Saturday, 25 October 2014

October 2014 Favourites List

What happened to Summer! Almost as soon as the September calendar page came off to reveal October, the season changed here in the UK! The temperature has dropped... and so has the rain!

Time for me to dig out the socks, boots and scarves, that's for sure!

Last October's Favourites List included some spooky bakes and cakes from Konditor & Cook and the fun I had going to see one of my favourite musicians, Johnny Marr. It therefore seems fitting that this month I have been fortunate enough to see the man play live twice; at Maida Vale and at Southend Cliffs Pavilion. Johnny has been touring his new second solo album Playland this month around the UK with European dates, a US tour and an Australian tour to follow.

I have written previously here about how Jimi Hendrix is still my all time ultimate guitarist. But he is no longer with us, and people need living heroes. 

Johnny Marr is a tremendous guitar hero of mine. His style is utterly unique, melding techniques, chords and sounds from funk, folk, and rock. He invented the sound of indie guitar music back in the 1980s by refusing to use distortion, solos, blues scales or blues chord progressions. His "clean" guitar sound, mixed with arpeggio melody picking and intricate sparkling riffs became the sound so many bands and guitar players have sought to emulate. His guitar parts sound simple, but are deceptively complex, often with strong melodic elements creating a song within a song. 

They say "never meet your heroes". I couldn't disgree more. But then, when your hero is a consummate musician, down to earth living legend and all round gentleman, I guess disappointment was highly unlikely. I can honestly say that meeting Johnny was one of the most memorable and exciting experiences of my life. Thank you very much, Mr Marr!
 

I hope you enjoy this selection of things which have kept me occupied during the month of October. 

Enjoy!

Recipes:

Mmmmmm.... Moussaka! Skillet moussaka by Simon Majumdar: http://www.simonmajumdar.com/recipes/skillet-moussaka/

A thick and rustic vegetarian soup with a little dash of luxury; mushroom barley soup with truffle oil:
http://www.bloggingoverthyme.com/2014/01/08/mushroom-barley-soup-white-truffle-oil/

Jo Romero's speedy weekday pasta supper, can be gluten free or regular pasta: www.comfortbites.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/10-minute-buttery-garlic-mushroom-pasta.html
Johnny rocking out at Southend Cliffs Pavilion

For the beginning of the new academic year - budget conscious student recipes for low carb meals: http://www.foodie.com/3143565/collections/student-budget-low-carb-dinners

Uzbek Plov is a dish that apparently Nixon would not leave Uzbekistan without the recipe for... curious? Here it is: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016811-bukharan-plov-with-beef-carrots-and-cumin-seeds

The last of the sweetcorn is still available! Grilled sweetcorn with a twist, by Nigel Slater: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/22/grilled-corn-with-pancette-recipe-nigel-slater
A bibimbap and bulgogi to use up your leftover veg: http://franglaiskitchen.com/bibimbap-beef-bulgogi/



A Cuban classic minced beef stew, Picadilo, with chopped tomatoes and chorizo: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016814-picadillo
Johnny Marr at Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Articles/Know How:


Interesting thoughts on how to cook more creatively and become less dependent on recipes: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/dining/how-to-plan-a-meal-from-supermarket-to-table.html

Want to know where Indian foodies go to get their spice fix? Read this (by the brilliant Zoe, AKA The Spice Scribe): http://culinaryadventuresofthespicescribe.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/where_indian_foodies_eat_restaurants_london_guide_pakistani_gujarati/

Guide to UK seasonal ingredients: http://thomasvinicombe.co.uk/what-is-in-season/

As the first term continues, here are some ideas for packed lunches which are an alternative to boring, soggy sandwiches: http://inspiration.sainsburys-live-well-for-less.co.uk/14-simple-alternatives-to-sandwiches/

Film:

The Social Network

TV:

Later With Jools Holland

BBC Radio 6 Music Live From Maida Vale (sessions from Johnny Marr, James, La Roux, First Aid Kit and Underworld)

Johnny and the band at Maida Vale
Music:

Johnny Marr - Playland (of course!)

Jon Hopkins - Immunity

The Rumour Said Fire - Dead Ends

Childhood - Lacuna


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.

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 http://www.kaveyeats.com/. 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. 
 

Recipes:


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: http://www.fabfood4all.co.uk/chilli-prawn-pasta-salad/

Sichuan style marinaded steak with asian style cabbage salad: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sichuan_steak_06764

Atul Kocchar's Malay Rojak, a street food classic:
http://www.malaysiakitchen.co.uk/recipes/view/atul-kochhars-malay-rojak

Energy boosting oven baked blueberry muesli bars. Sounds like a lovely breakfast idea!
http://womans-world.co.uk/index.php/recipes/1717-blueberry-muesli-bar-recipe-3409732
 

Busted! Yotam Ottolenghi admits he loves instant noodles! Recipes for ramen, stir fried noodles and Korean sweet potato noodles: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/04/ramen-noodle-recipes-yotam-ottolenghi


Poaching is healthy, as it is low on fat. Here's a recipe for a whole chicken with soy sauce from Tash: http://www.foodifancy.com/chicken-poached-in-soy-and-aromatics

Yummy pakoras in coconut kadhi, fab veggie VIDEO recipe by Deena Kakaya for Find Your Feet's Curry for change fundraising campaign:  http://www.deenakakaya.com/2014/09/18/fyf/

 
Articles/Know How:


Brazilian ingredients and recipes: http://goodthingsmagazine.com/ingredients-focus-brazil/

Think you need loads of fancy ingredients for home cooking? No way. All you need are 3 hero ingredients: www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/dining/ingredients-for-weeknight-dinner-success.html


Books:

Danny Wallace - Charlotte Street

Film:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Sympathy For Mr Vengeance 

TV:

Music:

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

Polpetto

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.

Polpetto 
11 Berwick Street 
London 
W1F 0PL  
020 7439 8627
http://polpetto.co.uk/

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.

Recipes:


Henry Dimbleby shares Leon restaurants' Moroccan meatball recipe and talks about how to make perfect meatballs: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/18/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: http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/community/5-herb-garlic-barbecue-marinade-recipe

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): http://boycancook.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/harissa-spiced-lentil-salad/ 

Ferran Adria, legendary El Bulli chef, shares his Gazpacho recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Gazpacho-367950

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: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/23/summer-salad-recipes-jason-atherton

Pork chop with pears, ginger and lentils by Allegra McEvedy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1rsDfc9Jp5cphyKgNDFKjnn/cook-the-perfect-pork-chops 

Tony Singh's Satay inspired dish of peanut butter chicken thighs with caramelised nuts and steamed rice:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/peanut_butter_chicken_63146

London Unattached's Fiona McLean's tasty tuna for the 5:2 diet: http://www.london-unattached.com/2014/08/healthy-grilled-tuna-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:  http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/08/grain-salad-recipe-quinoa-rice-bulgur-jackson-pollock

Final Destination & Heroes actor Ali Larter gives her blueberry crumble recipe: http://www.today.com/food/ali-larter-shares-her-blueberry-crumble-recipe-summer-favorite-today-1D80027599



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! http://lisaeatsworld.com/2014/08/17/tim-ho-wan-the-cheapest-michelin-starred-restaurant-in-the-world/

Film:

Divergent

TV:

The Joy Of The Guitar Riff

Music:

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.