Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Perfect Saturday in London - The Round Up

Taken somewhere near London Bridge

A few weeks ago, Krista from Londonelicious put the call out to London bloggers: What's your idea of a perfect Saturday in London? The American girl who likes food and London but not cooking wined and dined her way around town and wrote about it here in the post that kicked it all off. Others quickly followed, posting their idea of a perfect Saturday in London. So whether you've always lived in London, or whether you're just visiting for the weekend and want to experience London as a local, here's some inspiration for you and all of your Saturdays. Now get yourself out there and explore!

ML at SPAstic, Tales from a London Spa takes you around South Kensington and Notting Hill for a culture-filled day that ends in Holland Park.

Su-Lin at Tamarind & Thyme gets some culture AND shopping in as she trolls central London, with the riches she imagines.

Two entries from Mini-et-moi, a great site for modern mums in London. Sarah takes in Marylebone and The London Transport Museum while Michelle explores the South Bank, tots in tow.

Danielle at Bloody Brilliant starts with a full English and then heads east to explore Brick Lane and Spitalfields.

Over at Gourmet Larder, Gregory begins his day in Borough and then works his way south through Clapham and Vauxhall.

Leah from Curiosity and The Cupcake arrives at Broadway Market bright and early and then enjoys a leisurely stroll through Victoria Park and east London.

Christine over at If Music Be The Food of Love has a musical slant to her day as she explores Hampstead and hits the town with her idol.

Blogger Priyanka begins at Cafe au Lait in Brixton and ends her day at Meson De Felipe and The Beehive in Borough.

Another blogger choosing to start around Borough Market. Helen at Food Stories kicks off her Saturday with a visit to Tower Bridge, wanders over to Borough and then ends her day with a visit to Shunt and by checking out Dinner in The Sky.

Lizzie of Hollow Legs (that's me, of course) is very busy geographically and takes us through Blackheath, North Greenwich, Trafalgar Square, Belgravia, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, and then back to Shoreditch.

And finally, new-to-the-scene Liz (of Liz Does London, not to be confused with Lizzie above) hits Chelsea, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, and Parson's Green.

I think that's everyone. Thanks to all the great bloggers who contributed their perfect Saturday. Please feel free to republish this post on your own blog and add your own perfect London, or elsewhere.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Kitchen at Parson's Green

Last week, Niamh from Trusted Places invited myself and 10 others (amongst them Tom, Helen, Su Lin, Josh, Melanie, Alex and Chris) to an evening at The Kitchen. Newly opened, this place's concept is popular in the US. All you do is pick which dishes you'd like online, turn up, assemble them there, and take it home to cook it. No chopping, no slicing, no peeling and best of all, minimal washing up. Co-owner and Michelin-starred chef Thierry Laborde and his colleagues are on hand to help (and teach me how to pipe mashed potato...).

The operation ran smoothly. We were given sheets with clear step-by-step instructions on how to assemble our dishes and once assembled, we took them over to a fancy machine which sealed them with a plastic wrap and instructions on how to further cook it once you get home. By the time we got back to our work stations, new ingredients for the next dish were ready waiting.

It's a good concept and perfect for those with busy lifestyles but also concerned about the provenance of their food. All the ingredients are of high quality and sourced from independent traders and not wholesale. I don't think I'm the target market as I will make the time to cook, but I can see the attraction. I would recommend picking a day when Chelsea aren't playing at home though; it was a rather unpleasant sweat-a-thon on the tube on the way there.

I immediately cooked up the salmon teriyaki I had assembled when I got home and it was gorgeous. Melt-in-the-mouth salmon, decent teriyaki sauce and mushroom and pak choi stir-fried in sake. I wish I'd made more.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

A Perfect Saturday in London

Krista of Londonelicious has called for bloggers to blog their 'Perfect Saturday in London'. So here's mine.

I'm not much of an early riser (this here is the understatement of the year) but since I have a lot to fit in, we start at:

9:30am It will, of course be a perfectly sunny day. I like to walk; I do at least 3 miles a day, if not more. I leave the house and walk to Blackheath, a rather pleasant and tree-lined 40 min stroll. At Blackheath, I jump on the 108 to North Greenwich.

10:30am I arrive at the Peninsula Restaurant at the Holiday Inn, North Greenwich to join the masses for a dim sum breakfast / brunch. North Greenwich is a strange, deserted place full of new builds, the O2 and motorways. I swear I see tumbleweed roll past in the distance, but the restaurant takes me straight back to the dim sum places in Hong Kong. It's usually heaving and very noisy, often not an English word heard.

