Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Bad Weather? Never mind, picnic inside!

English Summer, an oxymoron that inspires hope in people. The hope that the sun will come out for more than 20 minutes so that you can slowly cook to a light pink. What happens to me in the summer is the cravings for picnics.

This, combined with hunger and Borough Market is a dangerous combination. For anyone who has been to Borough, literally everything there is suitable for picnics. This is the point where you need to exercise control, otherwise you will end up taking out a second mortgage to fuel your addictions.
Addictions including various pates of things you wouldn't expect to be pates (in this case the most addictive mushroom pate ever created, and some smoked salmon pate) and cheeses from Neals Yard Dairy (note the attempt to escape as they are aware of their fate)

However, being England, the weather was not suitable for picnic-ing outside, so unfortunately we had to do it inside. An excuse to buy some fantastic English Asparagus (a product which anyone and everyone in England should be gorging on whilst they are available)

This also gave a chance to try something new; Meat Bread. Using the Soda Bread recipe from last time, with Chorizo folded in, created what can only be described as the product of madness and genius.

(Note the Sriracha and Garlic Soda Bread also hiding under the pile, for the vegetarians)

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Beerly Bready, just a minute more

After making my beer, I came up with my next goal in life; to make a Ploughmans sandwich from scratch. Well...as much scratch as I can. First step; bread, after that cheese and pickle.

But going back to that second step; bread. For the easiest starting point (especially considering I used all my yeast to make the beer) I went for Soda bread. However, being lactose intolerant, there's very little in the way of buttermilk around.

So I went for the next best thing; my beer.

500g of Flour
400ml of homebrew

Mix together, form into a loaf. Cook until it sounds hollow, then enjoy with the leftover Chorizo and chicken juices you've got from dinner.

...then grab the ingredients for the next batch.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Pork Pies, not just hats any more

Tiny Melton Mowbray pork pies seem to have come into fashion this year. This s good for anyone who likes feeling like a giant and having something very tasty at the same time (although beware, while the recipe is enforced, the quality of ingredients is not.)

So far, apart from the regular ones I get at Borough Market, I've found a medium sized pie for a pound at Marks and Spencers (not bad, flaky crust with good meat but not enough jelly, £1) and a set of 6 TINY ones from Co-op (Not great, no seasoning and poor meat, £3.25). But they do make you feel like a giant

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hawksmoor Sunday Lunch. Hawksmoor-some

Anyone who has ever mentioned any steak place in London to me probably knows my views on the best steak in London. If you want a nice cheap but good steak the go to Sophies, but if you want to be amazed, head to Hawksmoor.

On the back of this, my lovely lady realised that a good birthday present would be to take me there for Sunday lunch and let me go mad on the menu of food and cocktails.
Obviously, with the curated menu of cocktails full of utter delights, the first place to start in Hawksmoor is with significant reading and drinking. This works for me, a man with a not insignificant collection of breakfast wines.
Moving to the food, we decided (at our own risk) to go all out in a survival match. Eat until you pass out essentially. To start, we got the Smoked Salmon with Delmonicos Garnish (the beautiful dish above) and Lamb Chops with Mint and Caper salad.

The Lamb Chops were a meal unto themselves, beautiful with the salad and leaving me gnawing away at the bones by the end (I'm not above diving in and getting my hands dirty, much to my dining partner's despair)
The real star of the show though was the reason we came on a Sunday in the first place; the Sunday Roast
An overflowing plate of perfectly cooked medium rare beef, lush greens and carrots, Yorkshire Pudding, roasted Garlic and shallots and the crispiest roast potatoes I've had the pleasure of eating for a while.

There's very little I can say about this that the picture wouldn't do better. For a shade over £17, this is not only fantastic food, but also pretty striking good value considering a 6ft 5 alcoholic with the appetite of an elephant struggles to finish the quantity. Although saying that, my tiny 5ft 3 girlfriend, after a morning of heavy exercise, barely blinked at devouring the whole plate.

After the two course meat onslaught, I was struggling to stay awake from the amount of food, wine and cocktails flowing through my blood

Fortunately though, like a cow, I have a secondary stomach for pudding. The cornflake sundae, while sounding initially suspect, is literally just as it says on it. It's like eating the best, ice cold bowl of cereal you've had. I wish I could keep some in the freezer for the summer mornings.
I'd also be lacking to not mention the brilliant service, unobtrusive while still charming to chat about the food/my camera to. Overall, somewhere that I'm at risk of going at least once a month and will always hunt for more excuses to visit.

Friday, 13 May 2011

One good reason to brew your own beer

£40 invested, 40 pints output, and it just won second in a group brew-off

Looks like I've got a new hobby...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Wannaburger? Got a burger

I'm up in Edinburgh with work at the moment, not for the first time, and have been hitting up all the places I've learnt to love in my visits here. One of the best for a good cheap meal is Wannaburger, a staple of the Edinburgh fast food scene. This is the sort of burger place with bottomless drinks, a wide choice of extra toppings and any dip you'd want. A damn good fast food burger.

Normally I forget to check the specials to see what's up, but yesterday I managed to remember, and boy was I rewarded. On offer was the Jeremy Clarkson (we Khan't believe it either), with avocado, bacon, jalapenos and cheese. A fantastic, if not structurally sound burger.

Another thing to note is the sides, every time I've been in, there have been cajun sweet potato fries on offer. While you only get a few, they are some of the best burger accompanying fries I've had, sweet, spicy and utterly unhealthy!

