January 14, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:14 pm

I know, I know, its half way through January - why am I posting about something that happened around Christmas now?

The reason is because Dad took this long to send me the photos.  Now I can tell you what I made to satisfy the requirements on this enormous list.

First of all I should give a bit of background on my parents’ eating. It is fairly well described here.  Almost all meals at their house are curries. On occasion you’ll find them making a spicy stir fry. The general method of cooking is ‘boil with curry powder.’

So, when I arrived at Mum and Dad’s on Sunday, it turned out mum was working that night so the family meal had to be delayed until Christmas day. However we’d bought some tuna chunks from Sainsbury which were going to become Mum’s dinner. Dad was going to curry them (for a change :roll: ). I couldn’t think of many worse ways to treat tuna and I felt I needed to prove to Dad that you really don’t need to curry everything. He didn’t seem to believe me.

So rather oddly, Dad and I had a bit of a cook-off. His method: take tuna cubes, simmer for 20-30 minutes in water with two tablespoons (eek!) of sri-lankan roasted curry powder, garlic, ginger and a heck of a lot of chilli.

tuna curry

 

My method: Marinate tuna cubes with in an ad-hoc ginger-based marinade for an hour. Heat a little olive oil in a non stick pan with a few slivers of garlic and a little green chilli (no seeds.) Fry tuna cubes on a high heat setting until the outside is totally cooked (should be about 1.5 minutes), then turn off the heat and allow the residual heat to keep cooking the fish. After about  a minute and a half, toss through chopped coriander leaves and a little lime juice. Drizzle some chilli-infused oil over the fish and  serve immediately. 

Shame I still hadn’t figured out how to work the auto-focus on Dad’s camera.

my ad-hoc tuna

Mum would be the judge in theory. In practice, things went something like this.Now, I’ve altered some of the wording as I guess not an awful lot of you reading this understand Sinhalese, but the meanings in this conversation have been unchanged.

Mum: We’ve both been overcooking tuna. Next time we pan fry it like this.
Dad: I like mine better.
Mum: But this pan fried tuna is soft. Not tough like the curried tuna.
Dad: I like my tuna hard.
Mum: Also without the curry powder, I can actually taste the fish.
Dad: I don’t like the taste of tuna.
Mum: i like the coriander and chilli too
Dad: I hate coriander.

So there we go. Dad’s tuna dish was better, regardless of what Mum thought.

For my own dinner I had a swordfish steak which I made a hollandaise sauce for. I’m sure I’ve said before that making hollandaise sauce is easy. Correction: making hollandaise sauce is easy IF you have a whisk. My parents don’t, so I was whisking my sauce very quickly with a fork. :(

swordfish

By some miracle it didn’t curdle. I didn’t dare let it thicken too much, so I had a very, very thin hollandaise. It tasted fine though.

And since you are al probably wondering what the hell I thought up to satisfy Dad’s uber-list of fad requirements. Here is is.

monkfish

Marinated monkfish with a lime-cream sauce served with chilli noodles and garlic steamed pak choi. Not the most exciting thing in the world, but given the restrictions I thought it wasn’t too bad.

Dad now has a new fad. He doesn’t like things with subtle flavours. I kid you not.

January 13, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 7:00 pm

On Tuesday night I was stuck out reasonably late on another teaching job ( ….grumble, geumble,  GCSE students, grumble…) and  I’d decided that I’d be far too knackered to cook when I got back. So I decided to try and convince Goon to take over for that evening. To be honest, I’d expected a lot more resistance to this plan but he seemed actively keen.

Goon hadn’t done any cooking in quite a while, but since he had been progressing well up until the last attempt, I decided to leave him up to his own devices this time. I left him two free range chicken breasts (another bargain bin find) and let him decide what to do with them.

Although he’s learning fast, Goon still isn’t very inspired when it comes to cooking. He’s done very well in that he’s gone from mqking only microwave rice to being able to follow a easy recipe, but he doesn’t seem able to think up things for himself, nor is he able to spot obvious flaws/misprints in the instructions. 

