Wednesday, 27 April 2016

April 2016 Favourites List

Welcome to this month’s list of wonderful stuff! This month's pictures are from Machu Picchu in Peru, a place I was lucky enough to visit earlier this month.

It is hard, in words, to do justice to the place. It did leave me gobsmacked and a little breathless (which was due to its beauty, not the altitude!). It is mystical, spiritual and ethereal. At the same time, it is solid; the terraces have been hewn into the mountain, the carved, carefully placed stones very hard and substantial.

Equally, I am not sure my pictures do the place justice. They seem flat. The elusive third dimension is obviously missing from my photos, which do not properly capture what I saw for myself over the course of two days. They do not capture the scale of the citadel. The misty atmosphere is merely hinted at.

Machu Picchu was on my “bucket list” for over 20 years. I had dreamed of seeing it and experiencing it, but had to wait for my moment to truly be there. Perhaps these photographs feed your desire to see it for yourself. If so, great – make it your mission to go. If you are sceptical now despite your initial wish to visit – I promise you, being there is very different from the pictures. It is a place which has to be seen, it is unforgettable, extraordinary and completely unique.

Honestly, I am still finding it hard to believe I was really there.

But enough ramblings from me, I know you are also here for the collection of lovely stuff. Well, here it is. Obviously, the passing of music genius and hero Prince has influenced the cultural selections. I’d always meant to see Prince play live, but never got round to see it. An element of my bucket list which never was fulfilled. A reminder that you should do what you can to achieve the aims of your lifetime if ever I thought of one. 


Vegetarian friendly creamy lentil soup made with green lentils.

A lovely, fresh and simple salad, ham, beetroot, feta, leaf and potato salad:

Mussels done Thai style; cooking beyond Moules Mariniere and Moules Provencale. Super easy with some fantastic flavours!

A fruity salsa full of colour, for eating with tacos, burgers and salads.

A salad of farro grain and feta and a highly contrasting beef skirt... Spring cooking by Thomasina Miers:

One mess up I make quite frequently in the kitchen is forgetting to soak beans and pulses overnight. Here's how you can save yourself, with the help of a pressure cooker:

Easy make ahead lunch box dish for eating al desko; Lentil, carrot & ham salad:

Bengali style prawn coconut curry recipe from the excellent Mamta's Kitchen website:

The noodles used here are not actually "glass noodles" - those are like vermicelli but made from moong/mung bean flour. These noodles are more like ho fun/pho flat rice noodles. But this pork tenderloin noodle salad from Andrew Wong's cookbook looks simple and tasty:

Articles/Know How:

Ben Tish, Adam Rawson, Paolo Elesbani, Lewis Sulley, Tom Hunt, Fah Sundravorakul, John Chantarasak, Claudio Cardoso, Tim Siadatan and Yasuhiro Mineno share their hero ingredients and tips for achieving umami flavour in your cooking:

Can a mobile app makes us less reliant on recipes? Why are we often afraid of making it up as we go along? Some interesting thoughts.

Drunk cooking: don't do it! Epic fails that could only result from too much booze...

A clothes optional naked restaurant? No. Just no! [Feel free to insert meatball/ sausage joke here...] 

Guide to Hong Kong's best dim sum eateries plus a video on how to Yum Cha!

The Lewisham "Street Feast" food market set to return for Summer 2016:

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

New blog post - Gastronhome, Restaurant review, a beautiful little French restaurant punching well above its weight.

My review of the restaurant launch of Soho's Mister Lasagna, devoted only to baked pasta wonderfulness!



The Big Short


Prince - A Purple Reign


Prince – Sign O The Times

Prince – Art Official Age

Prince – Plectrumelectrum

Prince – Purple Rain

Ephemera – Sun

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters - Lullaby and the Ceaseless Roar

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, 23 April 2016

Mister Lasagna Restaurant Launch

Pasta is a simple but wonderful indulgence. I love how comforting it is, like a cuddle on a plate. I am fond of fresh, dried, long, short, stuffed and saucy pasta. I often joke that I have never met a carbohydrate I didn’t like (a stolen joke, the provenance I can no longer remember), which particularly applies to pasta!

LASAGNA. See that spelling? It’s the original Italian way. “Lasagne” is an Anglicised version, in the same way as “bolognaise” is an English corruption of “Bolognese”. Sorry to be pernickety, but pasta is a very serious business! So let’s start getting it right!