11:45am Sufficiently stuffed, I jump on the Jubilee line to London Bridge (15 mins) and walk to Borough Market. Batting aside the crowds, I grab a pint of mulled cider and 6 oysters. These are slurped / drank in the shadow of the church.

1pm Back to the overland at London Bridge to catch a Southeastern to Charing Cross (11 min). I walk past Trafalgar Square to the National Portrait Gallery (my favourite of London galleries I've been to so far) and have a potter around inside. A cup of over-priced coffee (you're not in London if you're not being ripped off) in the cafe to revive my mulled-cider-brain.

3:30pm Leaving the gallery, I then walk (25 min) down to Lanesborough Hotel for Afternoon Tea, more specifically the Belgravia Tea. I haven't been before, but it's been on the list for ages.

6pm Leaving the Lanesborough, I jump on the tube (30 mins) to Old Street. A few beers in The Reliance - they have Scrumpy Jack on tap. I like.

8pm Jump on the 205 to Tayyabbs (via an offie to pick up more beers for the inevitable queue). Lots of grilled lamb chops.

11pm I waddle off, home-bound. Or, more likely than not, we head to Catch on Kingsland Road for a boogie and I end up having to catch a miserable night bus. Wait - this is the perfect Saturday, right? In that case, I am chauffered home by a taxi.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


Recently it's been nothing but doom and gloom; the rain has arrived and the clocks will be changing this weekend. Soon, I will be waking up in the dark and coming home in the dark. The tacky Christmas decorations will be going up, and Oxford Street will be more of a nightmare to navigate when I finish work due to Christmas shoppers. Add to this the incredibly boring credit crunch which people won't stop talking about, and you get a rather grumpy girl.

So on a miserable Monday night, this was the best thing to cheer me up. It was warming and deceptively filling, not to mention very cheap. It also uses all the odds and ends of pasta packets that I strangely hoard.

Pasta Stew

For four

1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 rashers of streaky bacon, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
2 yellow peppers
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Pinch of dried oregano
1 bay leaf
200mls chicken or vegetable stock
Leftover pasta pieces (I used bits of pappardelle and macaroni), about 150gr
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 small handful of basil and parsley
Parmesan to taste (optional)

Fry the onion with the bacon and the chilli flakes until lightly browned, but not burnt. Add the garlic and oregano and fry further until fragrant. Add the carrot and celery and stir fry until softened.

Meanwhile, soak the pasta in boiling water to get rid of excess starch. Drain and add to the saucepan, with the stock, tinned tomato and puree, and bayleaf. Simmer this for 20 minutes, or until the pasta is quite soft. If it's looking dry, top up with more water. Add salt to taste. On serving, scatter with parsley and basil and top with parmesan and black pepper.

This is a really flexible recipe which I often change to add whatever's hanging around the fridge. Savoy cabbage also works well.


The humble pork dumpling has many faces in Chinese cuisine. With a few different flavourings and shapes; they can be delicate, soupy won tons, steamed dim sum favourites siu mai, and also the crispy bottomed potsticker dumplings.

The dumplings are made much like potsticker dumplings, but instead of steaming and then frying, they are boiled. This makes for a somewhat softer and more delicate skin, as often the steaming and frying of the bread flour dough makes them more chewy.

Boiled Dumplings

Makes 12

80gr bread flour

40gr water

Mix the bread flour and the water together to form a dough. Knead for a few minutes and leave to rest.

150gr pork mince

1 shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and diced

1 spring onion, sliced finely

3 or 4 sprigs of coriander, chopped

1" ginger, minced

1 small carrot, grated

2 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp cornflour

Mix all the ingredients above and leave to marinate for 1/2 an hour. Before you add the grated carrot, squeeze as much juice out of it as possible.

Roll the dough into a sausage shape and cut into 12 pieces. Flour each piece as you go along, and roll into a disc shape as thinly as you can manage. Place a heaped teaspoon of the pork mixture in the middle of the disc and fold the edges, making sure it's tightly sealed. I didn't bother crimping these dumplings, as I think the effect is lost with boiling them. Place each dumpling on a floured plate.

To cook, boil a big pot of water. Add the dumplings, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 8 - 10 minutes, and serve with soy and chilli, or black vinegar and ginger.

They're not the most attractive things, but they are very tasty and simpler to make than the potstickers, due to not having to crimp and also the easy cooking method. They make a pleasing brunch.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Action Aid - Child Poverty Day

It's Child Poverty Day on the 17th October, and Action Aid are asking you and your friends or colleagues to bring in a packed lunch and donate your lunch money to them - here is the link.

