Thursday, 26 February 2015

February 2015 Favourites List

I almost forgot that February is the short month! It wouldn't have been right to allow the month to pass without sharing with you this month's list of lovely stuff with some fun pictures. So, with just today and another 2 days left, here I am!

This month’s pictures are of the Cheong Fatt Tze House, otherwise known as the “Blue Mansion”, in Georgetown, Penang.

Built by Cheong Fatt Tze, known as the “Rockefeller of the East”, he was a famous man of many hats; tycoon, diplomat, and politician. However, his beginnings were as a destitute migrant to Malaysia from Hakka. His success was entirely self-made.

The building, dating from the 1880s, is a fantastic expression of Chinese artistic design, based on the principles of Feng Shui. A tranquil, calm and beautiful place, full of atmosphere and serenity… until the next coach load of tourists arrive. Sadly, you never get the place to yourself to savour for long....

It’s a highlight of Georgetown, whose street food scene is worth the journey alone. But the architecture and street are come a worthy second. 


French Puy lentils with Chard, a vegetarian Winter warmer, or perhaps a side dish with chicken or fish:

A quick and easy Cassoulet without the faff of making confit duck.

Teriyaki beef with mushrooms and coconut milk by Dan Toombs (The Curry Guy):

Slow Roasted Tomato & Garlic Soup: Packed with the flavour of lycopene rich tomatoes and slow roasted garlic.

Goan style roast pork loin by Cyrus Todiwala, the Incredible Spice Man:

10 mins prep, 40 mins to cook, a weekday freezer recipe for casserole:

Garbure - a Gascon soup of ham, cabbage, cheese, bread and beans.

Cookwitch Lisa's new recipe for Roasted carrot and sesame houmous with chick peas and tahini:

Broccoli Rabe - wonder where I can get some in London? If not, perhaps purple sprouting broccoli will work? Pasta with broccoli by Julia delle Croce.

Food for informal gatherings and fun, Hawaiian Hula Pork Fajitas with Pineapple Slaw & Coconut Rice:

North African stewed heaven... who can say no to meatballs?

Articles/Know How:

The much maligned microwave is defended in style by Kavita at Kavey Eats blog.

You've probably heard of the 5th taste, umami. But have you heard of kokumi? The science of flavour. Just fascinating!

Yelp votes Dishoom the best restaurant in the UK. It's a great place for a fun and tasty Indian meal, for sure. Interesting that it has beat places with greater "wow" factor and bigger names.

Where can you get the best chips in London?

Confused about cuts of meat and what to use where? Kavey has written a useful guide with input from other top food bloggers on beef.

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Linda Poulnott's 3rd guest post at Snig's Kitchen - her Neapolitan Baked Aubergine recipe (Parmigiana di Melanzane). Catch it here!

Jack White is a genius guitarist and songwriter with an eye for detail, so why wouldn't his guacamole recipe be well considered?

Combining two British classics - Cottage Pie and Bubble & Squeak.

My latest blog post - review of London's Brasserie Zedel, who bring some Parisian style and class to the centre of town.

My new blog, Snig's Classroom first ever post: When should you start revising? Procrastinating, timing and motivation -


Radio 6 Music Festival 2015; Mogwai and Interpol

Radio 6 Music Festival 2015; Royal Blood and Jungle

Wolf Hall


I Love You Honeybear - Father John Misty

Welcome To Mali - Amadou and Miriam

Vicissitudes - Maps

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, 22 February 2015

Brasserie Zedel, London

France is a large country. So it is hardly surprising that it has regional variations of food culture. This Summer I travelled around the south of France. I couldn't help but notice the difference the terrain, climate and available food produce made to the culinary and wine culture of the region when compared to the part I was more familiar with; the north.

Visiting Brasserie Zedel is a strange experience the first time. You step out of a typical West End/ Soho street and suddenly you are transported. Not just to a vision of Parisian sophistication, but a chic Paris from a bygone era.

Some of you will read that and scoff. Oh no, Snigdha is waxing lyrical over a themed restaurant! How sad, how tragic! She's finally lost it! No! That's not it at all. This isn't a theme restaurant, it's more immersive than that. The trouble that has been gone to in making it feel right is incredible. It isn't cardboard and formica. There is real attention to detail in the look and feel, from the sweet little ground floor cafe to the enormous dining room downstairs.

The dining room was apparently the former Grill Room of what had been the Regents Park Hotel. I said it was enormous, and that is no exaggeration. I daren't think how many people can be fitted in at a busy time... I think if I had to wait tables I might panic a little!

I visited Brasserie Zedel with Him Indoors and a couple of friends. We were handed the all- French menu at first. But there were still a few words beyond our yellowed, faded GCSE and O level certificate capabilities. We had to ask for one English menu to double check a few phrases.

The range of dishes is broad and varied. There are classic dishes, well known to us Brits. There are also some surprises. You can go classy or comforting, it's up to you.

The pricing is very reasonable here. It is amazingly good value for the very centre of London.

French onion soup with gratinated toasts is one of my all time favourite dishes to eat and to cook. It is a stone cold Gallic classic. Thankfully the soup was not cold at all! Piping hot with two generously sized cheesy topped toasties, it had the slow cooked onion flavour you would expect.

Fish soup (where the soup is based on the Southern French dish Bouillabaise) is another French classic dish. Served with toasted bread topped with grated cheese, this is a dish whose apparent simplicity requires much more skill from the chef than you would imagine.

The Terrine au Jambon was a perfect sized portion, not too big (given the generous size of the mains) and not too small either. Chunks of meat gave a satisfying bite. The lightly spiced chutney gave some contrast of texture and flavour which was highly complimentary.

The starters were of a high standard and went down very well with my party. So onto the main courses....

