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Chicken of the Woods Fritters with Wild Garlic and Walnut Mayo

I would love to tell you that the chicken of the woods in this recipe was the result of an exciting day spent foraging, prowling the likes of Hampstead Heath, waiting for the yellow glow of a strip of funghi beaming from a tree. Unfortunately, this is not the case. These are from Borough Market.

I would love to know how to forage for mushrooms without being in fear of my life. I’ve bought several books, including a mushroom encyclopedia, but the knowledge that 300 people die in France each year from eating poisonous mushrooms, terrifies me. I will do it, but first I need to learn from a pro, someone who knows what they’re doing and can impart that information to me. For now, I’ll forage the obvious, nettles, wild garlic and the likes, and buy my wild mushrooms when I can.

Don’t underestimate the excitement contained in turning the corner of the market and spying a table in front of a shop laden with large misshapen fungi. I had to know what it was and I had to have it. I was curious as to what I would do with it. I thought, originally: Risotto? Tagliatelli? With garlic and butter on toast? Then I thought, well, it apparantly tastes of chicken, so why not deep fry it? I could make it a wild treat and accompany it with a homemade wild garlic mayo?

As for tasting of chicken – what next?? Everything seems to taste of chicken, how did this become our culinary benchmark? A fungus, tasting of chicken? I had to investigate. I must confess that I didn’t find it much like chicken atall, it didn’t have a strong flavour, and the texture wasn’t particularly chicken like. Ok, so it’s more like chicken than other mushrooms. This may be because it wasn’t as fresh as it could have been, so I will try it again before discounting the chicken connection. I am too intrigued not to!

The mayonnaise is really straightforward, if time consuming. I promise that it is worth it! I made a small amount as I wanted to make it by hand and didn’t want to spend all night doing it. Even at that I have two blisters to show off tomorrow. I used beautiful Burford Brown eggs with large golden yolks, so if you’re not using these you might want to use less oil. I used the egg white leftover from the mayonnaise to coat the fungi. To coat I used panko (japanese breadcrumbs) – they are fantastic, but if you can’t get them, it’s fine to substitute normal mushrooms. I pureed some wild garlic with some walnuts in a small amount of olive oil. This was the result of an experiment earlier in the week, and for my taste too strong for a pesto, but really good with the mayonnaise. You only need a small amount so, if you are making it only for this dish use about 5 leaves and 3 walnuts, blanch the leaves for 20 seconds in boiling water to take the sharpness off them, and grind them with with the walnuts in a little olive oil in your pestle and mortar and add it to the mayonnaise. I would forgive you for using shop bought mayonnaise if you don’t have the time :-)

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Fregola Sarda with Asparagus, heirloom tomato and goat’s curd

Finding something new to cook with is always exciting. I love prowling food markets and shops looking for that new ingredient or spice. My most recent discovery is fregola sarda (or fregula sarda), a toasted pasta from Sardinia, similar to cous cous but coarser, and because of the way it is toasted quite nutty. Like alot of Italian ingredients, it is exclusive to its area, and is relatively unknown outside of Sardinia. It is also still handmade, something I would like to try sometime in the future when I have time to spare.

I have been cooking with alot of grains recently: pearl barley, farro, wheat, rye. They’re perfect for light summer lunches or side dishes, and fregola is a welcome member of this summer arsenal. With no strong flavour of its own, It combines well with almost anything, and is traditionally served with the likes of clams. This sounds wonderful and is on my list to try, but today, I felt like giving it a London twist, using seasonal produce for a nice light lunch.

Accompanying the fregula in this dish is English asparagus, absolutely bursting with flavour at this time of year. The season is short so I am making the most of it. A punnet of heirloom tomatoes from the Isle of Wight tomato stall at Borough Market accompanied, these incredible tomatoes are juicy and succulent with thick meaty flesh, and absolutely wonderful for this purpose. The final main ingredient is goats curd, a fresh cream cheese made from goats milk that is really light and delicious. I saw this for the first time when I visited Australia (Sydney) some years ago. It’s a great place for food, fresh ricotta and other culinary gems are so easy to come by, it was here that I first had goats curd and have lamented that it’s not available here since. Earlier this year I spotted a large bowl of it in Neal’s Yard Dairy in Borough Market and I’ve been using it since. I use shallots as a base ingredient, I used half an eschalion shallot as they’re quite large. If you don’t have any shallots you can substitute red onion or spring onions (scallions).

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Celebrating the tomato

It’s National Tomato Week this week, so what better week than this to celebrate this wonderful fruit.

