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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]

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Asparagus, lemon & feta risotto

I have mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again, I *love* asparagus! After much trawling in the farmers markets I found a lovely asparagus stall with big bunches of asparagus. How could I leave them there? I usually like to cook them as simply as possible to keep their strong fresh flavour but it had been a while since we had risotto so I thought I’d make a nice summery one with it. I find asparagus goes really well with lemon and feta so thought I’d adapt a tried and trusted asparagus recipe. I prefer to use feta that has sheeps milk only as the cows milk ones (or even those with a little cows milk) don’t have as nice a flavour, I find them more acidic. Apparantly, the reason cows milk is added is it’s much cheaper and reduces production costs. Anyway, I found a nice organic sheeps feta so used that in this recipe. I always make enough for four people so that we can make risotto balls with the leftovers. Recipe to follow in my next post :-)

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 shallots, finely chopped
400g risotto rice (I used Vialone Nano but any will do)
200ml white wine or vermouth (noilly prat is a good one)
1 3/4 litre hot vegetable stock
700g asparagus, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, preferably unwaxed, zest and juice
Crumbled feta – about half a pack

Method

Heat the olive oil in a wide, high-sided pan (a stock pan works well) over a low heat.
Peel the shallots and chop them finely.
Cook until soft and translucent ensuring it doesn’t go brown.
Stir in the rice on the heat until the risotto rice is hot.
Add the wine/vermouth and cook until the alcohol has evaporated off and the rice has only a little liquid left.
Keep the stock on a low heat throughout the recipe.
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and chop the rest into small chunks.
Add a ladleful of hot stock, turn the heat up to medium, stirring the rice until the liquid has almost disappeared. Add the asparagus reserving the tips.
Continue adding the stock one ladleful at a time as it boils down to almost nothing.
Keep stirring the rice. The stirring releases the starches and ensures that your risotto has a creamy texture.
After 15 minutes or cooking time add the asparagus tips.
The risotto will be ready when the rice is creamy is al dente (still has a little bite).
Season with salt, pepper and the lemon juice to taste. Garnish with some lemon zest and sprinkle some crumbled feta on each portion.

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Quinoa with soya beans, parsley, sesame seeds & red onion

Quinoa is one of those foodstuffs that is so nutritious that I try to include it in my diet as regularly as possible. I like the nutty texture and as the flavour is quite subtle it mixes with almost everything. You can use it in the place of cous cous for a healthier tabbouleh or as a side dish in place of rice. It’s one of the few non-meat, non-dairy foodstuffs that contains the full complement of essential amino acids. I am not vegetarian but I was for 11 years and still keep to a predominantly vegetarian diet, mainly because I really enjoy vegetarian food and it’s extremely healthy once you take care to mix your proteins. I hadn’t had quinoa for a couple of months so I thought I’d drag it out of the cupboard and make a healthy lunch out of it.

I cook quinoa in a similar way to rice, twice the amount of liquid to grain. The only difference in the way I cook it is I like to fry/toast it briefly first in a little oil so that the texture is a little crispy in the finished dish.

This is a very flexible recipe. You can use different herbs or a mixture, nuts, especially pine nuts or hazelnuts are a lovely addition, I just didn’t have any to hand! You can eat it cold as a salad or warm – whatever works for you.

Ingredients (for one lunch):

100g quinoa
200ml light vegetable stock
Half red onion finely chopped
75g beans (any really, I used tinned soya beans)
25g sesame seeds
A handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
Couple tbsp fresh lemon juice
Olive oil

Method:

Sauté the red onion in 1 tbsp olive oil until soft.
Add the quinoa and stir for approx 2 minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick or burn.
Add the stock and cook for approx 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa is cooked but still al dente.
Take off the heat and add the sesame seeds, parsley, spring onions and lemon juice.
Season.

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A new take on guacamole


I have been called a food snob in the past (amongst other things!). I am fairly strict with my recipes and like to do things as they should and have always been done, for example, you don’t put chicken tikka on a pizza, you do it the way the Italians have always done it! And I have always had a simliar attitude to guacamole. I like mine with lime juice not lemon juice for example. There’s a recipe I have stuck to for years since I’ve first started making it and anything outside that is an avocado dip – not guacamole.

Yesterday, however, we had a breakthrough :-) I was making an asparagus risotto for dinner and in our hunger it seemed to be taking forever. I thought I’d knock up a quick snack. In the fridge I had an avocado, shallots, orange peppers and feta. First of all, I thought I’d roast some peppers and mix them with some feta and maybe green chilli on ciabatta toast. I started this but again, impatience got the better of me, I wanted something now! So, I took out the avocado and figured I’d do a bastardised guacamole as I hadn’t everything my guacamole recipe required. It worked really well! The avocado was really creamy and the lemon worked really well.