Lasagna is a classic, hearty pasta dish which I adore, but confess make rarely at home. It seems too much of a mission to make two sauces only to face the assembly of the layers and final baking. Facing 3 hours of preparing, cooking and waiting, I end up going through the stages of slight food craving pangs, full on tummy rumbles, crippling hunger only to find I can’t bring myself to eat.

It would be a dish I would eat when out and about more often, but lasagna has often been messed around with. Inferior quality meat, lack of care when making the ragu/Bolognese sauce, cheap cheese toppings…. Bad lasagna is an insult to a great dish.

I was invited to the launch party of Mister Lasagna, the dream turned reality of Alessandro Limone. He wants to bring real, authentic lasagna to London. Lasagna like his “Nonna”, his grandmother, used to make for him, back in Naples, Southern Italy.

The idea of Mister Lasagna is to specialise solely in Lasagna. Eight (yes, eight!) regular varieties will be available with two specials each day. In all, a whopping 21 varieties will be cooked up for fellow pasta lovers! My much beloved Bolognese lasagna with béchamel sauce is obviously on the menu. A stone cold classic. Mister Lasagna’s classic Bolognese lasagna is very generous on meaty sauce, which has been cooked for ages and ages. Thankfully not swimming in béchamel sauce, this is just the way I like it. Browned nicely on top, this is super comfort food!

Some unfamiliar types will be available for you to discover; ham and cheese; pesto; vegetable; creamy carbonara; sophisticated mushroom; a “Quattro Formaggio” or Four cheese lasagna (blue cheese, feta, brie, and cheddar); Napoletana (meatballs, egg, Bolognese, ricotta and béchamel).

For fans of unpredictability and surprises, the “Special” lasagnas will reflect some of the great produce of Italy or depend on the season. Expect truffle, pumpkin, chicken and chorizo, aubergine, artichoke, courgette, vegetable, cherry tomato and basil, mashed potato and egg, smoked salmon, spinach, onion and spicy tomato sauce. More than just a one trick pony!

I was pleased to see that vegetarians do not miss out. The spinach lasagna had a thick, soft layer of spinach at the bottom, cooked with the merest touch of slipperiness. Thinner layers followed in between the pasta sheets. The topping of mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan brought flavour and richness. The aubergine lasagna had a herby tomato sauce coating the pasta and aubergine chunks, tasting authentically Neapolitan. 

The pumpkin lasagna was creamy and rich. It could have done with a little more pumpkin, if I am honest, but perhaps the sauce to filling to pasta ratio I was served is the typically Neapolitan way. A little bit of sage would have added to the flavour, too.

A regular portion of Lasagna will cost £5.90 to eat in, £5.30 to takeaway. If the full portion seems too big, or you want to keep space for puddings, a half portion is £3.50. Most interesting is the option for either the glutton or the indecisive person; a trio of lasagna £7.89 (made up of three half portions)! A great way to try the variations of lasagna available!

Diners will be able to have their lasagna with sauce. The choices are Bolognese, béchamel, mushroom, four cheese or tomato. I didn’t opt for sauce, because I wanted to see how well the lasagna spoke for itself. 

My conclusion is that we have some great old fashioned home style cooking, which I mean in the nicest possible way. This is food made with love to warm, comfort and cosset. Perfect for when you’ve had a bad day at work, or lunch on a Monday, or when you want to meet with friends for a quick bite to eat before heading out for a night on the town.

If you are still hungry after a big, satisfying slice of lasagna, you might want afters. Cute little homemade cupcakes are available for a very reasonable £1.50. 

In addition there is the quintessential tiramisu, or a caramel panna cotta or a white chocolate soufflé. The tiramisu (£3.50) is creamy, with a humane rather than overwhelming hit of coffee. The layers are beautiful, and I confess to having had more than one helping!

Mister Lasagna will be an all-day restaurant, serving coffee, sweet pastries and traditional Italian savoury tarts in the morning, with the lasagna making its appearance from lunchtime.

Whilst you can take your food away for lunch “al desko”, you can have lunch or dinner inside, with a cheeky beer or glass of wine. Selected spirits will also be available. The back of the premises is a proper restaurant with 40 seats. Some are tables for couples and small groups, but there is a big communal table for people who want to get friendly.

If you love all things food and drink Italia, you will be able to stock up on supplies. There will be pasta, sauces and a selection of Italian liqueurs available to buy.