The "poulet au champagne" (chicken cooked in champagne) was essentially a posh coq au vin. My verdict would be that this was good rather than excellent. It was well presented and cooked with care, but there weren't enough of the braised chicken flavours you would want from a slow cooked dish.

We visited on a Monday, meaning that the rotating "daily special" was belly of pork braised with Puy lentils. There was no complaint about the sheer amount of pork in the dish; the picture doesn't do the size of this main course justice. Two of us went for this dish. Sadly, I was unable to finish mine. Not in any way down to a lack of quality, but because I was getting very full. This dish has deep slow cooked stock flavours infusing the lentils and tasty well cooked pork belly, one of my favourite cuts of meat.

Him Indoors and I decided to share a chocolate mousse dessert. It was billed as a dessert for two to share.

When it arrived, I will confess that my thought was that this was a dessert for one and a half people rather than two. Therefore, one of us was not going to get a full helping, and that the chances were, it would be me. 

The mousse was very light. It was whipped full of air. This initially only supported my view that I would be short-changed on my pudding. However, as I dig in, spoonful by spoonful, it became clear that this was a full and hearty mousse, full of decadent chocolate richness. There was more than enough for both of us and a wonderful end to our meal. I had found my pudding belly - the extra one you call upon when you need to find space for dessert!

My friend ordered the crepe. Sadly the inside of the restaurant was too dark for my picture to capture what it looked like accurately.

The crepe ordered by my friend was light, smooth and pleasing. She enjoyed it very much. I had a little taste, but wasn't allowed more. I would say this proved it was a keeper!  

We had a very enjoyable lunch, and by and large the food was very good indeed. I would return for lunch again, since it is a perfect venue for a meal in the very centre of London. It is perfect for catching up with friends in a sociable, informal yet quietly classy environment. 

Brasserie Zedel
20 Sherwood Street

020 7734 4888

Opening hours:
Monday - Saturday 11.30am - Midnight
Sunday 11.30am - 11.00pm

Snigdha and her friends paid for their meal with a very handy plastic card. The bill will have to be paid later....

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Lovely Bubbly Cottage Pie

Cottage pie is a classic British dish. Stewed beef mince cloaked in mashed potato and baked in the oven until hot and oozy. Wintry comfort food which is tasty, but somewhat lacking in vegetable content. Here in the UK we are being urged to eat more vegetables, and sometimes it is difficult to ensure enough are eaten without resorting to the same old standbyes such as steamed veggies, boiled veggies or salad.

Bubble and Squeak is another classic British dish. It's a Monday institution, having been made from the leftover cooked vegetables from Sunday lunch for generations. The cooked vegetables are mashed together loosely, put into a hot pan and fried. 

The more you mash it, the more indistinct the individual vegetables' character becomes, a great way of hiding vegetables from fussy eaters. (I'm not suggesting for a minute that there are young children who look out for the particular colours and flavours of vegetables so that they might turn their noses up, saying "why can't we have chips? Veg is horrible!") 

On the other hand, light mashing means the vegetables maintain some of their texture and structure, allowing their presence to be discerned. Bubble and Squeak (sometimes simply called "bubble") makes a pleasing accompaniment to an undemanding dinner on a Monday night. Just what you need after getting over the first day of the week and the rigours of going back to work after the weekend. 

My thought was why not put these two iconic dishes together? Oozy stewed beef mince and baked mix mash topping. Healthy, comforting and cheap. If you were to make double the quantity of the filling, you could cook one batch and freeze the other so that you can save time on a weekday night. 

As Del Boy (from Only Fools and Horses) might say "lovely jubbly!". Del, that famous denizen of Peckham, which is just down the road from me, is the inspiration for the name of the dish.

Lovely Bubbly Cottage Pie

You will need:

An oven proof dish to cook the pie in.
A baking sheet to make taking the oven proof dish out of the oven at the end much easier.
A saucepan for making the filling.
A saucepan for boiling the bubble topping vegetables.

Serves 4 people as a main


For the Bubble and Squeak topping:

3-4 potatoes (depending on size), peeled and cooked
1 handful each of the following cooked vegetables:
(can be replaced with most leftover veg from Sunday lunch)
50g butter
A dribble (around 1 tbsp) of milk

For the Cottage Pie filling:

500g beef mince
1 carrot, very finely diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tbsp Mushroom Ketchup (optional)
300ml hot beef stock
1 tbsp beef gravy granules stirred into the stock
Olive oil for frying; between 1 tbsp and 2 tbsp


1. Preheat the oven to 160 deg C (fan oven setting), or I would estimate that 180 deg C on a non-fan setting would be equivalent. 

2. If you have not cooked your Bubble and Squeak topping vegetables, including the potatoes, then cook them now.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. 

4. Add the onion and carrot. Fry, without browning, for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. 

5. Add the crushed garlic, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, lowering the heat if needed to prevent the garlic burning.

6. The beef mince should go in now, and the heat may need to be raised to help the meat change colour. The beef should be browned all over.

7. All the liquid ingredients should then be added (stock with gravy granules, tomato puree, Worcester sauce, mushroom ketchup). Stir thoroughly.

8. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

9. Mash up the vegetables for the bubble topping to whatever consistency you prefer. 

10. Put the oven proof dish on the baking sheet. Empty the simmered beef filling into the oven proof dish. 

11. Now you will need to top the beef with the mashed bubble topping. Take care and don't be heavy handed or it will sink to the bottom. If you are better at presentation than I am, do feel free to use a piping bag to pipe out onto the top of the pie. Smooth out as best as you can if you are not using a piping bag. 

12. Put into the hot oven for 30 minutues, plus another 5 if needed. 

Serve and enjoy!