Ingredients:

1 large avocado – I used fuerte
Juice of half a large lemon or 1 small one
Half a shallot finely chopped
Flat leaf parsley to garnish (optional)
Ciabatta, sliced and toasted

Method:

Finely chop the shallot and add the lemon juice. Leave to rest for 10 minutes or so. The lemon juce will take the harsh edge off the onion.
Peel the avocado and chop into dice. Mash approx 2/3 of it.
Add the lemon juice and shallot and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread on your toasts!

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Cloud mushroom with sesame oil, red onion & parsley on ciabatta toast


On my recent trip to Marylebone farmers Market I came across a gourmet mushroom stall. He had some fantastic large brown and white oyster mushrooms, mixed dried mushrooms and fluffy white ones that almost looked like coral or seaweed. I love coming across new things like this and enquired after this one. The new discovery was a cloud mushroom which I was told has a texture similar to crab or lobster and is best eaten raw or lightly cooked. How could I resist?! A few years ago I had bought a big bag of St Georges Mushrooms in a state of excitement only to discover that I didn’t like them atall so I thought I’d play safe and bought one big one to experiment with when I got home. I carried my little treasure home in the palm of my hand like a kitten worried I’d break or damage it.

Some investigations on Google weren’t all that beneficial, at least for my culinary purposes. I discovered it is used in Chinese medicine, primarily an extract of it, for stimulating the immune system and boosting immune function, particularly in the treatment of cancer.

These mushrooms are beautiful, like a little cloud (hence the name), so fluffy. They have a light smell, similar to oyster mushrooms. The moment it was compared to crab I thought back to this beautiful crab dish we had at River Café some years ago where the crab was lightly cooked and served with some toast and salad. I had lovely fresh ciabatta bread from the bakers so I thought I might attempt a similar veggie crab on toast dish.

Ingredients:

Sesame Oil
Quarter red onion finely chopped
A large cloud mushroom
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Ciabatta bread (or any other nice fresh bread)

Method:

Heat a couple of tbsp. of the sesame oil over a medium heat.
Add the chopped red onion and cook until soft.
Toast the bread – a couple of slices.
Chop the cloud mushroom and add to the onion and sesame oil. Cook very briefly, just enough to ensure you have mixed the flavours; a couple of minutes should suffice.
Add the chopped parsley. Stir.
Season.
Serve on top of the toast.

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Pumpkin, Banana & Chickpea curry with brown basmati rice

Another chickpea recipe. I don’t think I can take many more for a while so I promise this will be the last one for a bit.

This is a lovely summery curry. Very sweet and works well with a glass of dry white wine on a bright evening. It’s based on a recipe that I found on the Post-Punk Kitchen. For those of you that don’t know it the Post-Punk Kitchen is a public access vegan cooking show in the US. I have never seen it but I love their website mainly for their recipes. They also published two great cookbooks – Vegan with a Vengeance & Vegan cupcakes take over the world.

Pumpkin, Banana & Chickpea curry

Ingredients

Sunflower oil
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
500g onion squash (or any other squash/pumpkin), peeled, seeded and cubed
1 tablespoon hot curry paste – I prefer to make my own, but you can use shop bought
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 dried red chillies or 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
300ml vegetable stock
400g chick-peas cooked from dry after soaking* or 1 tin chickpeas drained & rinsed
1 under-ripe banana
Handful chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

Dry fry the coriander and cumin in a frying pan until they pop and grind in a pestle & mortar.
Heat 2 tbls. of the sunflower oil in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic, red pepper, ginger, ground spices and cinnamon stick and fry over a medium heat until the onion is lightly browned.
Place the chopped squash in a bowl, add the curry paste and mix ensuring that the pumpkin is coated evenly.
Add the chopped tomatoes, chillies and stock to the onion mixture, and bring to the boil, simmering gently for 15 minutes or so.
Fry the coated squash for 5 minutes.
Add to the tomato sauce with the chickpeas, cover and cook for 15 minutes
Peel and slice the banana and stir into the curry
Cook for a further 5 minutes or so or until the squash is cooked (you should be able to put a fork through it).
Stir in the chopped parsley, saving a little to garnish once plated.
Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.

I like to serve this with brown basmati rice that has been cooked in salted water with a couple of cardamom pods, 2-3 cloves, a cinnamon stick & some black peppercorns.

* I much prefer the taste and texture of chickpeas that are cooked from dry. They have a slightly nutty texture and a better taste. To prepare them soak overnight in cold water and boil for an hour or so until tender. As they come to the boil some white foam will rise to the surface. Scoop this off as it appears as it has a really bitter taste. The age of the chickpeas will determine how long they take to cook so best to check them from half an hour or so in. Needless to say, the younger the chickpeas the better.