Mister Lasagna opened on 20 April 2016. I think it is a fun, informal place for easy going food. If only it were within walking distance of my workplace, as it would be perfect for a lunchtime treat!

Mister Lasagna
53 Rupert Street

Snigdha would like to thank the owners of Mister Lasagna for inviting her. Snigdha has received no incentive for writing this review. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Gastronhome, Clapham, London - restaurant review

“I never thought it would happen/With me and the girl from Clapham/Out on the windy common/That night I ain’t forgotten…” So begins ‘Up The Junction’, the epic story-song by Squeeze, a tale of love found, love lost, heartbreak and solace found in bar, street and bookie. It is melancholy but in a quintessentially English way, like an American country music song, transported to London. (Lyricist Chris Difford had wanted to be the David Bowie of Deptford, but Squeeze proved to be something different – a typicially South London band with an ear for a melody.)

Gastronhome is like a little corner of perfect classical French gastronomy transported to South London. Situated in Clapham, on the Battersea borders, it is an unlikely location for the kind of fine French food you would expect in the West End or Mayfair. The reviews on Tripadvisor are overwhelmingly glowing, except for one somewhat grumpy fellow complaining it is in the “wrong area of London”, as if South London has no right to expect a high quality eatery.

You can choose from a seasonal  “A la carte” menu. Starters range from £10-13, mains are £20-26, desserts £9-12. We had, however, heard about another option… a five course “surprise” tasting menu for £49 per person. Feeling in need of a treat on a rainy weekday lunchtime, and with time on our hands, we simply couldn’t resist!

Our starter was Asparagus in a parmesan crust, with asparagus foam, home pickled bell onion, poached quail egg and parmesan crumble. 

The asparagus and crust made a very pleasing combination, with the strength of the parmesan and crispiness of the crust contrasting well with the asparagus itself. I personally could have done with the asparagus being a little less cooked, but my personal tastes are such that I truly like my asparagus done al dente. The very delicately pickled onion retained its original sweetness, and the lack of any vinegary tang meant the onion complimented the asparagus foam’s gentle flavours. The cute little quail’s egg was soft poached, providing a tiny dose of oozy creaminess in the dish. A good start.

The fish course was cod two ways; pan fried cod and a cod brandade, served with a piperade and broad beans.

The pan fried cod had a wonderfully crispy skin, with moist flaky fresh. Cooked to the point where it is literally “just cooked” is how I love my fish. The cod brandade was herby, with a light crunch on the outside. The piperade of pepper, tomato, garlic and a little bit of onion tasted of Summer sunshine in the South of France. Broad beans when young and tender are the perfect sign of the Mediterranean Spring. These were tender, sweet and delicious. 

The meat course was lamb, roasted aubergine, aubergine puree with Pomme Dauphine. 

The delectable lamb, cooked beautifully so that it was rich, yet soft and tender was served with Pomme Dauphine, a classic French way to prepare potatoes; a fantastic but non diet type of potato puff created by mashing potatoes with choux pastry and making little deep fried dumplings. The combination created and indulgent but wonderful combination of flavour and texture that surely only the French could have devised. It is super. 

We washed it down with some wonderfully smooth and rich Ripasso red from Italy, a wine I mention and post a picture of because I intend to seek it out for home consumption.

The cheese course was up next. Since our waitress has been so capable in choosing our wines for us, we asked her to help us with choosing our cheeses. 

Our two cheese were ones which were very different from each other; Le Montrachet and Le Salers.

Our cheeses were served with some crunchy, artisan crackers full of seeds, crunch and flavour. You need  a good foil for your cheese, and these were it. But what about the cheeses?

The Montrachet is a goat cheese from Burgundy. Obviously, this is the same region of France where Burgundy wine and Beef Bourguignon is from. It is aged in a vine leaf to provide protection and impart flavour. The cheese was creamy and rich, but with a delicate, sophisticated flavour. 

The Salers is a cow milk cheese from Auvergne (the home of Blu d’Auvergne, a famous creamy blue cheese). This cheese was quite solid, and had a nutty, satisfying flavour with the slightest touch of Umami. The cheese, Salers, holds the same name as the cow that provides its milk. A poetic and lovely mark of respect. 

Finally, the dessert was a tarte au citron (lemon tart) with meringue and flowers. 

As you can see, it is a beautifully deconstructed lemon tart, with a tangy lemon cream on top of light, fluffy pastry with a slight crunch on the outside. It’s an ingenious way of ensuring none of the pastry is made soggy by lemon filling. I enjoyed every spoonful of this inventive and delightful pudding. 

