Saturday, 4 October 2014

United Ramen

I recently visited United Ramen, who are newly opened in Islington's Upper Street. They are not new to the London food scene, having previously had a pop up.

Don't worry, I am not pretending to be "up" on the pop up scene and the latest eateries. I am far too disorganised, far too busy in my working life and struggling to balance all the facets of my life to keep up.

No, I was told all about United Ramen by the wonderful Kavey of She had visited the pop up and enjoyed it. She and I were long overdue a meet up, so she suggested we pop out for a nice dinner and that I meet two other of her foodie friends. 

So we assembled on a slightly chilly late Summer evening outside United Ramen. We arrived unfashionably early (ie before opening time), so we shivered a little whilst we chatted about life and food. 

When we got in, we were ready for some nourishing ramen and slurpy soup. Kavey had even brought her legendary ramen apron!

We settled down at a table right next to this colourful graffiti painting of a steaming bowl of ramen. All of the art is by Daisuke Sakaguchi, a London based artist,whose art explores his British and Japanese cultural heritage. He qualified from the highly prestigious Central St Martins art school in London.

The overall feel is light, bright, fun and informal. It's a Japan-meets-London atmosphere and environment. 

United Ramen has an open kitchen for the nosey among us. I actually love peeking into restaurant kitchens when I can. Seeing people who are experts at their craft is something I enjoy. However, I couldn't indulge myself this time, as I was with three other people, and it would have been rude to ignore the others and not participate in the conversation for gawking at the cooks!

I opted for the ribs as a starter. These were beautiful; well marinaded so that the meat had strongly taken on the marinade flavours, cooked so that the ribs were a little crusty on the outside but soft and fleshy underneath, I really enjoyed this and eagerly anticipated the main course; RAMEN!

The ramen bowl was hot, steaming and inviting. The stock was not perhaps as rich and flavourful as at Shoryu, but I can't complain that it was bland. It had flavour, but could have done with a little more. 

My bowl was generously topped with pork, a wee bit of crackling (one of my favourite things) and two half eggs. 

If you know me, you will realise that I never eat eggs. I have disliked them all of my life, something I was told by a doctor was down to having a mild allergy to them.

BUT - I ate these eggs and thoroughly enjoyed them. I can hardly believe something I usually avoid and dislike so much could be so pleasant. The yellows were creamy, the white a little tough on the outside and flavoured with soy.

How did they achieve this marvel?

The guys at United Ramen told me that the secret to making their eggs was this: "Soft boil egg (5-min) marinate 2h in a soy, mirin and vinegar then slice!" They've made it sound ridiculously easy. If you do give this a go, please bear in mind you will need to prepare many more eggs than you eventually need. The peeling will be difficult and the slicing an art!

It was time to move to the desserts! I will confess that I have never tried Mochi before. Kavey said that I had to give them a go. The outside of the little balls are made from a rice flour dough. But not the kind of dough you might be familiar which is used to make rice noodles or the outside of Cheung Fun. This is a chewy dough, achieved through pounding the dough repeatedly, changing the structure of the carbohydrate chains.

These little treats were another revelation for me. I went for the yuzu, coconut and raspberry flavours. Mochis are typically filled with a cold paste, perhaps of ganache or red bean. These, however, were filled with ice cream. The contrast of chewy outside (with substantial "bite" and the soft, yielding ice cream was delightful. The strength of flavour of the three ice creams a welcome surprise. I will be seeking these glorious little treats elsewhere now that I have been intiated!

I had a very enjoyable meal at United Ramen, and would go back there.

Snigdha, Kavey and her friends paid for their meal. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

September 2014 Favourites List

It's the start of a brand new academic year!

It's a thrilling, busy, hectic time of year. My new students are finding their way around the course, their Inn and dining, and settling in to life in legal London. I am meeting my students and slowly learning their names. 

This is the time of year where there really are not enough hours in the day. So I don't have the time and space to set out many thoughts and observations right now. 

I leave you with my Favourites list for the month with my apologies for not saying more. I include some of my recent thoughts for students on how to achieve their potential I created on Notegraphy (also posted to twitter and instagram). Maybe you are a student, or know someone close by who is. Student life can be unexpectedly tough, and you need a push in the right direction. Spare all my new students a kind thought as they work hard at making their legal dreams come true. 