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A Spring take on minestrone

The weekend just past was filled with trips to farmers markets in an attempt to buy some sprue asapragus. Unfortunately, all trips were unsuccessful but I did get some great produce in the shape of onion squash, baby carrots, mixed wild mushrooms, garlic chives, shallots and white & green asparagus. Next week, I’ll get down there earlier and get the sprue before it sells out! I am very happy with my haul though and can’t wait to tuck in and start experimenting with all of these goodies.

Having spent the day wandering I wanted something quick, light and tasty last night using some of my farmers market goodies. I decided on a pasta soup using the young carrots and squash as main ingredients. It was delicious and light and is definitely one to reproduce over the summer using seasonal vegetables like broad beans and peas.

The recipe is a rough guide, add more or less of ingredients according to your preference, it’s really flexible.

Ingredients:

170g macaroni
100g red lentils
750ml vegetable stock
200g Squash or Pumpkin
2 carrots
2 large shallots or 3 small ones
1 clove of garlic
a hanful of fresh flat leaf parsley
garlic chives – 2 stalks
Olive Oil

Method:

Sauté the shallots in olive until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.
Dice the carrots and squash and add to the garlic and shallots. Sauté for about 4-5 minutes taking care not to burn the garlic.
Add the stock and lentils and simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Add the macaroni and cook for 10 minutes or so until al dente.
Stir in 2/3 of the parsley.
Serve in big bowls with the rest of the parsley and some chopped garlic chives as a garnish. Be warned, the garlic chives are extremely garlicky! I love them but if you are not a big fan of garlic use a small amount or use spring onions instead.

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Hummus-ish and chickpeas on crackers

We have a bit of a glut of chickpeas at the moment as I cooked a big batch of dried ones earlier in the week. My intention was to freeze them in batches for further use but there are so many I have kept half to experiment with.

Today, I had planned to make hummus but thought I might try and vary it a bit. The end result really wasn’t all that different from hummus, the only difference being that I substituted sesame seeds for tahini to give it a crunchier texture. It was nice for a change.

This was thrown together in a haphazard fashion so the measurements are approximate.

Ingredients:

400g chickpeas
50g sesame seeds
Juice half lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Crackers

Method:

The method is very simple! Reserve a small amount of the chickpeas and sesame seeds to put on the crackers after. Chuck the rest save the oil in a blender and add the oil slowly until you are happy with the consistency. Season to taste.

Serve on crackers with chickpeas and some sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

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Chickpea, tomato, red lentil & basil soup


I used to be very good at bringing in lunches to work. After all, it usually means just putting leftover dinner into a lunchbox to heat in the microwave the next day. These last few months I have been rubbish though and find I am now feeling unhealthy as a result.

So, to make amends and apologise to my poor body I decided to make a healthy tomato and bean soup. Now, I know this blog has been very much tomato based recently but I’ve read that they’ll keep me young, so it’s worth a try, eh?!

This is a very simple soup and I usually don’t measure anything out but just adjust as I go to get the right textures and tastes.

Ingredients:

2 cloves of garlic
olive oil
one tin of tomatoes
approx 50g red lentils (or more if you like a chunky soup)
500ml vegetable stock
one tbsp of sugar
chickpeas ~ 400g – I cooked them from dry as I prefer these but you can use tins – one tin if you do
Fresh basil – about 2/3 tbsp – depends on how much you like basil really.
Chilli flakes, half teaspoon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method:

Finely chop the garlic and sauté in the olive oil
Add the tin of tomatoes, thevegetable stock, the sugar, the chilli flakes and half the lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Puree.
Add the remaining lentils and cook for 10 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Season to taste
Chop or tear the basil and add to the soup. Stir.
Serve with some nice crusty bread.
Garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh basil.

Note: This is a really flexible recipe – if you want a chunkier more rustic soup you don’t need to blend the tomatoes. In this case add all the lentils together. You could use any white beans, e.g. haricot, cannellini. You can also substitute flat leaf parsley for the basil.

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Sabras – Superb Vegetarian Indian Food in Willesden Green

 

Update: 25th July 2007

I have just discovered that they were forced to close as the landlord increased the rent. After 33 years! Absolutely dreadful. So disappointing.  

Update: 22nd May 2007

Unfortunately Sabras has closed! Very upsetting news. However, I will leave the review as testament to how good they were.

I have just joined a new foodie community site in London – Trusted Places. It’s a site where you review places you’ve been to, rate them, provide pics if you have any and connect with other foodies. So far, so good! I just reviewed one of my favourite curry houses there and I thought why not share it here also? Forgive the pic, I took it in a rush at the restaurant as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself! This is their sabras special curry – really superb.

