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Canteen – Spittalifelds, London

I have heard many good things about Canteen in the new Spittalfields market in London since it opened in the Autumn of 2005. In the 2006 Observer Food Monthly awards it came second in best for breakfast (public vote) and in this years food monthly awards it won best restaurant. On paper it sounds like everything I love, quality ingredients cooked well and at very reasonable prices – starters are from approximately £5-7 and most main courses are under £10. It’s not fussy either, just good food. We decided we’d go for my birthday and booked a couple of weeks in advance.

It’s a nice looking restaurant, modern with a clean sharp look. The walls are glass facing out into the market so it’s great for people watching and there’s a busy open kitchen facing the diners. When we arrived tonight we were offered two seats squashed between two couples at a communal table. I know its communal eating but surely if you book two weeks in advance you can get a better seat? There was absolutely no room between these people and there was no sensible way of sitting there, the other diners didn’t look too happy to see us try and I can’t blame them. There were booths accomadating 2 or 4 people, so we asked if we could wait and have one of those. I played the birthday card and they were very good about it. So far, so good. We waited about 20 minutes and were seated at a very small booth facing the window but at least we weren’t squashed with other diners so we were happy. Service was confusing, at this point we had 3 people serving us but that seems to be the informal style of the restaurant so I’ll let that go. Read more

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Mutter Paneer – a speedy interpretation

Mutter Paneer

Before I begin, I will stress that this isn’t truly tried and tested but it was nice so I will post it. It’s a curry sauce that I do already changed on a whim to fit a mutter paneer dish. I will change it next time I do it as I am not 100% happy with it – it’s a nice curry but it’s not truly a mutter paneer. The sauce is thicker than it should be and it’s quite tomato-y. I wanted to make it mainly with things that I already had and quite quickly as I want another quick after work curry to add to my quick dishes. I am over-analysing perhaps – I did enjoy it and I will make it again. I blame Sabras, I want all my curries to taste like theirs now and I don’t have any of their recipes.

Before I begin I should mention that the goats milk paneer is delicious! I thought it might be too strong but it was not dominant. The goat milk flavour was actually really nice and delicate (I don’t like drinking goats milk so was a little concerned). The texture was lovely and spongy too. It’s definitely worth making the effort to make. Read more

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Some amateur cheesemaking – homemade paneer

 

Paneer Making -collage

With Sabras closing recently we have been deprived of their mutter paneer. It’s been a while since we made Indian food so I decided that I would make some paneer last night and follow up with mutter paneer tonight. I am lactose intolerant so can’t have cows milk, but this usually isn’t a problem for paneer making as living in London and so I can get my hands on buffalo milk quite easily. Well, I could, until Waitrose stopped selling it. So, it had to be goat’s milk which isn’t my favourite but it will do. Next time I’ll have to plan it and get some buffalo milk at the farmers market.

 

It’s very easy to make paneer. All you do is boil some milk, reduce the heat and add something acidic to separate the curds and whey – white vinegar, lemon or lime juice will do, and then press out the excess moisture. I had a lime to hand last night so I used lime juice, roughly, a couple of tablespoons for a litre of milk. Once you add the lime juice/lemon juice/vinegar you will notice that the curds and whey start to separate immediately. If they don’t seem to be seperating add more of your lime juice/lemon juice/vinegar. Give it about 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick or burn and the curds will get bigger and the whey will get clearer. After the 5 minutes or so are up, strain through some muslin or cheesecloth to separate the curds. You can suspend your ball of paneer in waiting from the tap or I usually just put mine in a sieve suspended over an empty pot. Leave it for about half an hour or so to cool down and drip then squeeze the excess liquid out. I place a weight on it (a jar of beans and a saucer) at this point for an hour or so and then it’s ready to refrigerate. Easy peasy!

 

 

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Tuna steak with warm new potato, chorizo & tomato salad

 

We’ve just had a long sleepy bank holiday weekend in London with plenty of time for cooking. We brightened up a rainy Sunday with a tuna steak and a warm salad accompanied by some lovely rioja. It was very quick, the tuna itself takes only a few minutes to cook and the salad is very straightforward. The recipe is for one as everyone else was eating steak, double it for two.

Ingredients (for one):

Tuna Steak

Salad:

Chorizo sausage – as much as you fancy
a handful or ripe, juicy cherry tomatoes
salad leaves – we used rocket, watercress & baby spinach
baby new potatoes – we used jersey royals
red onion
lemon
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Chop the potatoes into halves or quarters (depending on how big they are) and boil until soft.
Finely slice the onion and squeeze some lemon juice over the onion slices.
Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Slice the chorizo and fry in some olive oil until tender (a few minutes).
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and season while hot, they’ll absorb the seasoning better this way.
Heat some oil over a high heat and fry the tuna for 2-3 minutes on each side. It should be scorched on the outside and still quite pink on the inside. I really like it rare but if you prefer it medium or well done cook it for longer.
Mix up all your salad ingredients and season. Dress with some fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
Serve immediately while still slightly warm.