Need a work or school lunchtime dish which is nicer and more flavourful than a cardboard sarnie? Here it is - chilli prawn and pasta salad:

Sichuan style marinaded steak with asian style cabbage salad:

Atul Kocchar's Malay Rojak, a street food classic:

Energy boosting oven baked blueberry muesli bars. Sounds like a lovely breakfast idea!

Busted! Yotam Ottolenghi admits he loves instant noodles! Recipes for ramen, stir fried noodles and Korean sweet potato noodles:

Poaching is healthy, as it is low on fat. Here's a recipe for a whole chicken with soy sauce from Tash:

Yummy pakoras in coconut kadhi, fab veggie VIDEO recipe by Deena Kakaya for Find Your Feet's Curry for change fundraising campaign:

Articles/Know How:

Brazilian ingredients and recipes:

Think you need loads of fancy ingredients for home cooking? No way. All you need are 3 hero ingredients:


Danny Wallace - Charlotte Street


The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance 



Kate Tempest - Everybody Down

Easy Star All Stars - Dub Side Of The Moon

Lee Perry & The Upsetters - Super Ape

Kelis - Food
Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Friday, 12 September 2014


Going out for a meal with friends can sometimes be an exercise in compromise. Some friends may have dietary requirements, others dislike certain cuisines or foods, some may be on a budget. That's part of life, unless you enjoy being a "Billy-no-mates". I don't fancy going to restaurants alone, so it's something I have to live with.

If you love your food and have no boundaries on the cuisines you are prepared to try, and a wide scope of food cultures you love, sometimes that compromising can get a bit, well, dull. I like Pizza, but don't want it all the time, for example.

So it is always a treat to go out with a fellow broad minded food fan.

My friend and I exchanged a few emails to think through where we wanted to go. I happened to let it slip that many of the incredibly popular London restaurants which do not allow reservations I've wanted to visit for a long time, but no one else ever wanted to come with me. I gave her the list. Turns out, a few appealed and we were in business!

In the end, we settled on Polpetto. We had both heard good things about the food, the menu was varied and it was well located for both of us to get home, a real factor since we live at diametrically opposite sides of the city.

Because of the no reservations policy, we arrived at 6:25pm. We were shocked to find only 4 other diners. "Looks a bit dead", my friend said. We hoped it wasn't a sign of falling standards. A fall in popularity, we could take. We are not slaves to fashion.

One clear advantage of the place being pretty empty was we were shown to a very pleasant table with effectively our own little cubicle. Great for the long chinwag that we fully intended to have. Some of London's very contemporary restaurants have forgotten that conversation and company are massive elements of the dining out experience. Too many have music on too loud or where the sound of other people's voices bounce around creating a deafening, perpertually echoing cacophony.

We found that the place filled rapidly after our arrival. Within 20 minutes, the place was rammed. For early on a mid week evening, that's good going. We realised our fears may have been premature.

My foodie friends and I enjoy a communal experience when eating out and always share the spoils. None of this your dish/my dish divide. 

We decided to begin with seafood flavours. The crab and purslane linguine (£8) was a diminutive plate, slightly smaller than starter size. The linguine was cook very al dente, perhaps the least "cooked" of any pasta dish I have ever had. For the type of pasta and its accompaniments, it worked well. The pasta was drizzled with a little olive oil and we enjoyed the combination of sweet crab, strong herb and gritty textured pasta.

The octopus and beans (£9) was a rustic and very pleasant combination of dressed beans and lightly grilled octopus.  The herby dressing added flavour and subtlety to the beans. I would like to make further observations about the dish, but we scoffed it far too quickly! It went by in a very lovely blur.

We then moved on to the meatier dishes. The lamb pappardelle pasta (£9) had a light coating of sauce and garnish of good quality freshly grated parmesan. The pasta was al dente, but with a little more "give" than the linguine. The lamb was wonderfully slow cooked, yielding and tasty. Another piece of the lamb in the dish would have gone down a treat!

The plum pork belly (£9) had ultra crunchy crackling rolls, which we speculated may have been fried. The broth at the bottom was full of character. The pork, tender, and delicate. Sometimes pork belly can disappoint, particularly when the fat is too thick and slimy, but there was nothing of the sort here. We managed to share this dish equally, which I maintain is a sign of the strength of our friendship and decency, since it was a small dish both of us could easily have polished off alone.

Wine here at Polpetto can be a little pricey, but we found the carafe of house white (Garganega) was perfectly acceptable and a bargain at £12. 

