Wednesday, 24 February 2016

February 2016 Favourites List

This month's pictures are from Boulders Beach, in the suburbs of Cape Town. The seaside is nice here, but it isn’t the main draw…. That accolade goes to the super cute and adorable African penguins. Protected citizens, penguins rule the roost here at Boulders!

Buses and car loads of people make their way here to admire and coo at the dapper little fellas. They have an irresistible charm. They display unique personalities as you watch them interact with each other.

Whatever mood you arrive here with, you find yourself uplifted, a big smile on your face after communing with these beautiful creatures. Spending time with them will relieve you of your cares, and fill you with the joy of living!

I hope you enjoy the pictures… now for my monthly selection of cool stuff!


As hoppers are about to become the "It" food in London this year, here is how to make your own!

Poached chicken with crunchy vegetables and herb dressing. Fresh tasting and colourful home cooking.

Yotam Ottolenghi's Za'atar recipes: Manakish flatbreads, Black-eyed bean feteh, Amaranth stuffed mushrooms with za’atar and pine nuts: 

Mug cakes, mug cookies, mug brownies and mug crumbles! All made in the microwave for baking phobics like me!

Lamb stew with mushrooms and chick peas served up with celeriac mash:

Culinary history is fascinating. My brilliant friend Karin found me this article about a Victorian recipe for curry. To me, it seems strange to use sour apples, dripping and milk. Interesting that "curry powder" is used, with no defined amount or ingredients. Anyone willing to give it a go?

Potatoes, cooked beef, thyme and stock make a simple, classically Gallic one pan meal, Lyonnaise Potatoes:

Make ahead over the weekend so you can enjoy on weekday mornings. Granola of pecan nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and coconut chips.

Super quick and easy soup for dinner. Wrap up warm today, it's chilly!

A savoury bread pudding? Something different, fresh and new from Cookwitch Lisa; Leek and Halloumi Bread Pudding. Perfect for using up leftover bread.

Keema is basically minced meat. Keema curry is a spicy mince stew which is a bit like Indian bolognese.... or Indian Shepherd's pie filling.... a fusion you might want to try out!

If you've never visited the Mamta's Kitchen website, you are missing out of a wealth of fantastic Indian cooking recipes. Here is a lamb with spinach recipe which is perfect for weekend cooking.

A slow cooked pork dish I have to give a try! Slow cooked braised pork with plums and Far Eastern flavours:

Gennaro Contaldo's Neapolitan family recipe for beef and pork meatball lasagne::

Sumptuous vegetarian (but not vegan) soup for this grey day, watercress, turnip and blue cheese soup:

Articles/Know How:

Rethinking the "science oven" [American Hustle reference, there!]: how your microwave might be a useful tool for cooking vegetables. (I swear by cooking rice in a microwave - perfect every time!)

Indian food fans, curryholics and spice fiends - REJOICE! Zoe Perrett (The Spice Scribe) points you to what's going on this month! 

Don't believe me about hoppers being the latest food to watch out for? Don't take my word for it!

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Whether you like white, red, rose or bubbles, you will find wine of high quality in the wineries of South Africa. This is my pick of the highlights of my travels from Cape Town to the wine country (Stellenbosch-Paarl) and the Garden Route.

Cape Town is blessed with a vibrant restaurant scene where excellent produce combined with care, love and skill in the kitchen makes eating out a pleasure. Here is my list of favourite place to eat in this amazing city:

Excellent sushi and robota food with a few fusion dishes to keep up the variety. A great little find in the Carnaby quarter of London. My restaurant review of Oka, Kingly Court:

Meanwhile, over at Snig’s Classroom:

Barristers have to advise clients in writing, the skill of “opinion writing”. Students find it tricky, because they think their task is to show off what they know about the law – here is my analysis of what is involved:


Ricki And The Flash

Zero Dark Thirty


Deutschland 83


David Bowie - Five Years


Guy Garvey – Courting The Squall

Kraftwerk – Computer World

Julia Holter - To Have You In My Wilderness

Esther Phillips – From A Whisper To A Scream

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.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Places to eat in Cape Town

Cape Town on the Western Cape of South Africa in the Summer is a wonderful place to visit. The fact their Summer coincides with the Great British Winter provides another fantastic reason for going, getting to leave the cold and grey behind! Sea, sunshine and sights are the treats you can expect to find, but perhaps you weren’t aware of the ridiculously high level of restaurant scene you find here. I was astonished at the range of great restaurants, the fabulous value for money, the superb selection of local wines and beer and amazing service. There are hundreds of great dining experiences to be had in Cape Town. This is my selection of my very favourite places. 

Chefs Warehouse
Chefs Warehouse is a foodies’ impossible dream; a cook book shop curated with love and care, a cooking implement store with genuinely great cookware, a deli with some of the world’s best ingredients available and a tapas bar with a difference. All under the same roof. No, I wouldn’t have believed you unless I had seen it with my own eyes, either! 