The recipe Goon decided to try was this one from Saturday Kitchen on the BBC.  Not a bad idea, looking at the ingredient list but there were a lot of problems with it. For a start, how rich?! I’m not one to shy away from getting out the cream and butter but this was just too much.  It needed stock or something to give it less density and more flavour. Also, talking about flavour, Goon doubled the paprika, mustard and worcestershire sauce in the dish (looks like he’s learning :) ) and it was still edging on bland.

Paprika chicken

He was very pleased with how it looked but both of us agreed that it needed more flavour (even after alteration) and less double cream! Poor Goon!

I find this happens a lot if you follow recipes to the letter.  I only do this on occasion with Gordon Ramsay and  Delia Smith recipes and, even then, I sometimes find it doesn’t quite turn out how I’d like.

I’m not having a go at the chefs. With the variation you get in natural produce, it must be nearly impossible to write foolproof recipes. After all, 200g of liver could apply to three or four thin slices, or one massive slab. Ditto vegetable sizes, ages of spices etc.  For this reason, I take every recipe I read with a pinch of salt (oooh, I made a sort of accidental pun!) and more often than not, just completely re-invent them to suit what is in my cupboard  and/or the nearby supermarkets, using my own (admittedly gin-retarded) tastebuds as a guide. Zen cooking is the way forward!

Goon isn’t quite ready for that yet, but I guess he might get there one day.  Now that he’s ok with following recipes on his own, I’ll try to get him to start reviewing them. We’ll let you know when we’ve found some nice Goon-proof dishes! :D

January 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 4:44 pm

I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I’m the least picky eater I know. Snobby sometimes, but rarely picky. It’s true that when my good friends meet up and get excited about the prospect of going to Pizza Express, I will scoff (sorry, guys, I love you really), especially when there’s an outlet of Fish! a few doors down. But essentially, when you put something on a plate in front of me, I will eat it.

The obvious exception to this might be if the thing is still moving, but I fortunately haven’t been put in that situation yet.

It hasn’t always been this way though. There used to be a few foods, whose mention alone would leave me heaving.

The first of these was macaroni cheese. Specifically the macaroni cheese produced by a certain pre-school in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Think of Kraft Dinner and add more slime.

bad mac'n'cheese

Funnily enough, it looked remarkably like this picture. It took a good few years before I got over that one. Come on! Look at it! Can you blame me?

But, the most horrible thing for me, the food I would actually have nightmares about, was YORKSHIRE PUDDING!

toad in the hole

Aaargh! Yorkshire Pudding! Food of the Devil!

You might think it's more than a little bit weird for someone to have anything against this dish. After all it is one of the more bland things you find in your roast dinner. But let me explain…… (cue floaty harp music and melting pictures)…..

I was five years old and it was my first day at primary school. We'd been led down to the school canteen for a roast lunch by the dragon-like teacher of the year above and were sat in our tables of eight eating toad in the hole. I remember that I didn't think much of it, but I ate the sausages and vegetables. Then I got to the yorkshire pudding. Frankly, it smelt wrong. I cut a tiny piece of the end and tried it. It tasted very, very, wrong. I spat it back out onto my plate, unaware that Mrs Dragon-Like was standing right behind me.

After quite a lot of squawking from her and a few tears from me, it was made clear that I would not be leaving until I had eaten everything on my plate and, to make it worse, neither would the rest of my table. Talk about pressure!

And so, I had to eat more. So I closed my eyes and took a bite, chewed and swallowed, fighting hard against my gag reflexes. The teacher waited for me to continue but by now I had other things on my mind.

I heaved. I heaved again. Then a few seconds later I vomited all over the table. The other girls were screaming. The one next to me was crying. I think Mrs Dragon by this point must have been wondering how the hell she could talk herself out of this one. I was quickly led away to the sick-room.

I didn't touch yorkshire pudding for almost 20 years after that, when James convinced me to try a bit from his plate. NowI actively like it. I'm still very wary of primary school teachers though. ;)

So, why have I been spending this precious time when I could be writing my thesis telling you about my old food phobia? Because it's more fun that writing maths, obviously! ;) Also it is because I was reminded about my food phobias not long ago. Another thing that I used to hate was gammon. A less serious version of the story abve happened a few years later when I ordered the meat in a restaurant. I simply couldn’t eat it because of the salt and then never touched it again…. until last week.