One small quibble would be the service. Don't get me wrong, our waiter was charming and kind. He had a smile like sunshine. The other two staff who also assisted us were polite and pleasant. But they seemed overwhelmed. As I have mentioned, the restaurant was full mid week. Cutlery was forgotten, used plates were slow in being replaced and there was an air of confusion. Given how young and beautiful the front of house staff were, we rather fancied that they were drama students and rock stars in waiting, paying their bills before being discovered. It didn't spoil our experience, given how completely polite and sweet everyone we dealt with had been, we took it in good humour, and we did receive apologies.

All in all we had an enjoyable time, Polpetto's food whilst unfussy is very good. We like the seasonal menu, which is changed regularly, Summer dishes being the order of the day on our visit. Polpetto, although a smallish restaurant has a buzzing and vibrant atmosphere.
Snigdha and her friend paid for their meal at Polpetto with a combination of plastic and cash.

11 Berwick Street 
W1F 0PL  
020 7439 8627

Polpetto on Urbanspoon

Friday, 22 August 2014

August 2014 Favourites List

The end of August means that school children are trying to squeeze the last bits of fun out of the school holidays whilst their parents frantically try to get things in order in time for September. New school uniforms for kids going up "to the big school", replacing items torn or worn beyond rescue, replacing outgrown bits of kits, all these have to be found in the approved colours and in a size which will allow for a few months worth of growth. Books from the teachers' recommended lists, bought in anticipation of the term to come. New stationery in bright, vibrant colours. The shops are full of Back To School stuff, reminding the children that the end of Summer is on its way.

I have my new diary for the academic year 2014-15. My new students will be arriving next month. I have been doing my resit assessment marking, the very last task at the end of one academic year, before the start of a new year. I am in desperate need of having a clear out of all my out of date materials from the year just ended, and a big tidy up. So I know all about that "back to school" feeling. 

Before we do find ourselves back in the classroom, doing homework, marking and all those things that term

time brings, I hope we will all take a little time to have a breather. A little time to enjoy the sunshine. A walk in the park, a lazy weekend, meeting with friends, an evening out. These are the things that help us refresh ourselves. We need a little refresher before the craziness begins.

This month's pictures are my Summer colour pictures from my Instagram account. I've been learning how to use Instagram this Summer, and have been experimenting. Summer flowers are always a delight, and I love their colour, zest and fun. They are defiant, that despite lasting only the blink of an eye, they will make the most of their time. 

If you want to follow me on Instagram, my handle is snigskitchen.


Henry Dimbleby shares Leon restaurants' Moroccan meatball recipe and talks about how to make perfect meatballs:

Tips on how to marinade, which marinades to use with which meats and a 5 herb and garlic marinade recipe from Rachel Phipps for BBQ season:

Law student and cooking genius Dewi makes his return after exams to share a vegetarian Harissa spiced lentil salad recipe (egg on top is optional): 

Ferran Adria, legendary El Bulli chef, shares his Gazpacho recipe:

Jason Atherton's salads for Summer; crab and asparagus salad with radishes, Avocado, baby gem and sauteed baby carrot salad, Beetroot-cured sea trout with roast beetroot and horseradish cream:

Pork chop with pears, ginger and lentils by Allegra McEvedy: 

Tony Singh's Satay inspired dish of peanut butter chicken thighs with caramelised nuts and steamed rice:

London Unattached's Fiona McLean's tasty tuna for the 5:2 diet:

Three part salad masterclass from Leon's Henry Dimbleby.
Part 3: How to put quinoa, bulgur and rice to good use in a healthy salad:

Final Destination & Heroes actor Ali Larter gives her blueberry crumble recipe:

Articles/Know How:

What I eat or don't eat, my size and body shape are none of your business. Shocking stories of women being confronted by strangers for something so simple as actually enjoying food.

Tim Ho Wan is the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world, serving up affordable Dim Sum. Shame it's all the way in Hong Kong!




The Joy Of The Guitar Riff


Jessie Ware - Devotion

The Lilac Time - lilac6

Jackson C Frank - Jackson C Frank

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Kerlern Ong’s Homemade Banana Cake

Regular readers and twitter followers will know that I am a university lecturer by day and hobby blogger by night (or weekend!). One lovely aspect of my work is that I get to share my interest in food with the many brilliant students I meet. Because many come from Commonwealth countries, we also find that our food chats are truly global and international. 

