin'

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
Pin It Now!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Birthday Binges

It's a family tradition to go for lunch or dinner on your birthday. We've been doing it for far too long, and now me and the bro are older, we seem to have far more expensive tastes in food. I blame my parents for introducing us to all kinds of food at a young age. But it's so rare we see each other now (even though I live 5 minutes away!) that we continue this tradition with a die-hard commitment.

I was a little late to the Brasserie Zedel party so for my 21-again birthday this year this place was my choice. It's a innocuous place, just off Piccadilly Circus, where TGIs and Angus Steak House make their money so not the first choice for the owners of The Ivy and The Wolseley to set up shop.

The entrance area is not exciting, but I thought it had an authentic Frenchy feel. We went downstairs and I loved the decor. Similar to the Wolseley, but more ostentatious, very art deco.

The waiters were suitably rude - I actually felt bad for being indecisive over my choice, and according to my lovely family, our server actually rolled his eyes at me. If you convince yourself this is the authentic French way, it makes you feel better. 

Unfortunately this is where my poor photography efforts fail. I had some amazingly garlicky snails and a large seabass. I won't rave over this place as I didn't think the food was rave-worthy, but I did really enjoy it for more than the food. The atmosphere is great, the menu is really reasonably priced and the people watching is fantastic. You really should share both the chocolate mousse and creme brulee for dessert, both are enormous and wonderful. I will go back soon.

Next up was the bro's birthday and if that was my 21-again birthday, his would be 18-again birthday. Although I know he wouldn't have chosen 'nose-to-tail' eating at 18. St John has been around for a while and serves up all the parts of animals that you wouldn't necessarily want to eat - until they slap a Michelin star onto it. So this was the destination of choice for Sunday and it did not disappoint. It's a very simple place, it used to be a smokehouse and the owners haven't messed with it much apart from installing a bar and a bakery (which provides such an amazing smell). 

After downing a glass of St John's lovely white wine, we sat down and struggled over our orders. I had to go for bone marrow - I've never had it and I was being adventurous. It's very fatty but I convinced myself it must be good for me in some weird way. Unfortunately it doesn't look the most appetising dish but it was very tasty, the salad was the perfect match - reminds me to make parsley, capers and onions more. (And yes I took the bones home for lunatic dog)

After some seriously tasty starters, I was so excited for my main course. A bit controversial, I'd ordered kid goat. I'm as far from a vegetarian you'll ever get and I don't feel guilty - all thoughts of bouncy goats were pushed from my mind. I wasn't disappointed, I absolutely loved it. The aioli it came with was perfect too.

Every single mouthful was so tasty, better than lamb and not chewy as I had feared after a bad goat curry at Carnival. The presentation is not the selling point here, the plates are plain, as is the whole dining room. Don't go expecting flouncy towers of precariously balanced food. I love it.

Special mention has to go to my dad, the tripe-loving fiend he is for ordering this. I don't know how he eats this, let alone loves it.
what absolute tripe
For dessert, we were all so full but had loved the food so much we couldn't deny the salted caramel tart.

look, it's oozing caramel
This was without doubt the best dessert I've ever had. It was so rich I could never have one alone (well, maybe) but honestly I could not believe how good it was. The bro ordered 12 Madeleines to take home - the smell of these is something I will never be able to describe but if you go, you have to bring some home.

I loved St John, it was the best meal out I've had in some time (excluding Roscioli from the previous post). It probably helped that I hadn't seen my beloved family in a while and we were all so happy to be in each other's company for once, but the food and the service were fantastic. Best of all, you can buy the wine I loved to take home so I will enjoy that over Christmas. If it lasts that long at the Barchester.

Pin It Now!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Bad Blogger - Still Eating

I may have been missing in action (work had taken over my whole life) but fortunately I still managed to eat. Instead of blogging about every single thing I've scoffed separately, I thought I'd do a run down of my last few months in food.

Firstly, what seems like an age ago, I went to Exmouth Market and sampled the delights of Medcalf. This is a simple restaurant, in a beautiful street tucked away somewhere not-so-near Kings Cross. Think wooden floors, big tables and craft beers. Despite this being some months back, I can still remember how great this beef was...

The pies didn't look too bad either and the fish was gloriously crunchy. I would really recommend this place for a leisurely weekend feast. The service was a little odd, the waiter didn't seem to speak English but this didn't detract from the amazing food. 

Onto the next highlight - my best friend's delivery of red velvet cake. Just what I needed after a long and particularly tricky day at work. Waiting on my doorstep for me when I got home.

Annie's Red Velvet Gift
Next up, me and two of my lovely chums headed east as we were lucky enough to snap up a ticket to Ginstock - an amazing event organised with the British Street Food awards, by Tweat Up (if you don't know about them you should -

I managed to snag a stalker photo with Gennaro who I adore. He was hilarious and even more excited than me to be there.
Gennaro Contaldo
We didn't manage to eat as much as I would have liked, as the gin took over (and didn't I feel it the next day) but we managed some oysters from Mussel Men and a cheeky Mackerel burger - the bun was way too big but the contents were amazing. All in all a fabulous and very messy day in the sun.

