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Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Leaf Wraps with Carrot Salad

Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Wraps

Recipe: Prawn and Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Wraps

The inspiration for these patties comes from fond memory of a lovely trip to Sydney some years ago, pre blogging, so I have never written about it here. Particularly, of an evening in a Vietnamese restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown. Now, brace yourselves. At the time, I didn’t eat meat. It is ok really – calm down – it really is ok.

I ordered a prawn on sugar cane dish. I asked what was in it, was there any meat? No just prawns, don’t worry. Any meat at all, any pork? (I expected there would be). No, no! Just garlic! The waitress looked at me, suddenly worried and said: do you have a problem with garlic?

No, no I don’t. Bring it on.

I took a bite. SAUSAGE. Pork sausage with a lick of the sea. It was lovely and I couldn’t resist it. I conferred with the waitress who said, why yes, there is pork in there! Of course there is.

I ate every bit, it was delicious. And that taste memory, and the recall of a lovely dinner with an old friend, is what inspires this recipe today.

These patties are super speedy, packed with flavour and versatile. I have been eating them all week in different guises. As sandwich fillings, as meatballs in a beautiful aromatic home made chicken broth made from raw chicken carcasses and lots of veg, served with noodles, bean sprouts, pak choi and fresh herbs. That should keep any illness at bay.

The simplest and quickest way was a fresh light lunch of these patties in lettuce leaf wraps with a light carrot, coriander and red onion salad. I made a big batch of the paste and stored it in the fridge, using it as I fancied over the course of 3 days.

I will post the recipe for the soup soon too. For now, enjoy these wraps.

Carrot, coriander and red onion salad

Carrot, coriander and red onion salad

Note on the recipe: a food processor is best for this, if you have one. I have been asked if it is possible to substitute chicken for pork. I will work out the recipe for this too and post it. You can half the recipe too, obviously, if you are making for one or two.

Recipe: Prawn & Pork Lemongrass Patties in Lettuce Leaf Wraps with Carrot Salad

Makes approx 10 patties

Ingredients

Patties:
600g minced pork – avoid lean, fat gives moisture and flavour, I used 8% fat
400g raw shelled and deveined prawns
2 red chillies (to taste – I like heat)
1 stick of lemongrass, outer layer peeled and bottom removed
1 inch of ginger, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 spring onions, trimmed with green tops
handful of coriander leaves
juice of a fresh lime
sea salt

a couple of heads of gem lettuce

Carrot salad:
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
a handful of fresh coriander
juice of a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced and crisped for about 30 seconds on each side

light oil for frying

Method

Soak the red onion for the salad in the lemon juice, while you make the patties, so that the sharpness of the raw onion mellows out.

Put all of the ingredients for the patties, except the pork and prawns, in a food processor and blitz to a paste. Add the pork and prawns. Blitz until thoroughly mixed and a paste. Season with sea salt and fry a small bit to taste. Adjust and repeat if necessary.

Divide the patties into 10 pieces and fry for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until brown and cooked through. Don’t overcook or they will become dry.

Add the carrot and the coriander to the onion and lemon juice and mix. Serve each patty in a lettuce leaf with the salad on the side and the crisped garlic on top.

Enjoy!

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Dealing with January: Lomo con Leche (Pork cooked in milk)

lomo con leche

I hate to open a post on a negative, it’s not my style. Especially, on what is my first proper post of 2010 (hello 2010!). However, here it is: don’t you just HATE January? I mean, really hate it.

I’ve always struggled with January. I feel I need someone to lift the sky. Did someone remove one of the tent poles that was keeping it high off my head? And what have they done to the colour? Where is the light? Why is everything so grim? Someone please put it back to the way it was! I’m getting desperate. Nearly four weeks of it now, and it’s still going on. I feel a little miserable.

I remember as a child hearing about an Irish professional cyclist (yes, you did read right), who spent 6 months abroad over Winter every year, and the remaining 6 months in Ireland. As an adult with a healthy does of realism, I can see now that that was most likely a tax ploy, but as a child I thought: genius! that’s what I am going to do. 6 months away, avoiding those most depressing of months, January and February. I haven’t done this , of course. A part of me still anticipates that I may make it happen. Maybe not 6 months, but next January somewhere other than here, would be seven kinds of wonderful.

As I wander the streets, avoiding the puddles and skidding on occasional ice, damning the snow of early January and damning the sky, shaking my fist at dissolving snowmen, and kids with snowballs, I feel grumpy. I hate feeling grumpy but it won’t go away. I want to kick things. I need to sort it out. I need to lift my mood. I need to eat something comforting with a big, bold and spicy glass of red wine. There’s no money, and lots of time. That means frugal cooking with the occasional treat.