Bright and cheery, it’s a regular visitor to my table, whether for breakfast in huevos rancheros or homemade baked beans, or for an evening meal in clam linguine, prawn curry, mutter paneer or homemade pizza. Not just a pretty face, tomatoes are packed with antoxidant goodness, lycopene in tomatoes is thought to have anti-cancer benefits and is associated particularly with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

I made a trip to Borough Market yesterday morning to visit the Isle of Wight tomato stall, it’s a wonderful, colourful place full of tomatoes of varying shapes, colours and sizes. The Isle of Wight gets more sun than any other part of the UK and so they produce beautiful flavoursome tomatoes there. I opted for some startling (and enormous!) heirloom tomatoes to cook with this weekend.

Unfortunately, I’ve no recipe for you now as I am about to head out the door for a bank holiday Sunday brunch, so, I thought I’d share some of the lovely recipes from other blogs and the web with you, so that you too, could celebrate the tomato.

Smitten Kitchen has a lovely Cherry tomato and green bean salad.

There’s gorgeous pasta with fresh tomato-avocado sauce at the Traveller’s Lunchbox.

Beyond the blogs and in traditional print, Mark Hix has a recipe for Slow roast beef tomato with goat’s curd and pickled walnuts in the Independent and Allegra McEvedy has a recipe for Fasoulatha in the Guardian.

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Clam Linguine

Clam linguine is one of those dishes that I love but am extremely fussy about. Hang on, isn’t that every dish? I digress… I won’t order it out unless I am absolutely certain that the restaurant is reliable and uses fresh clams (fresh = very fresh) and not tinned or jarred clams.

Now, I have had many a “discussion” with friends about this. They think I am a snob, but, hey, clams come in a shell, so why not eat them that way? With seafood generally, the fresher the better, that fresh sea taste, like the salt air, and none of the fishiness that arrives when the fish are out of the water too long.

I really struggle with anything that isn’t extremely fresh, and although I hate to admit it, I really can’t stomach alot of tinned fish. For this reason, I always go to good fishmongers when I can, like in Borough Market or Steve Hatts on Essex Rd in Islington.

I distinctly remember the first time that I had clams. I had been eating mussels for some time but was a bit squeamish about other unknown shellfish. On holiday in Croatia, whilst island hopping and on a visit to a gorgeous island called Vis, we had the most lovely seafood experiences. Fabulous fresh seafood and lots that I hadn’t tried before. Fish there is sold as either white fish or blue fish, white fish being the deep water fish like hake or pollock, whereas the blue fish swim closer to the surface and are a bit cheaper, like mackerel. When you arrive at most restaurants they bring a platter of fresh fish and you choose which one you want them to cook for you and pay by the weight.

We ate in one restaurant there, as we had started talking to someone across the road from it when I noticed a fisherman nearby gutting a large white fish, it turned out that his daughter owned the restuarant and this very fish was destined for the pot, immediately after gutting. How could I resist? It was delicious, a leerfish barbecued over hot coals, with oil brushed on it using herbs as a brush.

It was another lovely local restaurant down the road where I had the clams, larger than palourde and full of meat as they were wild not farmed, they were cooked simply in tomatoes and wine and served with crusty bread, still the best way to eat them in my mind.

Back to the linguine. Clams are a little high maintenance, although this is balanced by how quickly they cook. Before using, soak in several changes of cold water for 5 minutes at a time, so that the clams release any sand contained within the shell. Then scrub the outside shell, they’re usually pretty clean, you just want to get rid of any excess grit that may affect your lovely pasta dish. This really is worth the time and effort.

I treat my clam linguine simply, like the clam dish mentioned above. Some shallots and garlic, sautéed in olive oil, followed by diced, peeled & seeded tomatoes, then some white wine and the clams, stewed with the lid on until the clams open, and finally some lemon to lift the flavour and some parsely to finish.

On this occasion, I got some palourde (or carpetshell) clams from Borough Market. You can get clams at any good fishmonger, and I’d recommend that you treat yourself to some.

Some notes on the recipe:

  • I like this dish fruity so I use alot of tomatoes, feel free to decrease if you don’t feel the same. Alot of recipes use more clams and less tomatoes, you could do this here too and easily increase the amount of clams (up to double) and at the end remove some of the meat from the shells so that you are not fighting with the shells while eating.
  • To peel the tomatoes, score a small cross at the bottom, barely piercing the skin and cover with boiling water for 15-30 seconds or so, as soon as you see the skin start to peel back.
  • You’ll need a dish with a tight fitting lid for the clams.

This dish, as always serves two or one hungry person. I was hungry tonight :-) The recipe follows.