It's a worthwhile cause; every day more than 16,000 children die from hunger and they need help.

I have some sort of bento box planned. Perhaps some Onigiri and inarizushi from this recipe - what's your favourite packed lunch?

Monday, 13 October 2008

Veal Revisited

During my visit to Abu Dhabi, my sister Vicky and her boyfriend Richard (who you may be able to see in the reflection in the picture above) took me to a rotating restaurant. It was on the 19th floor, and happily enough it wasn't travelling at super speed, but rather a revolution an hour or so giving us the perfect opportunity to view all of Abu Dhabi. Much discussion ensued as to how the waiters knew which table was which; we decided in the end they must make notes: "Table full of sun burned Brits - 1 x fish main" etc. Maybe.

To start, my eye was drawn by the mention of oysters (possibly called 'Guillard'? I'd had a bit of gin by this point...). These, as you can see, were big meaty beasts and were incredibly sweet, full of umami and flavoursome of the sea. I had a good ol' chew on them, as I don't believe in swallowing them whole and only getting a hint of flavour. I do believe these may have been the best oysters I've had so far - perhaps a toss-up between those of Kinsale.

However, I was a touch jealous of Richard's beef cheek galette with wild mushroom risotto. He let me have a taste and it was meaty.

Moving on, I opted for the 'Rack of Veal with Balsamic Glaze'. I tend to suffer from chronic indecisiveness when ordering food, as I have an almost pathological fear of food envy. As soon as I spoke my order, I regretted it. I was expecting piddly little rounds of meat, truth be told.

I couldn't have been further from the truth and I was gobsmacked when they brought me this beast. It was huge, larger than the size of my outstreched hand. My dining companions looked on enviously as I dug in with abandon and it was cooked perfectly to medium rare, as requested. It had a rich and beefy flavour to it, but was also very tender. A strange cube of jellied mushrooms accompanied it and was fine, but the balsamic sauce with a hint of rosemary were perfect companions. Simplicity at it's best.

I was much too full for dessert, but I had a sneaky taste of everyone elses. The Selection of Chocolate was just that - chocolatey. It consisted of a sorbet, a ganache, a truffle and a millefeuile. Very rich indeed. Contrasted with this was a light and delicately sweet upside down apple tart.

The service was inobtrusive and discreet. There was a lady singing with a piano accompaniment which at best provided us with some giggles, and at worst was a bit loud when we swung past, but quite inoffensive overall.

Al Fanar

Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Khalifa Street
PO Box 45505
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

Tel: (971)(2) 674 2020

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Lebanese Eating

Behold, the tallest flagpole in the world!

This is located in Abu Dhabi, where I've just spent the past week visiting my sister and her boyfriend. Apparently it took the largest crane in the Middle East (which is saying something) to erect said pole, and this crane weighed a hefty 1200 tonnes. This flagpole took two years to be designed by engineers from the US, UAE and the UK.

Can you tell I spent rather a lot of time with someone working in construction?

Anyway, the first proper meal I had on our first day was Lebanese. It was a perfect introduction to the food filled week ahead, and was just the right amount of refreshing flavours to stop me from going into meltdown at the shock of the 38°C heat. 38°C! I've never been anywhere this hot - it later rose to 43°C at one point during the week. I kept scoffing at having to take taxis everywhere, but really; it was too hot to walk.

First to arrive was this tabbouleh. It was very different from any other tabbouleh I've had in that it seemed to be 90% parsley whereas others I've had used much more bulgar wheat. This and the rocket salad behind it gave refreshing relief to the deep-fried dishes that shortly followed.

The table was positively heaving before long. Calamari, olives and houmous were great, although I noticed the houmous was much milder in garlic than any I've had before. I also had kibbeh, a minced lamb ball fried, for the first time. Unfortunately I wasn't brave enough to order the 'kibbeh naye', which is raw kibbeh eaten a bit like steak tartar.

Much to my delight, they also brought us a plate of pickles. I'm not quite sure what it is about anything pickled, but I really can't get enough of them. I sometimes buy cheeseburgers from McDonalds just for the gherkins.

We couldn't identify what the pink pickled vegetable was - any ideas?

We also ordered the falafel and a mixed grill. The grill was apparently something of a let-down in size according to my Lebanese-expert companions, but it nevertheless we were no where near close to finishing it all.
We gave it a good go, though.

Al Birkeh
Le Méridien Abu Dhabi
Tourist Club Area
Abu Dhabi 46066
United Arab Emirates
Tel: (971)(2) 644 6666