What to eat, what to cook? Slow leisurely cooking yields tender meats and big flavours, and plenty of time for that indulgent glass of wine. Red meats, with red wine, heady sauces, spices. Fresh fish makes a cheerful and bright supper, and I feel healthy and light afterwards. It’s also quick, bonus. The real treat for me recently was pork cooked with milk. Creamy, tender, rich, yielding, it saved me from several hours of looming crankiness, it was luscious.

Now, if you’ve not heard of it, pork cooked in milk is a common Italian dish, Maiale al Latte. I had seen the recipe in one of my River Cafe cookbooks, but the one that really grabbed my attention was a Moro version with added spice, some cinnamon, entitled Lomo con Leche. It also used fresh bay leaves, one of my favourite fragrances, a gorgeous addition to most dishes, and with milk, sublime.

So, I had to try it. Dutifully I went to my butcher, securing a loin as specified by the recipe. I chose just over 1kg, the recipe specifying 1-1.5. Removing the skin and most of the fat, saving this for some crackling which I would have seperately, the ultimate fatty and crispy indulgence with flakes of salt dancing on top.

I chopped some fresh thyme and rubbed it into the joint with sea salt, browning it on all sides, and then sitting snugly in my 20cm Le Creuset pot, I covered it with the milk, added the bay leaves and the cinnamon and let it cook, keeping an eye on the meat, as loin is quite delicate, not having protective fat to keep it moist, it’s easy to overcook.

The recipe said an hour to an hour and a half, for my kg an hour was plenty, almost too much, it’s worth using a meat thermometer to determine when your loin is perfectly cooked at 65° – 70°. I also used less milk, in my 20cm pot, a liter was plenty. I was a little disappointed that the sauce didn’t have the rich caramelised and nutty brown nuggets that theirs had in the photo, however, the taste was terrific, comforting, nurturing, rich. This was a perfect January dish, tearing you instantly away from the tortures of this grim month, and whisking you to a moorish village with heady flavours and colours. Maybe I just had too much wine at that point.

Don’t be put off by the photo, it ain’t pretty but it’s mighty tasty. We had it with greens and potatoes.

The recipe is adapted from the original recipe,taken from The Moro Cookbook by Samantha & Samuel Clark

It supposedly serves 4, but I say 3.

Ingredients

1-1.5 kg boned  pork loin, with skin removed
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
3 fresh bay leaves
1 litre full fat milk
sea salt & black pepper

Method

Trim the pork of excess fat and rub all over with salt, pepper and thyme. Place a large, heavy saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the pork and seal until golden brown on all sides, but not too dark.

Pour off any excess oil, add the cinnamon, bay and milk and bring to a gentle simmer, turning down the heat if necessary. Cook slowly with the lid half off for an hour or so, turning the meat occasionally, or until the meat is cooked through, but still juicy and tender, or until it registers 65° – 70° on your meat thermometer.

The milk should have reduced into caramelised, nutty nuggets, and made a wonderful sauce subtly flavoured with cinnamon and bay. If it needs more time to reduce, remove the meat until the sauce is ready.

Taste and season. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

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Farewell to 2009! Another Year Over [Part 3]

Farewell to 2009! Another Year Over [Part 3]

A smattering of lost January, June, July and a little bit of August

Champagne Room at the Annual Bibendum Wine Tasting

I was a bit remiss in the first portion of my 2009 round up forgetting a number of things that happened at the start of 2009. Little things like an enormous wine tasting taking over the entire Saatchi Gallery from Bibendum Wine which was an amazing introduction to so many wines. The gallery was divided into rooms, champagne room, fine wines room, French room and many more.

Not content with having all of this wine to sample, we also had a Twitter Taste Live there a multi location wine tasting where tasting notes are shared online in 140 characters, over twitter. It was fantastic fun. Anthony Rose, wine  writer for The Independent joined us for a while.

Twitter Taste Live at The Saatchi Gallery

I had lunch beforehand at Scotts of Mayfair, which was perfectly nice, but didn’t blow me away, and a mention in the Independent in June 2009 as a Grub 2.0 food blogs to devour, which was another lovely surprise.

I also forgot a few little things from June. Well, that’s a lie, I just wanted to finish the post as quickly as possible so neglected to include them, as the post was starting to addle my tired brain. You see, while in Ireland, I only had mobile internet via a Three dongle, and could only get reception when perched at the end of the couch by the corner of my sisters living room. At that it was slow and constantly cutting out. Do you see how devoted I am to this cause?