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The taste of summer – Israeli cous cous and feta salad

Apologies to anyone who comes to my online kitchen looking for some recipes, I have been very remiss of late. There’s a few reasons for this:

  • I have relocated to Battersea, this is the year of being topsy turvy and moving frequently, it seems.
  • Shortly after relocating, some mice came to visit. Some big mice. That liked to run along the worktop. I hate mice, apart from them being unsanitary, they completely freak me out. There is no logic to this whatsoever, I know they’re smaller than me and I can do them more harm than they can me. It must be a phobia, I completely freeze when I see them and I wish I could say scream, but it’s more of a panicky croak. In summary, I steered clear of the kicthen for a couple of weeks.

I started to miss my lunches. I am used to bringing in something tasty and healthy but, whilst my house became the mouse house, I started to use the company canteen again. Our company canteen could desperately do with a Jamie style overhaul. It offers: hot things in bad sauces, pasta that’s been cooked for (I would estimate) an hour in bad or weird sauces, cold fish fingers in the salad section (YES: salad section) and random bits and bobs. It’s saving grace is the said salad section with the likes of grated carrot but that gets tired very quickly, say 3 days. Let’s just say, the company canteen is not my favourite indulgence.

So, I braved the kitchen – be very proud of me. For 2 weeks, if anything brushed off my skin, I immediately thought MOUSE and jumped or ran. I scanned the counter, peeked behind the door, opened the cupboard and peered in expecting to be face to face with a fat grey mouse. But, there was none there. So, I proceeded to concoct something, fresh, flavourful and quick for work. Something to match this lovely weather and to satiate my lunch time appetite. I made a delicious salad with israeli cous cous, feta, tomato, black olives, parsley and pine nuts with some lemon to lift the flavours.

The recipe is very simple and quick. I think it will become a picnic favourite. This made one large lunch.[Read more]

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Alan Yau’s latest flavour – Cha Cha Moon

Cha Cha Moon

Another year, another stylish restaurant opening from Alan Yau. The entepreneur and restaurateur, native of Hong Kong, has taken London by storm in recent years with a succession of well received asian restaurants including two michelin starred restaurants (Yautcha & Hakkasan). He started with Wagamama in 1992 which he sold in 1998 when it comprised 2 restaurants. These were followed swiftly by Satsuma (for the Royal China Group), Busaba Eathai, Hakkasan, Yautcha, Sake no Hana and now Cha Cha Moon.

Cha Cha Moon

Famously, he was very unhappy with what happened with Wagamamas. It was a hostile buyout and he is quoted as saying that that was “was like seeing your baby brought up by strangers with different values”. He is seeking to make amends with Cha Cha Moon. It is intended to be the Chinese Wagamamas serving healthy, casual fast food.

On approach, Cha Cha Moon is even more startling and modern than previous offerings with bright panels of lights on the walls, broader than at Yautchas, a pretty neon sign by the door. The kitchen is open and, as you walk in, behind red glass, which lends it a surreal and exciting effect. Stylish, modern and in a great location, it’s a similar formula to some of his previous establishments offering communal eating on long wooden tables and food served swiftly as it’s ready. The menu, on first glance apperars very traditional, serving the likes dan dan noodles & szechuan wontons.

It was quite empty when we arrived at 7.15pm, I can only assume that not many people know that it’s there yet, and we had no trouble getting a table. In fact we had a large table to ourselves. I took a couple of photos until someone ran over quickly advising “no photos allowed”. I obliged and put my camera away, but really, it’s a little silly. Especially as I already had taken some ;)

We ordered a beer and a shibuya casual cocktail. The cocktail, made of lychee, sake and martini bianco, was delicious. It was also very pretty with four raspberries nestling on some white foam on top. To eat we ordered jasmine tea smoked chicke lao mian, seafood ho fun, szechuan wonton and spring onion pancakes.

I really enjoyed the chicken, it was delicately flavoured and light, and the noodles were flavoursome especially when blended with some nice accoutrements inluding a beautiful light bowl of light soup/stock. The seafood ho fun was extremely fresh and contained scallops, prawns and squid but the sauce overwhelmed. I am not a fan of black bean sauces generally, so I am sure this is why it disappointed on that front. Why order it then? It wasn’t my dish but my dining partners, he also was underwhelmed. The szechuan wonton was tasty, but not as firey as one I previously had at Angeles, a traditional szechuan restaurant in Kilburn in London. The spring onion pancakes were very flavoursome and a nice accopaniment.

Overall judgement? It opened only last weekend, and so, while they are perfecting their craft, all food on the menu is £3.50. Bargain! Therefore, I can’t really judge the food just yet, it wouldn’t be fair. First impressions are that it’s cheap, stylish, central and quick. I think it will be good for that stopgap on a busy evening or a quick sociable bite with friends.