Here’s the review:

Sabras
263 High Road
Willesden Green
London NW10

Sabras serves beautiful indian vegetarian food in the heartlands of Willesden, North West London.

Sabras is the best vegetarian indian I have been to. Beautiful food that is delicately cooked and beautifully presented at fantastic prices. The food critic Andy Hayler highly rates them & I couldn’t agree with him enough. We found Sabras through the Guardian Guide where it was given 10/10 for vegetarian food.

A husband and wife team have been running Sabras for 33 years. They cook Gujarati food, everything from dosas to currys. On arrival they will greet you with a plate of bhel poori on the house.

We have tried most things there, if it’s your first time I would recommend the dosa, mixed starter plate and the special curry.

Try it! It’s worth the trip. They also do takeaway (but not delivery) if you are in the area.

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Prawn linguine with rocket

Prawn linguine with rocket

One of our favourite dishes. We have this at least once in every two weeks. It’s very quick and has clean sharp flavours. Great for a quick meal in the evening with some white wine!

Ingredients (for 2 people):

Half a packet of linguine (you could substitute spaghetti but I prefer linguine)

2 cloves garlic
Sundried tomato paste
1 glass dry white wine
Prawns ~ 300g, preferably raw, shelled and de-veined
Rocket
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

Method:

Finely chop the garlic and saute in some olive oil until translucent. be careful not to burn it as it will ruin the flavour.
Add a couple of tablespoons of the sundried tomato paste and fry with the garlic for a couple of minutes.
Add the white wine and cook off the alcohol, again, just a few minutes.
In the background cook the pasta for however long it says on the packet – usually 10/11 minutes.
Add the prawns to the garlic, sundried tomato paste & wine and cook for 5 minutes or so until the prawns are pink (you could just add cooked prawns at this point but they will be a little tougher). Season to taste.
Toss the prawns in the cooked linguine.
Dress the rocket with some lemon juice & a little extra virgin olive oil and serve on top of the prawns with linguine.

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Asparagus is in season!

Asparagus is in season! HURRAH!

An exciting time of year, I love asparagus. So many ways to cook it but my favourite is to fry it in a little olive oil and serve it with a poached egg on top. Also great used as soldiers for eggs.

This time I fried it, wrapped it in prosciutto and flash fried it again. To serve I drizzled it with extra virgin olive oil and served with the ubiquitous garlic toasts.

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Now to start: Spaghetti with homemade tomato & basil sauce and garlic toasts

So, I thought it best to start with something really simple and delicious that I can’t misrepresent on my new blog! This is one of my quick fixes, some food for the heart and soul that’s sometimes required after a long day when you know you have only got a short evening ahead.

Ingredients (for two with large appetities):

Half a packet of spaghetti (linguine also works really well)

Sauce:
1 tin of tomatoes (I use La Fiammante, gorgeous fruity Italian tomatoes)
a handful of basil (I used greek basil – I love it’s tiny leaves and potency)
a dessert spoon of sugar
a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
dried or fresh chilli – as much as you like, I like it hot
one white onion
2 cloves of garlic (or one big one)
Extra Virgin Olive oil to drizzle on top

Garlic Toasts:
Baguette or nice ciabatta. I prefer the second but the deli had run out.
1 garlic clove
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method:

Chop the onion and garlic finely. Saute the onion until soft and translucent. I add the garlic now to ensure it doesn’t burn and retains it’s garlicky yumminess.

Add the tomatoes, the sugar, chilli and balsamic and simmer for at least half an hour, the longer the better for a tomato sauce. Taste and adjust quantities of sugar chilli and balsamic if required. Add 2/3 of the basil.

Add the pasta to a pan of boiling salted water. Cook until al dente, usually about 10 minutes.

While this is cooking prepare the toasts. Slice the bread to about 1cm thick. Rub with the cut garlic glove and drizzle with the olive oil. Toast on both sides until brown and crispy.

Puree the tomato sauce and add the rest of the basil. Mix with the pasta with a little bit of the pasta cooking water. Season.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, the toasts to the side and some basil as a garnish.

Enjoy!

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My first food blog…

So, this is my first post! On my food blog! At long last, it took me long enough to get around to it and now, even if I am the only person that reads this I can at least be happy that I did it.

So, on this I intend to chatter about my culinary meanderings in London, post recipes (if they’re mine), post my food pics and talk about where I’ve eaten out. I may dip in and out of my cook book collection (now > 100 and climbing) and review my new foodie purchases. I hope to talk about food that I will eat on future travels and perhaps reminisce on food that I have had when I was away before. I may pay hommage to the various wonderful food blogs that I follow – favourites being: 101 Cookbooks, La Tartine Gourmande, Mahanandi, The Travellers Lunchbox, and so many more…

I am not sure where to start. Perhaps a recipe. Watch this space…