Now I am en route home, via many trains, and my dongle has given up the ghost, having lost its identity after the trip to Ireland, it no longer knows its number, and I am damned if I do. So I am researching flickr on my phone, searching those photographic memories, as my actual memory just doesn’t do the job. I am stuck in a freezing cold waiting room, thanking all that is good and holy that I had the foresight to wear an enormous bulky jumper, trying to ignore the smell of pee, and the myriad selection of teenagers socialising and desperately trying to impress each other. I am trying not to snarl, but I am doing a very bad job of it. I am tired people, this is difficult.

Hot Stuff, Vauxhall

So, in June, now a proud member of the work Curry Club, I went to Hot Stuff in Vauxhall with some colleagues. A local and very popular restaurant, I had heard a lot about it, and it was high on my list. It’s been compared to Tayyab’s in the quality and price range, it also appears to have a similar cult status. We descended en masse, well a masse of 9 or 10, and ordered almost everything on the menu. It was all light and fragrant, and mostly delicious. It impressed and I want to go back.

I attended a book launch for a self published book by Aneke Spacie, Twisted Favourites, and Tony Hadley turned up! All true. It was really interesting, and inspiring to see someone who is so fired up. The food is lovely too. Further details here.

Tortilla pizza!

I resurrected the tortilla pizza with a myriad of different ingredients, this was my favourite version with smoked buffalo mozarella & oak roasted tomatoes, topped with chilli fried rocket.

Broad bean & prosciutto carbonara

I made marrow lasagne, an old favourite I have yet to blog and a good one for the veggies. I also rolled out some summer pastas, prosciutto and broad bean carbonara and crab linguine.

marrow lasagne

I experimented with Bavette from Jack O’Sheas, Mark Hix style, marinading overnight in olive oil. It was sensational.

Bavette

The next culinary stop was Tapas Fantasticas off Brick Lane, a mini festival showcasing Spanish wines and food, featuring Spanish restaurants from London and some chefs that had come from Spain. Sadly it disappointed as we had to queue for far too long, and when we got in there, I found the crowd all elbows and rudeness. Having sampled some really good food, and some ok wine, we decided to leave. I am sure there was great wine there, but I was finding the experience stressful, and was happy to go relax elsewhere. I often think that these free festivals would benefit from a token charge of even just £5, as the crowd control, queuing and competitive elements would be very much reduced. We’ll see, hopefully this year they will agree. One of my food highlights there were these little Moro kebabs which were like kebabs squared with regard to flavour. There were also wonderful little croquetas from Asador Sagartoki in Spain.

Tapas Fantastica

Tapas Fantastica

Also in June, I was experimenting a lot at home, and created a flickr photo set entitled “Experiments with Minced Meats”. I had lots of fun with this, creating a new and favourite spiced lamb meatballs in an aromatic tomato sauce, chorizo and pork meatballs, and lots of different types of burgers. I wasn’t regimented with these as they were the early stages of recipe development and so quite loose, so they weren’t blogged, but I hope to complete these soon.

Chorizo & Pork - the meatball experiment

At the end of June, I had one of my favourite culinary and London moments of 2009. I went into work very early, determined to sample the new Fernandez & Wells breakfast. So early in fact that I was too early for them, and had to go for a cup of coffee nearby. The breakfast was great, featuring Italian pancetta and a fried egg on a superb and enormous Flour Station muffin, with a Monmouth filter coffee for company.

Courgette flowers

I walked through London afterwards, edging towards my offices in Victoria, and with plenty of time to spare took a detour through St James Park, bumping into the allotment on the way. Curious, I peered my head around, and started talking to one of the allotment gardeners. I spied juicy tomatoes, bountiful herbs, and bouquets of courgette flowers. COURGETTE FLOWERS! Oh, how I want them. They are so hard to find, especially looking like as healthy and glorious this.

Deep fried courgette flowers

I asked the gardener what they did with them. I give them to a lady friend of mine, he replied, she cooks with them. Oh, I retorted, disappointed. He asked what I would do with them, and I listed a flurry of possibilities. He looked around and said, well, she won’t be in until later this week anyway, so do you want a few to take home. YES, PLEASE! I was delighted, they were so pretty and bright, here comes the vegetable bride.