This blog post is a guest post by Kerlern Ong, one of my students from Malaysia. She has been kind enough to share one of her recipes with me and my readers, for which I am very grateful. Kerlern was my student in 2009, where I taught her civil litigation and drafting. Yes, poor girl, those subjects really are as "interesting" as they sound! 

Kerlern passed the course with flying colours, since she was always hard working and has great natural intelligence. After being called to the Bar and becoming a Barrister of England and Wales, she went back to Malaysia to practice law. Kerlern deals with more than one area of law, but specialises most in conveyancing. It suits her as she can be both a Barrister and a Solicitor, without having to select a particular path. 

Given that the recipe she is sharing with us is for her homemade banana cake, it will come as no surprise that she is a keen baker in her spare time. Kerlern loves baking cakes and often posts droolworthy pictures of her handiwork online. Kerlern also enjoys prawn fishing in her spare time. 

Kerlern is a modest, lovely young woman. So much so, she didn't want me to use a picture of her for this blog post. In lieu, she has provided a picture of one of her much beloved cats, Gingy. Gingy as you can see is an exceedingly handsome and dapper cat. He lives with Gizmo where they argue over cat food and who gets the most petting from Kerlern.

Kerlern is on instagram, you can follow her by looking for: kerlern. Warning; Kerlern's Instagram feed may contain lots of cute cat pictures. Management accept no responsibility for hours of work time spent (wasted) poring over pictures or Gingy or Gizmo. 

Thanks very much for sharing, Kerlern!
  Kerlern Ong’s Homemade Banana Cake


195g All purpose flour
1/2tsp Baking powder  
1/2tsp Baking soda  
1/4tsp Salt 
130g Unsalted butter  
130g Granulated sugar  
1 Egg  
1tsp Vanilla extract  
190g Mashed banana  
85g Whipping cream  
1tsp Lemon juice  
2 Bananas for topping
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling on top of the cake


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Line 20cm x 20cm pan with baking paper.

Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda together.

Mix the whipping cream and lemon juice together.

Beat the butter and salt until soft, add the granulated sugar then beat until light in colour, add the vanilla, beat until combine.

Add the egg, beat until combine, add the mashed banana, beat until combined. 

Pour 1/3 of the sifted flour into the bowl, fold to combine, pour half of the whipping cream mixture into the bowl, fold to combine, repeat with the rest of the flour and the whipping cream mixture (end with flour).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, cut the banana into small rings, and place on top of the cake.

Sprinkle with or Demerara sugar.

Put into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Heston Blumenthal's BBQ Chicken Wings with Waitrose

This Summer in the UK has been a doozy so far, hasn't it? Lots of warmth, sunshine and hot days. It's just the kind of season you want to eat al fresco, or perhaps cook outdoors. 

Trouble is, I think that sometimes barbeques get a little predictable. Sure, burgers are classics, but can't we have something a little more original? Sausages make a great staple, but sometimes you want to be more adventurous. 

With adventure and flavour in mind, Waitrose have asked the legendary Heston Blumenthal to devise some barbeque recipes for the home cook. Better known for creations like his Snail Porridge (as served at The Fat Duck) or Meat Fruit (as served at Dinner), Heston is known for technically difficult and highly scientific recipes. How well would these recipes work for someone having a small scale barbeque with friends? I decided to investigate.

I had a browse through the variety of recipes written by Heston for this Summer Barbeque season. You will find them here; Heston's ultimate BBQ recipes

I selected the chicken wing recipe, which appealed because barbeques are really all about finger food, eaten in the garden, standing around, with family and friends. And because I think the meat on chicken wings is underrated and well worth the effort of nibbling around the bones!

The chicken wing recipe is here;

My backpack barbeque (I can't post this the right way up)
Using a small "backpack" barbeque was going to test how achieveable the recipe was going to be. Not everyone can buy a large gas barbeque, either for cost or space reasons.

The barbeque was easy to assemble. The tray is deep enough for a good amount of charcoal, enough for one large helping of grilled meat at a time. The stand was stable, which is important to ensure the safety of the grillmaster.

Once that job had been done, it was time to start preparations. First up was marinating the chicken wings. 

The marinade itself was very simple indeed, the juice of 4 limes and 4 tbsp of oil. So simple, in fact, that I was sceptical about how much difference it would make to the taste of the cooked wings. But I decided to trust Heston and cook the recipe as written. 

The marinade was mixed thoroughly with the wings and left to stand for 45 minutes.

The grill was filled with charcoal (we used Supagrill charcoal).

