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. 



Mmmmmm.... Moussaka! Skillet moussaka by Simon Majumdar:

A thick and rustic vegetarian soup with a little dash of luxury; mushroom barley soup with truffle oil:

Jo Romero's speedy weekday pasta supper, can be gluten free or regular pasta:
Johnny rocking out at Southend Cliffs Pavilion

For the beginning of the new academic year - budget conscious student recipes for low carb meals:

Uzbek Plov is a dish that apparently Nixon would not leave Uzbekistan without the recipe for... curious? Here it is:

The last of the sweetcorn is still available! Grilled sweetcorn with a twist, by Nigel Slater:
A bibimbap and bulgogi to use up your leftover veg:

A Cuban classic minced beef stew, Picadilo, with chopped tomatoes and chorizo:
Johnny Marr at Southend Cliffs Pavilion

Articles/Know How:

Interesting thoughts on how to cook more creatively and become less dependent on recipes:

Want to know where Indian foodies go to get their spice fix? Read this (by the brilliant Zoe, AKA The Spice Scribe):

Guide to UK seasonal ingredients:

As the first term continues, here are some ideas for packed lunches which are an alternative to boring, soggy sandwiches:


The Social Network


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

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 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.