So, off I went, excited and full of stories of great breakfasts, new found enormous breakfast muffins, and altruistic gardeners, but I was first in the office that day, so reluctantly I consigned my floral cargo to the fridge and uploaded my photo to twitter to share my bright yellow news. Later that evening I stuffed them with Irish cheeses Crozier Blue a bold and creamy sheeps blue cheese, and Knocklara, a sharp and tangy sheeps cheese made locally in Waterford. I battered them with tempura batter, deep fried them, and then drizzled them with honey, as they did at Dehesa and Salt Yard, and proudly presented them to a visiting friend. We devoured them in seconds. If a courgette could shriek, it would have done so that night. Blog post here.

Then July rolled in. Summer was here and I was happy as could be with long walks in St James Park soaked in sometimes sunshine at lunchtime. The only downside was the appalling lunch options in Victoria, and my lack of time to make any of my own. I was out and about too much you see.

Next, a fillet steak dinner at home with rocket and horseradish cream. I had a fresh horseradish root to play with and I fancied a change. This was followed later that week by a trip to one of my favourite London restaurants, the Peter Gordon’s Providores in Marylebone, this time to the Tapas room, the cheaper and more casual downstairs option. We munched on ginger and garlic roast pumpkin with goat’s curd, grilled artichokes, cape gooseberries, black vinegar dressing, walnuts and sumac lavosh, crispy crab and tapioca cakes with sriracha yoghurt,  Cyprus lamb and bulgar wheat köfte with orange and olive salad, Turkish yoghurt and pomegranate molasses dressing, sautéed garlic snails on chorizo mash with oloroso and parsley, twice cooked middlewhite pork belly on massaman lentils with spinach and sambal bajak and spring rolls of confit duck and chicken, shiitake and feta with green chilli jam. It was an excellent meal, and the wine list is really great, offering some lovely wines by the glass, allowing me to try a few different ones.

Now even more obsessed with courgettes than before, I was desperately seeking a courgette plant at precisely the time when nobody was selling them, they were no longer seedlings you see and all the sensible folk and the planners had snapped them all up. I had just given up, when I happened upon an unlikely supplier, a flower stand in Covent Garden Jubilee Hall market that had one courgette plant and one aubergine plant, which I nabbed immediately and proudly carted home to North East London. I am one of those people that desperately wants an allotment, but I can’t even get on the waiting list for my local one, so two little plants in my small rented garden were the height of my gardening achievements last year, and at that, the aubergine bore no fruit. I do have my herbs of course, but they hardly count. I want to grow vegetables. Some chickens would be nice too.

My courgette plant

The rest of the month I stuffed mushrooms, made salads and went home to visit my tiny new niece. Five spice duck breast was a flavoursome mid month supper.

I attended the launch of Cherry Aid at Le Café Anglais, sample lots of wonderful English cherries and wolfed down some excellent cherry based canapés from chef Rowley Leigh. That was a really interesting day, and a very worthwhile cause, cherry farmers were there promoting their English cherries, some of which are breeds which they are trying to revive. As with almost all producers that I have ever met, they were passionate and knowledgeable, and trying their very beast to succeed in a world which is increasingly dominated by blandness and chains. So, this year, get out there and try them, if we don’t they will surely disappear.

Cherry Aid
Cherry Aid

Following this I attended one of my favourite wine tastings of the year, an effervescent Italian Wine Tasting at Bibendum Wine. Representatives of each wine were on hand to tell us all about them, feed us fantastic food favourites being the Venetian nibbles to match the Bisol Jeio and Credo. We had a great night, and wandered home with a box of cherries and wine leftovers (shame? Us?). The next day, there was a trail of cherries reminiscent of the breadcrumb trail in Hansel and Gretel, it would have been easy to find us, if you could be bothered.

Bibendum Wine Tasting

Eeek, it’s still only July! Are you still with me?

Roast mushroom soup failure revealed a delicious bruschetta with chive cream, and there were many further interpretations of brunch. I roasted some pork belly for friends and paid a first strip to would be favourite Jai Shri Krishna.

Roast Spiced Pork Belly

Visiting friends gave me lots of opportunities to cook. Pea soups, spiced roast pork belly, chickpea and pomegranate salad, burnt aubergine, peppers and tomato salad, lentil & spinach soup with harissa croutons and strawberries with balsamic vinegar and honey.


We ended the month perfectly with Dine with Dos Hermanos at Casa Brindisa, a great event with lots of interesting people, good food and delicious wines and sherries. Thanks Simon!

The Spanish theme continuted with a Tio Pepe sherry & tapas evening at Camino in King’s Cross, somewhere I had frequented regularly during my many years working locally. It was a really fun evening. Charles Campion came along, and sadly (for him) had to briefly endure some sherry fuelled ranting from me.