Wannaburger is definitely somewhere I'd recommend as a first stop for anyone passing through Edinburgh who wants a quick bite to eat that doesn't sacrifice quality.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

One Good Reason to get up at 11am on a Sunday

Nothing better for a weekend morning than a large fry-up. Two types of sausages, thick bacon, mushrooms fried in thyme and garlic, fried tomatoes and a portion of beans hidden off to the side. Serve with fried English Muffins and a pot of tea or coffee and you won't be doing anything else for the rest of the day

One Good Reason to have a friend with a Paella Pan having a party

An excuse to go to Borough Market and buy enough meat to make giant chorizo and meatball stew? If you insist...
Rough recipe from memory;

1 part pork to 2 parts beef
Onion, diced finely, around a quarter of the pork

Fry these meatballs in the oil from chorizo cooking in a pan, add in cubed potatoes, fry quickly then add red wine, tinned tomatoes and chicken stock in nearly equal measures.

Throw in some extra salt and pepper to taste


One Good Reason to Ask for the specials at Sophies Steakhouse

A 30 oz 'Cowboy Steak' at Sophies Steakhouse in Covent Garden.

I think it came in at £35, so if a Quarter Pounder meal at McDonalds is around £4, this is the equivalent price per pound of meat. However, this includes chips AND onion rings, so really you're saving money by ordering it

One Good Reason to visit Bob Bob Ricard

Bob Bob Ricard is a restaurant with this button

When you push this, this happens
Need I say more?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Polpo Fiction - A true story

This emergent group of restaurants has been catching my eye over the last few months, first with Polpo then Polpetto and most recently Spuntino. All catering to slightly different styles, I'd been to Spuntino a couple of weeks ago and come out very impressed, so on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend, the girlfriend and I headed to Polpo to see how it started.

First thing to notice is that it's a beautiful space, a bit like an urban cave, carved out of the street
The perfect place to sit with a bottle of wine and work your way through the menu (I would if I could, but I got disapproving looks when I suggested it to the lady)

The style of Polpo is sharing small plates, so you end up with waves of food arriving that kind of make courses, in our case a cold set of starters and a warm main set.

Our first set of dishes were the Grape, walnut and goats cheese bruschetta, arancini, smoked salmon with horseradish, pork shoulder terrine and artichoke and prosciutto

The goats cheese, grape and walnut bruschetta were a fantastic start, with the light goats cheese mixing with the sweet and sticky grapes.

After this, we started dipping into the terrine, which I thought came off like a steak tartare, but made with pig. This, by the way, is in no way a bad thing, especially with the crisp bread hiding an egg mayonnaise.

The only issue was that of all 'bread and spread' dishes, where pacing the use of the topping is a important to avoid running out of topping or bread before the end. In this case we misjudged so ended up wrapping the terrine in the cucumber with our hands, like the classy animals we are.

Up next, the Smoked Salmon with horseradish and dill. A good smoked salmon bite, although quite overshadowed by everything else on the plate.

The artichoke hearts wrapped in prosciutto however I could have for every meal. Personal preference, but anything wrapped in prosciutto is a good idea, and if it's something as tasty as an artichoke heart it's a doubly good idea.

The arancini made for some good money shots (see below), however, I found myself thinking that it was missing some extra hit of either parmesan or ragu, to offset the creaminess. That's not to say it was bad. Nothing that cheesy and fried could ever be bad, especially when the risotto was so good.

Once we polished off this first set of dishes (and half a bottle of wine), it was time for more plates with more food.

The most striking of these was the Gnocchi with cuttlefish and ink, arriving steaming at the table. Personally, I have an issue with eating food that absorbs all light, but due to the fact the plate was licked clean, I think it was probably the favourite dish for my companion, who mumbled something about the lemony inky deliciousness before heading back to the plate to hunt for more.
At the same time, we received something that would have looked as at home in a Chinatown dim sum restaurant; Pork rolled with pancetta (I forget the full name of this). Although this was a bit tough to get into, the salty pancetta mixed with the sweet balsamic vinegar made this a definite winner for me.
To provide a semblance of health with this course, we got some English Asparagus with Parmesan and Anchovy butter. There's very little better than a good Asparagus, and this was no exception.
By the time we worked our way round to the Fritto Misto, our eyes had slightly glazed over with a combination of wine, food and sunshine. However, as something to pick at while we worked our way through the rest, this was as good as anything. The batter was a bit dry, but the quality of the fish made up for it
It's also worth mentioning the awe inspiring origami produced by the staff for a baby at one of the tables. Among the display were sharks, fish and horses. In fact, all the service was charming and added to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere in the dining room.

Overall, Polpo made a fantastic destination for a sunny Sunday lunchtime and I'm eagerly looking forward to an excuse to head to Polpetto (if I ever find it...) and their new location in Covent Garden when it opens.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Cucumber and elderflower...Ginteresting

Sometimes there's nothing more you want that a stiff drink after a long hot day at the office. After seeing it on a few cocktails around town, I started craving an Apple and Elderflower martini. I know this isn't a real martini, but I lack enough cocktail knowledge to give it it's true name

This presented me with a dilemma. I love cold gin, but when it's room temperature, it's rather brutal without first warming up your tolerances and useless as I am, I never have the foresight to put the gin back into the freezer after I pour my last drink.

This was solved for me accidentally upon my first attempt at the drink. Not being sure the juice yield of the average cucumber, I decided to just juice the whole thing. Obviously this then left me with too much juice for a single drink, so I came up with a cunning plan.

Freeze the cucumber-elderflower mix into ice cubes.

When thirsty, just chuck one into a shaker, throw in slightly more gin that most would say is wise, and shake until the rattling stops.

Perfect on a stifling evening in the city.