Of course, as you will know, the coals have to be lit and allowed to burn yellow for a time, and food should only be cooked when the coals are white hot. 

The dipping sauce was easy to make, as it was just soured cream and soft blue cheese beaten together. I used Dolcelatte, as we like the contrast between its softness and tang. Heston recommends that you use a hand blender to do this. I do not own a hand blender, so I did this by hand, and it took a little while, giving me more of a workout than I am used to! I made the sauce a little in advance and put it in the fridge to keep it cool before tackling the next stages.You use the same weight of cheese as volume of cheese; 300g cheese and 300ml of sour cream if you are making the full amount.

Sour Cream and Blue Cheese Dip

The barbeque sauce was more of a challenge. 9 different ingredients, the necessity of making a caramel....  I took a deep breath, rolled my sleeves up and got going....

One criticism I have is that I had to weigh out liquid ingredients. Yes, the stock was bought in a 500g container, but having to weigh it again after reducing it was a bit of a pain. As was weighing out the ketchup and rice wine vinegar. I completely understand that Heston might have developed the recipe by weighing out the ingredients, but the amounts could have been translated into liquid measures by volume. I know that 1g of water is 1ml. But I was wary of assuming that vinegar and ketchup would be the same weight by volume. Still, never mind, I measured everything out in advance and started cooking.

So those sauce ingredients are:
500g pack Heston from Waitrose Chicken Stock
100g white caster sugar
100g rice wine vinegar
200g tomato ketchup
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Tabasco Pepper Sauce, to taste
2 tsp Cayenne pepper
First I reduced the stock, as I mentioned above, and I am not featuring a picture as you all know what a pan simmering looks like! Next I had to heat up the caster sugar in a pan. Here it is beginning to soften.

This soon turned into a medium caramel. 

My next task was to pour in the vinegar, gradually, whisking to dissolve the caramel. 

PLEASE be careful when you do this! The caramel does not like the vinegar and bubbles, somewhat like when a dribble of water falls into a frying pan full of hot oil. Liquid caramel is hot, thick and clingy, if it goes on you, it will burn and keep on burning because you won't be able to get it off your skin. So take your time, whisking and adding the vinegar slowly. I didn't take any pictures because I decided I would concentrate whilst doing this to avoid accidents.

I then added all the other ingredients for the sauce; tomato ketchup, mushroom ketchup, sesame oil*, cayenne and tabasco. I mixed them all up and cooked gently until it started to thicken.

The crudite accompaniment was easy, simple and fast to prepare

But what about the chicken? After marinating and when the barbeque was ready for cooking with, the wings went on. We were able to fit all but 3 from our 1 kilogram of wings on the grill, which was pretty impressive given how compact the backpack barbeque was.

At the start of the cooking time:

 The first turning of the wings:

Getting near the end of the 20-25 minute overall cooking time (the wings need a couple of turns to cook evenly).

I put the still hot barbeque sauce into a my casserole dish, as it was the only container big enough to fit the sauce and the cooked wings together which would allow for the wings to be moved around in the sauce.

Since many people are unable to eat sesame seeds, owing to allergies (more information about sesame seed allergies here: So here is the finished dish without the toasted sesame seed topping. 

* - If you are allergic to sesame seeds, I think you could use another oil in the sauce, perhaps sunflower or rapeseed.

We are not allergic to sesame seeds and particularly love their flavour and crunch. I therefore toasted the sesame seeds in a dry pan. They are fussy things, cream coloured one minute, when suddenly they change colour. Look away for a moment and they go from tan to burnt! Beware!

Here is our finished dish:

And a close up.....

The taste verdict:

The wings were the right combination of slightly burnt on the extreme outside edges, but soft in the meaty parts. The marinade maintained the moisture during the grilling process. 

The barbeque sauce was the best I have ever tasted. It had a spicy kick and decent afterburn but was not so fiery that it took away from the enjoyment of the dish. Making it at home meant the flavours were much more vibrant and intense than shop bought, which can be too cloying, bland and over-sweet. 

The crudites in the blue cheese dip were a great contrast of texture and flavour to complement the wings, and being so simple, were ideal for this slighly fiddly and time consuming dish.

We were very impressed with the richness yet punch of the sauce, and it was a delight to nibble around the bones of the wings, savouring the succulent meat. 

An impressive barbeque dish for foodies to give a try. 

Snigdha would like to thank Waitrose for sending the barbeque and ingredients for the dish.