IMG_4316

I had been approached about doing the Covent Garden Real Food Market, and thought that it might be fun. I also really liked the idea of, for once, having people taste and eat my food. What to cook though, that was the question that rattled my petite addled brain. As I was working full time, I could only commit to one time, so we settled on a date. It would be difficult, as with the project I was working on, I couldn’t take any days off around it, but I wanted to do it, so decided that I would make it happen.

What to serve, given the time constraints? It had to be high quality, and something I would be proud off. It should have some cultural relevance. I am very proud of Irish food, and am always slightly dismayed when people with no experience of modern Irish food culture disrespect it. But, I had no time.

Belvelly Smokehouse

Then, a brainwave. What about Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon? One of my favourite things in the world. In Selfridge’s it retails at somewhere around £70 a kilo, so that wasn’t an option, besides it wasn’t always in stock, but what if I went home and went straight to the source? I would love to visit and see the smokehouse anyway. That was it, a perfect plan was starting to hatch.

On Holiday In Ireland

On Holiday In Ireland in August

Fishy Cargo

So, I contacted Frank and arranged a visit on a rainy trip home for my nieces christening, and after a lovely half hour at the smokehouse, wandered back to London with an enormous box of smoked fish, that fellow passengers eyed with caution and perplexity, and airline staff ignored. Clearly I wasn’t travelling RyanAir. I felt it was only right to have an open brown soda bread sandwich with Frank Hederman smoked salmon in the airport bar which I thoroughly enjoyed, save the iceberg lettuce, but that is one of the downsides of lunching in an airport bar.

Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon on Soda Bread at Cork Airport Bar

I then embarked on a culinary adventure that would carry me through to the end of the year. What a lovely surprise. Come back and read my next installment for the details.

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Lunch at Galvin La Chapelle

The Galvin brothers have moved east and opened a new eatery in Spitalfields, or rather two, Galvin La Chapelle for high end dining, and attached, Galvin Cafe de Luxe for more relaxed dining. I’ve been pretty lax this year for checking in on new openings, so when Fiona Beckett, prolific author, blogger and twitterer invited me there for lunch, how could I say no? I couldn’t.

Housed in the former church hall of St Botolph’s in Spitalfields, on the new and spruced up Spital Square, an area once full of character, but sadly now more full of chains, Galvin La Chapelle sits on a corner. Behind an imperial grey doorway lies an arresting cavernous restaurant, with high vaulted ceilings and a glass walled mezzanine area housing the toilets at the back, and a private dining area at the front. It’s very impressive, and screams decadence. The clientele are, given the location, predominantly city types, donning designer suits and brandishing brandy. I am relieved when I spy Fiona, relaxed and smiling at a table by the back.

Fiona was perusing the wine list and in discussions with the somellier. We decided on the food and then asked the sommelier to provide matches by the glass, we also ordered a glass of hermitage to sample with the mains, which retails via an enomatic for circa £50 a glass. Mommmeeeeee, I was excited.

Fiona chose the Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1994 which would be matched with our mains of tagine of squab pigeon and harissa sauce for me and veal cheek for Fiona. First our starters, and again I must apologise for awful photos, my Canon DSLR was stolen (I may have mentiond), and my little camera is a disaster for me, as I have a benign and utterly harmless lifelong tremor, which means photography on less evolved devices with no flash = BLUR. Ah well.

For starter I went with lasagne of dorset crab, chanterelles and chervil which was matched with a robust glass of white from the Douro, which for me was too dominant, although a delicious white on it’s own. Fiona had the salad of red leg partridge with pomegranate and maple dressing which was deliciously sticky and festive. The Douro went really well with this so we traded our wines. Fiona’s lighter white (which I can’t recall sadly), went really well with my light, foamy and delicate starter.

Mains next, and this is where things were getting exciting. My pigeon tagine arrived. I eyed it with suspicion. My tagine is lived in and the lid is coated with tagine splutter and stains. This one was spick and span and when I touched it, cold. Eh? The lid was removed and underneath was an unexpected and very composed and deconstructed tagine with the squab pigeon in the centre squatted on a pile of cous cous. It wasn’t the unctous comfort food I was expecting but it was delicious and moreish. It went fantastically well with the Jaboulet Ainé Hermitage La Chapelle 1994, which, aware of how much of a treat this was, I sipped with caution and delight. The veal cheak was rich, with great depth, and served with a buttery and intense Robuchon style mash. Both dishes were great.