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Eating in Japan: Tsunahachi, Shinjuku

Tsunahachi, Tokyo

I was extremely fortunate to have a work trip to Japan this year and while it was a very busy week I did get an opportunity to sample some of the wonderful food and sights that Tokyo has to offer.

I had never been to Japan before but had heard a lot from varied sources. I have always had a fascination with Japan, from the history and clothing to the food. I went through a phase of buying vintage kimonos from Japan for the beautiful silk, but, until now I had never had an opportunity to visit. I had heard that Tokyo was a very busy city and was very expensive – even worse than London. Well, I live in London, and thought, really, how much more busy/expensive can it be?! The answer is it’s not. Perhaps London is the best leveller for world cities, I have been to a few and each one has been calmer and less expensive (I haven’t been to NY yet before you comment). Relative to London, Tokyo is actually quite cheap, this is attributed to their lengthy recession, prices haven’t increased in years.

So, on my second day there, still very jet-lagged, I was determined to go out and eat some tempura. I had a list of food to eat whilst in Japan – tempura, sushi, sashimi, okonomiyaki, gyoza, unagi (eel) and tea in a traditional Japanese teahouse. I had brought two guidebooks with me – the Lonely Planet Guidebook to Tokyo and the TimeOut Tokyo Guide. Both great but for food I’d prefer the TimeOut guide. I had planned to visit Shinjuku and spotted a Tempura restaurant in the cheap eat section, Tsunahachi.

I found it without much difficulty, it was quite close to the seven floor electronics shop I had spent the previous two hours in (camera window shopping!). It had a beautiful old wooden front and was really understated and hidden in the mesh of neon lights in Shinjuku. There was one person waiting outside the door so I waited with him. I quickly discovered that not many people speak english in Tokyo so I had to rely on my *extremely* pigeon japanese. I must stress that I didn’t expect them to speak english, why should they, it’s Japan not England! A queue quickly gathered behind me and within 15 minutes I was seated at a counter facing the open kitchen. The waiter brought me a menu, most of which was in Japanese so I chose a fish set menu and some sake.

The waiter brought me a little tray with some rice, pickles, miso soup and green tea. The miso was beautiful with tiny clams at the bottom. The rest was pretty impressive too. I saw one of the chefs about to fillet a flat fish and it looked very wet still, well, not surprising as when he stuck the knife in him I realised he was still very much alive and on my plate within 5 minutes. Harsh, I know, but the fish was beautiful to eat, really light with delicate white flesh. Next up were two tempura king prawns, also fresh from the tank, some green pepper and half an onion. All lovely, crisp and fresh but the onion was astounding, intensely sweet soft flesh contrasting beautifully with the tempura batter. I thought that this was it so finished my rice and miso, when a cake of tempura prawns arrived. It consisted of 15-20 large very fresh prawns and again, was very impressive. This was swiftly followed by some unagi (japanese eel) which was not unlike a white fish, very light, sweet and delicate. All the time I was washing this down with the sake which was beautifully dry and the perfect complement. I finished my meal with some green tea.

I requested the bill, expecting it to be a little more than I had expected given how much I had eaten. It came to a total of 2,000 yen which was incredibly good value, just under £10 sterling. The staff were very friendly and accomodating of my poor communication skills. I would recommend to anyone visiting Tokyo, it’s a very pleasurable experience.

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Roast baby orange peppers with feta on pita

I fancied a quick snack so I raided the fridge. I had lots of leftover bits. What most interested me was feta left over from the risotto recipe and a big bag of orange baby peppers that needed to be used before they went bad. So, I roasted the peppers, we don’t have a gas cooker so I brushed them with olive oil and put them under the grill until they went black, then turned them around and did the other side. Don’t be afraid to completely burn them, the flesh is protected by the skin underneath. When blackened all over I placed them in a plastic bag and into the fridge to cool. Doing this ensures that they sweat and makes it much easier to peel their skin off. Once cool (takes half an hour or so) I peeled them and chopped them into strips and mixed them with crumbled feta. I left them in the fridge for a half an hour or so to allow the flavours to mingle. You could add honey to make it even sweeter but this was just perfect so once the half hour was up I spread them on toasted pita bread drizzled with a little olive oil. Yum!

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Asparagus risotto balls stuffed with buffalo mozarella

There are many good reasons to make risotto. It’s delicious and perfect for a summers day. It goes very well with wine and is perfect after a long day in the office. It’s therapeutic to make, one of those dishes that requires alot of time and energy but is worth every little bit. My favourite one is: you can make risotto balls with the leftover risotto. When I make risotto, I always make twice what we need for dinner so that we can make risotto balls the next day.

Risotto balls are so easy and quick. All you need is leftover risotto, bufallo mozarella & breadcrumbs, egg & flour. Some recipes add egg to the risotto before moulding but I like my risotto quite moist so that when it’s cool it’s still quite sticky so usually doesn’t need it. I used leftover asparagus risotto. You can find the risotto recipe on my blog, it’s the previous post. I ommitted the feta cheese for the risotto balls as they should be all about the buffalo mozarella. You can use any leftover risotto though. Read more