Gastronome is a charmingly sweet little restaurant, whose modest size belies its culinary punch. The food was excellent, as you can see. Special mention must go to the front of house staff who are passionate about food and wine, keen to make recommendations and do everything they can to make your experience a pleasure. 

You never thought it would happen in Clapham? Think again. 

59 Lavender Hill, Battersea, SW11 5QN, 
020 3417 5639

Snigdha and her lunch companions ate as ordinary customers at Gastronhome, paying for their lunch in full. Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review, which is unsolicited. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Merguez and Red Rice salad with poached egg

The longer days are back again. The clocks went back, giving us extra light in the evenings. The temperature is creeping back up. I’ve put away my warmest Winter woollies and I’m thinking about sending all my well-worn coats to the dry cleaners before putting them into temporary retirement. Spring has well and truly sprung and it is glorious.

I’m a “never say never” girl, so I won’t say anything rash like I won’t make another stew, soup or casserole again until October. I’m a capricious creature and like to go where the food mood takes me. 

However, I do feel like right now like ringing the changes. I was thinking about the food and ingredients of the South of France, and it is from Provence that I take my inspiration for this dish.

Camargue red rice is grown in the South of France. It’s a unique ingredient, with nutty flavours and a texture offering considerable bite. A whole grain, it keeps you full for longer and is high in fibre. As a result of having much of the husk left on, it takes much longer to cook than regular white rice. 

Merguez is a southern French sausage, usually made of lamb, although occasionally from beef. It is spicy and herby, as befits a food originating with the Bedouin people. Cumin, fennel, garlic and sumac provide aroma and flavour and either harissa chilli paste or chopped red chilli give some heat. They are usually grilled, but I have fried them here as it was easier to cook them evenly.  

Merguez and Red Rice salad with poached egg

Serves 2


4 Merguez sausages
5 small tomatoes, quartered
8 sugar snap peas, topped, tailed and cut into half
10 French beans, topped, but not tailed and cut into thirds
1 banana/French shallot, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half moons
60g Camargue Red rice
80-100g pancetta cubes (or bacon equivalent)
Mixed salad leaf, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Olive oil

Poached eggs:
2 eggs, cracked into individual mugs or ramekin dishes
1 teaspoon vinegar (any kind)

1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
½ teaspoon garlic paste
Olive Oil (I used extra virgin, but this isn’t necessary)
White wine vinegar


1. You will need several saucepans of varying sizes and a couple of non-stick frying pans, unless you have a helper who will wash pans up for you so they can be recycled. 

2. Put the Camargue Red rice in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to the boil and then put on a simmer. You will be doing a lot of the rest of the cooking while the rice cooks, which will take 25 minutes. 

3. Fry the Merguez sausages in olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, until cooked (about 15 minutes). Some paprika may drain out of the sausages, but do not worry about this. If you want to keep the dish lower in calories and fat, you can grill the sausages instead. 

4. Remove the Merguez sausages from the pan onto a plate covered in kitchen paper. When cool enough to handle, cut into small pieces.

5. Dry fry the pancetta or bacon lardons in a non-stick frying pan until cooked. Remove from the pan onto a plate covered in kitchen paper.

6. Put another pan of water on, bring to the boil. Add the French beans and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the sugar snaps. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to arrest the cooking process. 

7. Mix up the salad dressing by putting the white wine vinegar into a jar or mug, adding the garlic paste and Dijon mustard. Whisk with a fork or put the lid on and shake to mix. Then add the Olive oil and repeat the mixing process. 

8. Put the kettle on with about a mug of water in it. When the Camargue Red rice is cooked (try it to see if it is al dente), drain and rinse with boiling water. 

9. In a mixing bowl, add the sugar snaps, shallots, pancetta, Merguez, and the cooked Camargue Red rice. Pour the dressing on top, and mix all of the ingredients together with a gentle folding motion. Once mixed up, leave to cool down.

10. Put your salad leaf and tomatoes on plates. 

11. Put a small pan of water on to boil with 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Once boiling, start swirling the water vigorously. Whilst the water is circulating, add the eggs. Poach for 4 minutes. 

12. Top the salad leaf and tomatoes with the Camargue Red rice and Merguez mixture. Sprinkle with parsley. Top with an egg each. Enjoy immediately.