Next for dessert. I chose the blueberry soufflé, coulis and milk ice cream, and Fiona the pear tart tatin with crème fraîche. The blueberry soufflé was fantastic, a glorious and lively shade of lilac, which sadly the photgraph doesn’t show. It was light and very flavoursome, full of airY blueberry goodness and particularly good with the milky ice cream. I had a sparkling red dessert wine with it, Contero Brachetto d’Acqui, of which I wanted a lot more and will be seeking out again.

I really enjoyed it, and look forward to trying the more informal and cheaper Cafe de Luxe next door soon. I very much enjoyed the lunch, but Galvin La Chapelle’s prices are at the high end of the gourmands spectrum with my starter at £11.50, main at £22.50 and dessert at £8.50. The lunch set menu, however is a great deal, offering an enticing boudin noir with apple and pommes mousseline on the day we were there,and priced at £24.50 for three courses, it’s a bit of a bargain. Many thanks to Fiona for treating me to a delicious lunch.

Fiona’s Decanter Review.

Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London E1
020 7299 0400
www.galvinrestaurants.com

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Baozi Inn, Chinatown, London

Baozi Inn

Baozi Inn

I’ve developed a slight obssession with Sichuan province in China: it’s culture, and especially it’s food. My research, in print and online, has shown it to be full of colour and flavour. I’ve met people from there and Westerners that have lived there, one claims that she has never been anywhere where people smile so much. Isn’t that a lovely recommendation? I had hoped to go there on holiday last year, particularly to Chengdu, but I couldn’t squeeze it in, so, that trip is on hold for the moment, but hopefully not for too long.

Baozi Inn

Baozi Inn

Until I get there, I’ve been keeping busy reading and trying the offerings from Fuschia Dunlop, the famed English chef who studied Sichuanese cookery at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, China. She has many lovely books, one worth trying is Sichuan Cookery. I’ve also been indulging in the recent sudden crop of authentic Sichuan restaurants which have set up in London, most to my shame, I have yet to blog. Angeles in Kilburn and the Sichuan in Acton, have been around for years, but are now accompanied by Red & Hot, Bar Shu, Snazz Sichuan and Chilli Cool, wonderful additions. Chilli Cool and Snazz Sichuan are my personal favourites and are the ones that I recommend when asked. Bar Shu is the most high end of all of them, located off Shaftesbury Ave with the most expensive menu and the most formal service. It’s very good but I prefer something a little more low key and I’ve found that the others offer food of an equivalent standard in a more intimate, less formal setting, Chilli Cool in particular, I salute you.

Bar Shu have clearly recognised the oppurtunities at the lower end of the market, some Sichuan favourites are street food after all (Dan Dan Noodles is one), and so they opened Baozi Inn in Chinatown in 2008. Baozi Inn has had some good reviews and came recommended to me by fellow blogger, Lizzie of Hollow Legs. There’s frequently a wait, and I have little patience, so after a few aborted attempts, I finally ate there last week with some visiting friends and a fellow Londoner who used to live in Chengdu.

Green Beans at Baozi Inn

Green Beans at Baozi Inn

It’s a warm and intimate place, very cosy at this time of year. All wood and the occasional lantern, bare minimalism offering broad wooden stools and tables, it’s not about comfort here, but speed and efficiency. I was pleasantly surprised by the menu. The style is similar to Bar Shu and pictorial, but don’t hold that against them! It features traditional street dishes from Beijing and Chengdu like dan dan noodles, fragrant and hot pork noodles, peace and happiness noodles and Chengdu crescent dumplings with chilli oil or in savoury broth.

Cucumber salad & baoza

Service was brusque and friendly, and after a 10 minute wait we had a table. Surprisingly, there’s no wine on the menu, just beer. We chose some noodle dishes, some crescent dumplings in broth and with oil , some baozi and a couple of sides of cucumber and green beans.

Sichuanese Spicy Beef Noodles

Sichuanese Spicy Beef Noodles

The food arrived promptly, with the sides of cucumber and green bean dressed salads. These were fantastic, lightly and spicily dressed, we didn’t have enough. Shortly after the mains arrived: Sichuanese fragrant-and-hot pork noodles, Sichuanese spicy beef noodles, Chengdu dan dan noodles, Chengdu crescent dumplings in chilli oil, Chengdue crescent dumplings in savoury broth and some baozi. Large portions, we struggled to consume all, as in our hunger, we had ordered more than one each. Overall the food felt light, spicy and fragrant, fresh and very healthy, we were very happy with our choices. The baozi were light and fresh and the dumplings robust and wholesome in a delicious spicy chicken broth. Should I get a cold anytime soon, I know where I am going for my chicken soup!