Daily tapas for 2 to share is served here, with nods to Vietnamese, Italian and Japanese food. The menu changes each day, based on which ingredients are at their best at market that day. The food here is without question some of the best I had in South Africa, truly world class. The dishes are cheffy and well presented without being self-indulgent. Chef Liam Tomlin is a cook book author with a great eye and innovative ideas. With luck he may broaden his horizons and consider a restaurant on the European continent! 

Snigdha meets Chef Liam Tomlin

(Please note that no bookings are taken here. You need to turn up and wait for a table. It is worth it!)

Chefs Warehouse
92 Bree Street, Cape Town 8001
+27 (0)21 422 01 28

Mzansi Restaurant
Located in Langa Township, this is a restaurant that feels more like being invited into someone’s home for dinner and a party.

Here is the “must know” information:
- You need to book, at least the day before, to come here. This is because the food is bought and cooked for the number of visitors.
- This is not a “walk-in” restaurant.

- There is no menu, the dishes are made according to what is good, and is served up buffet style.

If that puts you off, then it is your loss. Because Nomonde cooks fabulous traditional Xhosa food in this family restaurant she runs with her husband Ace, and once you’ve eaten, the fun begins! Nomonde tells you the story of how she set up and built the restaurant and its clientele (a fascinating insight into the recent history of South Africa) and then it is time to groove to the Marimba and Sax sounds of the house band. 

Dancing is not optional, and if you fancy, you can join in! My Marimba playing is rudimentary, but I managed to make a small contribution to the ensemble. 

Snigdha playing the marimba
Safe, friendly and fun, if you’re staying in Cape Town, you’ve got to try something different.

Mzansi Restaurant
45 Harlem Ave, Langa, Cape Town, 7455, South Africa
+27 21 694 1656
La Mouette
Set up by English Chef Henry Vigar, La Mouette serves beautiful plates of “Modern European cuisine”; strongly influenced by French food with cheffy tweaks and inspired presentation. Fresh seafood is a staple here. 

I tried one of the tasting menus for the Festive season, and had a delightful meal full of surprises, colour and flavour. Each season, the tasting menu is changed to use the best of what is available, so my pictures may not represent what you would be served with. In the Summer food is served in the front courtyard, with comfy garden furniture and parasols making the dining environment a pleasant al fresco one, but there is attention to detail here; throws and blankets are available should the weather take a turn (the Cape Doctor is a fresh wind which can make an unexpected appearance!). Very good value for money, this is a place to treat yourself to food which competes with fine dining establishments in London at a small fraction of the cost.

La Mouette
78 Regent Road, Seapoint, Cape Town Central 8005, South Africa
+27 21 433 0856
The Black Sheep
Tremendously good value, The Black Sheep has a select daily menu lovingly hand chalked on two huge blackboards each day. All produce is local and seasonal. It has the feel of an informal gastopub, although the food is a lot more special. 

Booking is highly recommended, or you could have a long wait for a table. Loyal locals come here time after time for the diverse and imaginative dishes, extensive selection of wine available by the glass and friendly, enthusiastic service. 

I wish there was a place like this within walking distance of my house; being able to walk here from my Cape Town digs brought home to me how vibrant and superb Cape Town’s eating out scene is. 
The Black Sheep
104 Kloof St, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa
+27 21 426 2661

Worth visiting:
Saigon Restaurant (Corner Kloof and Camp Street, Cape Town Central, South Africa)
Harbour House Kalk Bay (Main Rd, Kalk Bay, Cape Town, 7990, South Africa)
Kloof Street House (30 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town Central 8001, South Africa)

Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for posting these recommendations. All meals were paid for, fair and square.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Oka Restaurant, Kingly Court, London

Located in Kingly Court, in London's Carnaby district, Oka Kingly Court is a dinky little restaurant I visited for lunch recently with Him Indoors and my brother in law. 

Oka lists itself as a Japanese, Pan-Asian and Fusion restaurant. However, I would suggest that other than a couple of dishes, it is very much a sushi and robota restaurant, with strong Japanese character. We did try a Mongolian and a Korean influenced dish

We decided to begin with some sushi, with the intention of moving to cooked and hot food later on in our lunch.

Tuna Hosomaki, £4.95

These home made, hand made sushi rice rolls were wrapped in nori seaweed, served with pickled ginger and kizami wasabi. This type of wasabi is not the same as in your standard sushi joint. Here the wasabi is chopped into tiny pieces and pickled with herbs. Given that many sushi places do not use actual wasabi and use horseradish dyed green, this was a fascinating difference. The Hosomaki were generous on the amount of super fresh fish, where other restaurants might try to skimp on the seafood. They were, in addition, not overly heavy on the rice. The nori was crispy since the Hosomaki were made to order and brought to us immediately. 