Cha Cha Moon
15-21 Ganton St, Soho, W1F 9BN
020 72979800

28/05/08 Visited Cha Cha Moon again and had Sigapore fried noodles which were delicate, light and beautifully seasoned. Choi Sum on the side was well seasoned and flavoursome. Spring rolls were disappointing. More photos added to the post. I managed to take some this time! :-)

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Eat Like a Girl is ONE!

eat like a girl is one

This little blog is one year old. Or, was one year old last Friday, but the bank holiday intervened, then work and since then the sunshine, so, I am celebrating late :-)

What a year! When I started I had no idea how it was going to work out, but 121 posts later, it’s now my favourite hobby. It’s forced me to be creative with my cooking, and the other wonderful food blogs out there are so inspiring on that score.

Where did I think this blog would be one year later when I wrote my first post? I was quite nervous so I did it entirely anonymously, and those early posts were quite brief, but, as I settled into it, I loved doing it and found I spent so much time thinking and arranging what I was doing around it. All in a positive way – promise!

I never would have thought that 12 months later I would have 13,922 views in one month! Nor did I think for a second that someone at the Guardian Food Blog (Word of Mouth) would blog me, or that a colleague of theirs would interview me. I was suprised and flattered to see two of my photos blogged at Slashfood (here and here). I was delighted to win the photography competition run by lastminute.com for London Restaurant Week and am very much looking forward to indulging in that lovely prize. The lovely people at Trusted Places interviewed me – you can watch the video here.

Most importantly of all, I’ve loved the gorgeous feedback from my readers.

Guardian interview

Guardian article photograph

All good? Surely not? Well, there is a downside. Lots of cooking & overeating whilst bad before, is now like an extreme sport. Not the healthiest of pursuits (but lots of fun!). So, there has been some corporal expansion which needs to be dealt with *soon*.

Have I delivered what I promised in that first post? I hope so, but I have lots of ideas for improvements in the future. I want to travel more and learn more. I want to photograph better. First stop: a better camera.

For now, I am very happy and very grateful. Thank you for coming by and making this such a lovely experience for me.

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Getting to know me: A video interview with Trusted Places

Recently, Walid from Trusted Places got in touch about doing an interview for The Trusted Places Blog. If you don’t know Trusted Places, you should. It’s is a community based reviewing site that allows you to post reviews, setup your own community of reviewing friends and it indicates people with similar tastes as you which can be really good if you are scouting new bars and restaurants! It has received fantastic acclaim in the press and has been listed in the top 25 UK startups in the Register, the Top 10 British Dotcoms to watch in the Guardian, the 50 Best Travel Websites and website of the week in the Times Online and on and on.

I really like it, I tend to look there for reviews of new places (as well as blogs of course!) and I’ve been a member and user of their site for a while, so, I thought that it might be fun to go down and meet them. Here are the results!

Important ps. My time/money comment followed a discussion about high end restaurants and how I’d love to go to more of them every week. That’s edited out so out of context it sounds worse than it is. So, please don’t worry, I am not impoverished and do treat myself ;-)
It’s a dreadful phrase that seeped in from my project management day job. Sigh.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.534454&w=425&h=350&fv=] from the Trusted Places Blog

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Slow Food Market, London

I spent this past bank holiday weekend in London, and, intentionally had no plans, save unpacking, wandering and being nice to myself. I had read about The Cans Festival in Waterloo, a street art exhibition that sounded really interesting, so I popped down on Sunday evening. To my surprise I also found a Slow Food Market nearby! What a treat.

I’ve been a fan of the Slow Food movement for sometime. If you haven’t heard of it, it started in Italy 22 years ago and works to preserve the pleasure gleaned through food through preservation of the heritage, tradition and culture of food. They also work to protect biodiversity and the environment.

In their words:

Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process.

This particular market was run by the London branch, and runs several times a year, although it was mentioned today that this may increase soon. There was lots of interesting proucts and demonstrations, some stalls I already knew from Borough Market & Marylebone Farmer’s Market, but some were new to me, including a stall selling Oliver’s English Perry (which I’d read about in Matthew Fort’s column in the Guardian recently), Mersea Wines & beers, Colchester Oysters, honey from Orchid Apiaries, Welsh cakes from Mootown and chutneys and mustards from Norfolk and Suffolk Speciality Foods. The full list is available here.

I caught a demonstration in which pea and ham soup (also known as the London Particular) was made and sampled. It was very informative (& tasty!) with lots of questions and answers on how to make the soup, heritage meats and using specific cuts of meat. I will be making this soon.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for these events in future, and I’ll be joining up to Slow Food London soon!

Ps. I have a backlog of recipes to blog this week – apologies to any readers who have noticed an absence of these in recent weeks!

Interested in the Cans Exhibition? I took lots of pics – The Cans Exhibition on Flickr.

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