Baoza

Baoza

I loved it. It’s a quick, cheap eat and great value for money, and all agreed, including my friend that had lived in Chengdu. She thought that it was very authentic and some of the best Chinese food that she’s had in London since she lived in Chengdu (she hasn’t been to alot of the other Sichuan restaurants in London, but I plan to take her). Rushed out as we were in, we weren’t offended, that’s what it’s about after all. I’ll be going back to try their baozi with millet porridge for lunch.

Chengdu crescent dumplings in a savoury broth

Chengdu crescent dumplings in a savoury broth

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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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The Real Food Festival

Real Fod Festival

Real Fod Festival

My passion for food is well known, and as a result, many leaflets for the Real Food Festival made their way to my desk in the last few weeks. It seemed anyone that knows me thought of me when they saw this festival advertised, and, came bearing leaflets or emailed the details.

I am not generally a fan of big exhibition-type events, but the Real Food Festival intrigued me with it’s promised offerings of products from small and artisan producers. It promised:

The very best line-up of produce and ingredients, incredible wines and drinks from small, unique producers, restaurants serving carefully sourced dishes and a comprehensive programme of entertaining and educational workshops where visitors will discover some of the best food and drink in the world…

Regular readers will know that I am extremely passionate about produce from small producers, particularly local producers, and this seemed like an opportunity to see a generous selection of what the UK & Ireland had to offer, a chance to sample and purchase this produce, with the bonus of having an oppurtunity to meet and chat with the producers.

I had to go check it out.

I didn’t have much time, which was a real shame. I would have loved to have a whole day to interview producers and spread the word, but, my week has been packed with activity, work and otherwise, in advance of a long weekend in Ireland. I haven’t even had a chance to indulge in London Restaurant Week, but, I had to go to this, so I squeezed in a trip between work and packing for my trip home.

Earl’s Court, for those of you that don’t know it, is an enormous exhibition hall in West London. Enormous. Lots of things go on there including gigs, my other passion. When I first moved to London 6 or so years ago, I was given tickets to a trade food fair there by friends, that had planned to go but couldn’t make it. I had really been looking forward to it, but, found the experience a little underwhelming so was not sure what to expect this time.

On approach from the station it started to hail, nightmare, so I ran and rushed indoors. On entrance to the hall, I saw an enormous Whole Foods Market stall, and, while I like Whole Foods Market, my heart sank a little, I was worried that this might be a corporate affair. Within a few minutes it was clear that this wasn’t the case, as, while there were heavy hitters there like Wholefoods, the majority of stalls were small producers, farmers, fish & meat smokers, wineries, food importers with delights like Spanish meats and Italian cheeses, and much more. I was excited and proceeded to dash around to take in as much as I could.

What can I say? I was impressed and delighted. The food that I sampled was wonderful and the selection vast, why isn’t all of this stocked somewhere I can buy it every week? Beautiful sausages and hams, beef, mutton, game, exotic meats, wonderful smoked salmon (including Kinvara which I blogged about recently), wines, juices, real cornish pasties (gorgeous), pastries and on, all dished up with pride and enthusiasm. The restaurants serving included a favourite of mine – the Duke of Cambridge organic pub from Islington, and one I’ve yet to try – Konstam in King’s Cross although I used to frequent Konstam Café before it was closed so that they could focus on Konstam at the Prince Albert.

I was very sorry to have to leave and would urge all of you to go. Support and encourage these fantastic producers and farmer’s, we need more of them. Had I chance to go back, and I very much regret that I can’t, I would spend hours, so get there early, you might want to too.

Lots more details on their website: http://www.realfoodfestival.co.uk

Tickets cost £15 in advance or £18 on the door. The ticket price was used to subsidise the costs for the small producers, so your ticket will directly sustain small producers.

Earl’s Court, London, 24 – 27 April 2008.

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Smoked Salmon with Brown Soda Bread & Pickled Cucumber

Smoked Salmon, Cucumber Pickle & Brown Soda Bread

Did someone mention smoked salmon?? Oh, that’s right – I did! On Sunday and on flickr last week. Shall I let you in on a secret? I’ve discovered that Selfridge’s (in Oxford St, London) have started selling Frank Hederman’s smoked salmon from the Belvelly Smokehouse in Cork. Haven’t they always done that? Well, yes but now, it’s available not only at the Oyster and Champagne Bar as a dish, but, by the side and fillet at the, well, smoked salmon counter.