Tuna Nigiri (usually £3.95 for 2, we ordered three and paid pro-rata for one extra)

I'll confess: tuna is currently my favourite fish for sushi. I've tried eel, salmon, prawns, sea bass, squid, octopus, and mackerel. But fatty tuna and tuna are my favourites. I therefore demanded tuna nigiri as a non-negotiable part of my lunch. (I'm one of those people who has certain "non-negotiable" food items... When I go out for Spanish Tapas, Padron peppers are a quid pro quo!) 

Look at that fish! Nigiri is often a sliver, an apology for a slice of fish on top of a large block of rice. The rice is often just like the towering stone monolith on the front cover of "Who's Next"; huge and out of all proportion. Rice is cheap, fish is not, so there is usually a lot more of the rice than fish. I was impressed with the amount of tuna, which was fresh and flavourful. More of the kizami wasabi and pickled ginger, and a good amount too (don't you hate it when they skimp on the condiments?!) and I was a very happy bunny. Yes, that is a cup of cold sake you can just about make out. Delicious, floral and clean tasting sake to wash my sushi down. My idea of heaven. 

Salmon and Unagi nigiri

Salmon nigiri (£3.50 for two), Unagi (eel) nigiri (£5.50 for two), we ordered three and paid pro-rata for one extra.

The salmon was flavourful with great "bite", any fan of al dente pasta will know what I mean here. Nothing is worse than mushy seafood! The freshwater eel was served cooked and bound to the sushi rice with a band of nori. Before you exclaim about the fact the eel was cooked - this is necessary as raw eel can cause health risks. The tender eel had delicate flavours and was perfectly cooked. 

Dragon roll with prawn tempura, asparagus, spicy mayo, topped with avocado £8.50

This is a sushi dish made up of interesting clashes, contrasts and combinations. Like the "yin/yang" symbol often seen in Far Eastern culture, the idea is to achieve balance of opposing forces. The soft, ripe avocado contrasted softness with the al dente just-cooked asparagus. The tempura, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The rice bringing the mayo and competing flavours together. The protruding prawn tails were a wonderful presentational device, making the dish look exciting and vital on the plate. 

Seared tuna Tataki with spicy ponzu served over daikon salad £11.50

I am a new convert to Tataki. Usually you will find either beef or tuna options. This is unsurprising given their relatively red and meaty characteristics. Coated in sesame seeds or as it is, the tuna or beef is seared rapidly on a hugely hot grill, so that the first couple of millimetres of thickness change colour and texture. The middle remains red and reassuringly raw. I wouldn't dare make it at home without better knowledge of how to make it safely, but in these capable hands, I was pleased to give it a go. The spicy ponzu sauce gave some sweet, spicy and slightly citrussy tart flavours, a great foil for the meaty fish. 

Spider roll with kimchi mayo, topped with avocado and tempura crumbs £8.50

"Spider rolls?! I'm not eating spider!" I sense the scepticism and resistance. But please, don't worry. Hear me out! Battered and fried soft shell crab are the filling to these intriguing sushi rolls. The legs curl when cooked, forming the strange, other-worldy "spider" legs protruding from the two centre rolls.

The shell and batter outside is crispy and crunchy, but the middle remains soft and moist. Ripe avocado adds richness, along with the kimchi mayo (spicy!) and the whole ensemble works with the house made kizami wasabi and pickled ginger. 

Bulgogi beef fillet served over salad with plum sauce £9.95

This is one of the "fusion" dishes; bulgogi being a traditionally Korean dish and plum sauce being Chinese influenced. The meat had been marinaded with the bulgogi marinade mix, full of soy sauce flavours and a touch of sweetness. The meat was tender and had been infused with the flavours of both the grill and marinade. 

Mongolian rack of lamb served with homemade kimchi and spiced mayo £16.50

Another fusion dish, it is interesting to note that the majority of fusion or pan-Asian dishes on the menu are main courses. This rack of lamb was not so much a rack as some cute little cutlets. At £16.50, it was not cheap, but the meat was beautifully marinaded with spice and gutsy flavours. Spicy, with considerably heat, the lamb was seared on the outside and yielding, tender and beautiful on the inside. Frankly, there was no need for the mayo given the wonderful tastes in the lamb and the fiery kick of the homemade kimchi.

We had a great lunch here at Oka. The restaurant is small, but because we went on a weekday lunchtime, we didn't need to worry about it being crowded. I would recommend booking if you intend to go for dinner, as there are few tables and I imagine it is popular in the evenings. We enjoyed being able to see the dishes being prepared before our eyes.  The service is very good; staff are knowledgeable about all of the dishes, sensitive that some of the menu items are unfamiliar to many, and genuinely helpful and enthusiastic. 

I would definitely return to Oka. The location is very good for the West End, the pricing whilst not cheap, is reasonable given the quality of the food. I'm delighted to have discovered the place!

Oka Kingly Court, Soho
1st floor Kingly Court,
Carnaby Street,
0207 734 3556

Snigdha paid for her meal and that of her companions. Snigdha has received no incentive, financial or otherwise for writing this review.