Not your average day in London
During this time, I have managed to cook myself some food, although mostly it's been 'oven on, shovel it in' - I got this joint of lamb from my favourite butchers in Ross on Wye and it was so tasty. Not cheap, but worth it. I rubbed it with a herby butter and it exploded a bit in the oven - but we like a mess at the Barchester. I am totally crap at making gravy, so this jar of gelatinous stuff has been sent from the gods to satisfy The Scouser's gravy addiction.

Because I'm lucky enough to travel with my job, I jetted off to San Francisco for a week or so of hard work - and a night out thrown in. Below is my hangover feast from 'Super Duper Burger'. If you've read this blog before, you'll know I'm a fan of burgers - this is no Meat Liquor but I tell you what, it was pretty dam close. The garlic fries were out of this world, and despite then being unable to go within three metres of anyone, I had no regrets! If you're in San Fran (and why wouldn't you be, it's an amazing city), you have to try it - the details are here
Super Duper Burger
After my work was finished, I went for dinner with some of my new US friends at Hope & Anchor. I found some fellow oyster-lovers and we went 'around the world'. My friend Doug introduced me to this - ordering 3 of every oyster they have, each trying one, then we each choose our favourites and have the final one. The best way I've ever eaten oysters!
Around The World
What a truly unforgettable work trip
My most recent trip has been to Rome, for pleasure not business. Italians treat eating like a sport and I love Italy and everything Italian, especially the food and wine. One night, The Scouser and I went to Roscioli, on recommendation from Katie Parla - if you are going to Rome, download her app and read her blog as it's so helpful in cutting through the tonnes of advice, recommendations and 'oh you HAVE to go here' you'll get.

Roscioli is south of Piazza Navona and it's a small delicatessen with a restaurant placed around the large fridges. I was a little reluctant to sit in the deli but as the evening went on, I realised it was the best spot. You can see everything the chefs prepare, and admire the amazing cheese selection (which I then heartily indulged in).

I had six of the best oysters I have ever had, and then the tagliata - The Scouser had the most amazing carpaccio I've ever seen and in fact tasted. For 'dessert', I had a plate of the stinkiest cheese that has ever existed. Definitely up there with the best birthday meals of all time!

And so here ends the foodie run down of the last few months. I've eaten some amazing food and so had to make a heroic but painful return to boot camp last night, ready to eat my body weight in cheese and other such delights this Christmas. This weekend I am hibernating - roasting some kind of pork joint (attempting amazing crackling with help from my new Ginger Pig Meat Book) and try to create some chocolate mousse from scratch.
Pin It Now!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Yes to Yashin

Last week I visited Yashin sushi in Kensington for my mum's birthday. It's a family tradition that we all meet up for dinner or lunch on our birthdays (especially important now we never see each other). The Scouser doesn't like too much raw fish, but this place has a different approach to sushi. The first one being 'no soy sauce'. I know, I thought it was a bit odd - but we definitely didn't miss it in the end.

As the chefs prepare the food at the bar, the welcome is very enthusiastic. The Scouser nearly fell through the door as everyone shouted something that must be similar to 'welcome' in Japanese.

We ordered our starters and there was so much I wanted, including oysters. Despite my love of the oysters, I went for soft shell crab - another big favourite. It was amazing and I think I won the best starter. Dad was making very happy noises over his tuna with truffle, but it was a little vinegary for me.

Soft Shell Crab

Tuna with Truffle


Mum got a little special happy birthday plate and was suitably embarrassed as the whole place (including the chefs) sang happy birthday. She's a little bit shy - it doesn't run in the family.

What better way to say Happy Birthday than with scallops?

Onto main course, where we all had eight pieces of nigiri with a different fish on each. Now having had a glass or two of wine by this point, I can't remember each fish - safe to say, they were all really tasty. Some more fishy than others, and the crunchy roll topped with tuna was my faraway favourite (it's the top left in the picture below).

Mum was also a little intoxicated by this point - Dad apparently couldn't refuse her demand for pre-dinner cocktails - and so we ordered some sashimi, her 'favourite', she said. Well, when it came it was very impressive. And it certainly matched that in taste. All of the sushi was so fresh and more interestingly presented and created than normal sushi restaurants.

I absolutely love sashimi and could eat it all day long but mum wasn't so sure - this may have been more to do with the wine than the sushi...

I am not sure this is better than Dinings (here if you don't know about it) but I think they've changed their menu since I last went. Japanese tapas? Stick to what you do best I say. Unfortunately The Scouser still isn't totally converted to the sushi way of life but I will always love the slivers of fish and their pillows of rice.

You can find Yashin here -
Pin It Now!