It turns out that gammon is one of Goon's favourite things. He'd had it with his family at Christmas and was missing it when he got back. I wasn't terribly keen on the idea of making it but eventually I was convinced to try.

Gammon Joint

I guess they do look kind of cool, studded with cloves like that. This was a small smoked gammon joint from Sainsbury. After reading that soaking reduces the salt content of the meat, I popped it in some cold water for about 24 hours, refreshing the water every five or six.

When it was time to cook it, I studded the meat with cloves, refreshed the water again and attempted to bring it to a simmer. Typically, the dumb electric hob wasn't powerful enough, so I had to roast the joint instead.

So I untied it, took of the rind, scored the fat and retied it, then popped it in the oven at gas mark 4-5 for about an hour and ten minutes. Twenty minutes before the end I poured a glaze of honey, cinnamon and cherry juice over it. After resting the meat for about ten minutes, goon carved it and it looked something like this.

sliced gammon

We had it with buttery new potatoes and broccoli with the excess glaze tipped over the meat.

Now for the verdict. I still don't think I actively like gammon. Even with all that soaking it was still pretty salty. Admittedly, the glaze made it much better and the leftovers were good in a cream sauce on pasta the next day, but the sliced gammon on its own just didn't do it for me.

I'd make it again, since I didn't hate it as much as yorkshire pudding, but only if someone specifically asked me to. Anyway, I'd be happy to be proved wrong.*

*Please note that this does not apply to any statement in my thesis. If you prove any of those wrong, you will quickly find yourself in a lot of pain.

January 10, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 3:59 pm

Does anyone else get stuck trying to think up things to do with tuna? I absolutely adore the flavour of the fish and I’m in heaven when tucking into a juicy rare steak.  However I find it can be quite easy to get get stuck in a rut of  marinating it in citrus juice and pan frying it. Don’t get me wrong, I like it like that, but it would be nice to do something different every now and again.

So, last weeked, I’d found a particularly nice looking bit of bright red fish reduced in Tesco and was wondering what on earth to do with it. After some searching online I was rather pleased when I found the idea of a thick coriander paste to use as a marinade. I love coriander and by chance I  already had too much in the fridge to use before it all went bad. The recipe that inspired me is here. As usual I made several alterations.

I took two cloves of garlic and minced them, then put them in a blender with 25g of chopped coriander, a half a green birds eye chilli and 1 teaspoon each of cumin, ground coriander and paprika. I blended this to a paste and added just enough chilli infused olive oil to make it moist enough to spread over my two tuna steaks. I marinated the steaks in this mixture for an hour. Then I pan fried them for 1 minute 15 on each side on a high heat  and rested them for a minute wrapped in foil . The result was this.

coriander crusted tuna steak

Mmmm… a little charred on the outside and pink in the middle.

Even though I’d reduced the amount of garlic suggested, the marinade was still very garlicky. I do like garlic but I think I’d have preferred to let the coriander dominate instead, so I suggest using just one large clove with 25g coriander. Also I altered the spice balance (I like my spice :) ) and served it with lemon for squeezing rather than putting the juice in with the marinade. I added fresh chilli and infused oil as chilli powder gives heat but no flavour and I really like the flavour in fresh chilli. 

I have been developing a bit of a liking for courgettes and mint butter ever since I tried that stuffed courgette flower at the Carlton, so that became the side dish for this meal and I also made some nice fluffy  spiced cous-cous with pine nuts and sultanas. Even in this inauthentic state, Moroccan food is lovely. If I ever get round to visiting Marrakesh, I will come back very fat! :D

 

 

January 6, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:27 pm

I feel the need to apologise for the quality of the photographs in todays posts. I have the problem that, whenever I am out at a restaurant with Goon, I am not allowed to take pictures myself. This is because Goon gets embarassed and insists on taking photos with his little camera phone.

I used to be the same way myself, but I’ve found in recent months that photographing food in restaurants can be quite fun. Big, famous resaurants are well used to foodies taking snaps for their blogs anyway. 