It’s not cheap, but I’ve been staying with friends for a bit and wanted to leave with a splash (decadent, moi?). Besides, it’s worth every penny and more. The texture is supple and firm with a delicate flavour and a beautiful smoky aftertaste from the beechwood chips. There’s a wonderful quote from the NY Times - Mr. Hederman smokes fish, which is a little like saying Steinway makes pianos. It’s just wonderful.

We know, I hear you roar! I blogged it when I had it in Selfridge’s last year and I mentioned it recently while in Ireland. I saw the man himself when I visited Midleton Farmer’s Market in Cork and I very much look forward to my next trip so that I can sample his smoked mackerel and smoked eel.

So, what to do with this beautiful smoked wild salmon? I prefer to keep it simple and let the smoked salmon sing. A simple accompaniment of good brown bread and cucumber pickle is all it needs – no cheeses, no cream, just the salmon, smoked with such care and attention.

The recipe for each is very straight-forward, there are more complex recipes with more delicate and elaborate flavours, but my quick, simple recipe was given to me by a friend that was a chef and it works for me. I love cucumber pickle, I love the sharp, tartness and intense sweetness of the pickle, it makes my mouth tingle, and in a very good way. As for soda bread, I grew up with it, and it’s something that I should make more often. I prefer a wholemeal soda bread, some people do half wholemeal/half white or white, but for me it’s wholemeal all the way.

This will make a large jar of cucumber pickle and a small loaf of bread. Soda bread is quite dense so it goes a long way.

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Smoked Salmon, Watercress & Potato Hash

This morning called for a speedy brunch prior to the rest of what promises to be a hectic day. Something of sustenance that can be made from what resides in the fridge, I simply couldn’t face getting out of my pj’s and accepting that my Sunday morning was over. Healthy would be good too although not too much so, it’s my indulgent Sunday morning afterall.

I settled on a delicious Smoked Salmon, Watercress & Potato Hash using charlotte potatoes, boiled, sliced and fried in olive oil. To accompany this some gorgeous Frank Hederman smoked salmon and a handful of chopped farmer’s market watercress. I added the salmon and watercress off the heat so that it wouldn’t cook.

You could tart this up by first of all marinading the smoked salmon in some cream, or adding some cream cheese on the side, but for me, this morning, it was perfect.

Enjoy your Sunday!

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London Restaurant Week

Two fools – me and my winning photo

Following a tough week last week, packing and moving once more, this week has started on a fine note. One of my photos (Rhubarb Fool) was chosen to be exhibited at the launch party for London Restaurant Week last night along with food photos from celebrities (Amy Winehouse, Jodie Harsh, Jean Christophe Novelli to name a few) and members of the public like myself. I was invited, and with a friend attended, quite excited at the prospect of attending such a high profile event.

The champagne flowed and lovely small bites were provided, I indulged in the Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Green Peas and the Fish & Chips – greedy as I am, fear not, they were mini portions. I wolfed it down so quickly, I forgot to take a photo, which frankly, is unheard of. This was followed by a mini chocolate pudding and knickerbocker glory, delicious, and I do have photos of these :-)

All the while, there was much people watching and speculation, always fun. After a couple of hours, Jean Christophe Novelli took the floor and gave a speech, thanking everyone for attending and supporting the event. Then came the time to announce the winner of the photography competition. I wasn’t paying much heed as, really, the other photos were fantastic, so I continued to drink my champagne and nibble. Imagine my shock and surprise when he called out my name! So exciting.

So, here I am, the proud winner, with a fantastic prize: a dinner for two at a michelin starred restaurant. I really can’t wait to indulge. And indulge further I will, for those of you that don’t know of it, London Restaurant Week (actually two weeks this year) is an opportunity to eat at up to 100 of London’s leading restaurants for much less than normal. This list includes no less than 10 michelin starred restaurants. These 100 restaurants include some I’ve been really keen to try: Lindsay House, Bentley’s Bar & Grill, Tamarind, Quilon & The Cinnamon Club. Added to this, a charity benefits, lastminute.com has partnered for the second year running with Capital 95.8’s Help a London Child and 20p from each booking will be donated to the charity. It starts on the 14th April, but you can book now, so, get in there early and make the most of it! I will be. More on http://www.londonrestaurantweek.co.uk.

I’ll leave you with a very cheesy pic of me & Mr Novelli. Haha! What a nice man! Really charming and friendly, even with people like me approaching him with my little camera in hand looking for a photo :-)

Thanks to Sophie and all the guys from lastminute.com for organising a wonderful and fun party, and, of course, for my lovely prize!