The staff in smaller places are sometimes confused by my behaviour. But then i mention the website and, judging by the swift improvement in service and the looks of horror on some faces, they almost always without fail assume that my little blog is some big important review site. Of course, I do nothing to encourage this misconception. I do nothing to discourage it either, but never mind. This way we get better service. :D  

But unfortunately this time we have Goon’s dodgy camera phone pictures. :(   The one upside to this is that goon sent me ALL the photos on his camera … including this hilarious one he accidentally took of his double chin.

 

Goon has a double chin

 

HAHAHAHA! Honestly, how do you accidentally photo yourself like that!?

So below are reviews of two rather nice restaurants in Shepherds Bush. Enjoy!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:20 pm

In spite of living in this area for many years, I’d never got round to sampling any of the restaurants down Shepherds Bush road (unless you count the ‘Kebab Machine’, which I definitely don’t). I decided it was about time I remedied this oversight and so we headed to Le Cinnamon India Room.

The reason I chose this restaurant first is because of its stunning reviews. Go to London Eating and you will see people raving about how it is the best curry they ever had. It sounded way too good to be true to me but I was curious.

On the outside, the restaurant doesn’t look any different from your standard curry house. In fact, the only reason I noticed it before was the slightly daft name. The decor inside isn’t totally stunning but it felt a lot more classy than a standard high street Indian. This was reflected in the music they played and in also the attitude of the staff, who were phenomenal throughout the meal. Usually you have to be paying £50 per head to get staff with perfect timing like this, but the prices at Le Cinnamon go nowhere near that.

Seriously, this place is CHEAP! In a good way. The starters are around £3 each. In a way I think this may have worked against the restaurant as I found myself thinking ‘Hang on-  crab for £3.50?. There must be something wrong with it!’ It actually put me off ordering the crab and the duck starters because I just couldn’t believe you could do them properly for that price.

In the end I had the deep fried paneer with chutneys and Goon had the duck. In my opinion the duck was a bit dry. The paneer was pleasant but nothing very special.

fried paneer 

 However, when it comes to main courses this place really stands out.

I ordered a goan fish curry which came with rice and cost only £6.50. This was absolutely superb. The fish was perfectly done - just cooked through without losing any of its moisture. The curry was hot but not overpoweringly so and the lovely spice flavours came through beautifully. Goon’s lamb korma was equally good. Mild, creamy with lovely flavours of cardamom and cinnamon.

Even the wine was near perfect. We had a gewurzaminer with had a lovely floral flavour. However, although it didn’t taste acidic, I got the feeling towards the end of the meal that it was giving me a bit of heartburn.

One downside to Le Cinnamon is that the menu is fairly small. However it is clear that they have chosen to do a small selection of things very well and I do not think this is really a bad thing.

I thoroughly recommend this restaurant. While the starters are nothing special, the mains are superb. It is one of the few places I would go to in preference to making my own curries.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:20 pm

I first discovered Demera restaurant after moving into a flat practically next door to it. Even after moving away, I kept on going back again and again.

If you decide to visit the Demera, you should be aware that the style of this restaurant is a little different  to normal. I got the feeling that there must be a reasonably large Eritraen community near the Goldhawk road as a lot of customers seemed to be from that part of the world and also seemed to know each other and the staff. There was a lot of friendly banter going on and a relaxed homely atmosphere. Not much formality but plenty of hospitality.

If you are not yet familiar with  Ethiopian and Eritraen food, I urge you to try it.  Their staple food is injera, a flat bread with a pancake like texture. Demera makes my favourite injera -its more “lemony” than others I have tasted.

The meat and vegetables are cooked as in a way that one might compare to South Indian or Sri Lankan curries but with different spices. A large piece of injera is rolled out like a plate with the meat and vegetables served on top of it. You eat with your hands, using other bits of injera to scoop up the stews.

Damera injera and stews 

Ok, that isn’t the greatest photo - it actually looked better than that. 

At the end you eat the injera the food was served on, which by then is soaked with a delicious mixture of gravies. Eating like this is a lot of fun and quite nice for couples as you share from the same plate of food.

On this visit we had a green lentil dish, fish awaze tibs and a lamb dish, the name of which I have unfortunately forgotten. Goon was a pain and wouldn’t let me order the tripe and liver dish. :(

The lamb dish was hot and the fish even more so. This was great from my point of view but it meant that Goon was eating very slowly, to the great amusement  of the manageress, who even came over to try to show him how to eat at one point! I thought the two dishes were delicious! .  

At the end of the meal you will be served a complementary pot of traditional tea. This is heavily infused with cloves and some other spice I couldn’t identify. I enjoyed it a lot, although by this point I was so full of food there was barely any room for it!

The meal came to just £27, including a £12 bottle of wine. For the amount of food you get, this is fantastic value.

So, in summary, if you’re expecting formal service and intricately presented food, this is not the place to go. But if you want a tasty, fun meal with friendly service for a good price,  Demera is  a great place to go.

January 3, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 2:13 pm

So, with a title like that you are either going to think that

  1. I’ve taken the whole alternative meat thing too far and have  cooked up someone’s pet pooch.
  2. I’ve found a little known pasta recipe originating from an old coastal region of Croatia.

I suppose technically those who went for point 1 were a little closer to the truth because what I mean by dalmatian lasagne is this.

spotty lasagne

Lasagne with an interesting spotted top. Hmmm… maybe its more like a leopard.

Those who saw this emerge from the oven said things like ‘Oh, cool! How’d you get it to do that?’ In reality, I have no idea why it did that. I put it down to a quirk in the design of the electric oven I was using.

If I’d INTENDED the weird spot pattern I’d have been very pleased with myself. But I bet that if I do exactly the same thing the next time and make lasagne with the intention of it being spotty, the blasted thing probably won’t brown at all!

Anyway, spotting aside, this was a mighty good lasagne! It had a slightly spicy filling of pork sausages, tomato and pepper and was topped with a mild cheddar sauce.  I’m fairly sure the idea wasn’t entirely my own. I think that I might have even seen it on someone elses blog, after which it implanted itself in my subconscious until I was stuck with nothing to cook on New Years day. Then I realised that this could be made from things I already had in my cupboard.

Into the  pan went a chopped onion with 2 cloves of crushed garlic a chopped red pepper and loads of oregano with some olive oil. One the veg had softened I added 6 skinned, seeded chopped tomatoes, and about 1/3 bottle red wine and a tablespoon of tomato paste and a dash of tabasco. Then I fried up  6 chopped pork sausages (Tesco finest from the bargain bin :D ) with another garlic clove and threw that in to the tomato mixture before reducing it until nearly dry.  The topping was a simple milk-based cheddar sauce.

sausage and pepper lasagne

This turned out tobe really tasty and a nice light meal after I’d been sitting around the house all day doing nothing. I just served it with a side salad of mixed leaves with a lemon- olive oil dressing. I think it was really cheap too. Those sausages only cost 40p and most of the other ingredients were vegetables. The red wine was technically not cheap, but it was left-over from a couple of days ago. This is definitely one to make again when  sausages are on offer!

January 2, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:29 pm

Apparently my anti-spam images were causing some issues. The pictures have gone now so you can comment again.

Thanks to Scott at Real Epicurean for pointing this out.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ros @ 6:22 pm

A belated Happy New Year to you all! Belated because it is pretty difficult to post when i’m not in the office. I hope you all had as much fun as I did.

I made a little discovery on New Year’s morning. I can’t remember who it was now, but someone I know mentioned she had smoked salmon, truffled scrambled eggs and champagne for her Christmas breakfast.

Fat chance of me having that -  Mum would throw a fit if she found me drinking in the morning, even at Christmas. But on New Years morn I was back in London and free to get tipsy whenever I wanted. This breakfast sounded so good I couldn’t resist.

And so, at 11am yesterday morning I had this.

New Year's Breakfast

Organic smoked salmon, creamy scrambled eggs with white truffle oil and a glass of Heidsick Blue Label - my favourite champagne in my budget range.

The truffled egg was a huge eye-opener for me. I’d never have thought of it in a million years, but I am now happy to say that white truffle oil on creamy scrambled eggs is one of the best things ever! Thanks to whoever suggested it- sorry I’ve forgotten who you are.

So, next time you want a special breakfast, go get white truffle oil and have it with your eggs. Yum yum yum! If you can get champagne too, even better! :D

« Previous PageNext Page »