Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Pineapple, Lime & Chilli Sorbet

My ice cream maker hasn't been dusted off and busted out in a while. One might say I lost the love after the salted caramel butter ice cream. How could I top those heady heights? With a shadow of resignation, I got to work. For a while now I'd had the idea of pineapple and lime sorbet. Or mint? Pineapple and mint? Or lime? With gin? Tequila?

In the end, I settled on pineapple and lime with a hint of chilli and served with a few chunks of sweet strawberry, it worked a treat. Smooth, fluffy sorbet was heavily scented with pineapple, spiked through with lime and with a slow, confusing burn. Out of 8 of us who ate it a bewildered murmur went through the group. "Is there ginger in this?" "there's a strange hot-cold thing going on..." I smiled smugly at my secret, eventually revealing the truth.

Pineapple, Lime & Chilli Sorbet

Serves 8

1 ripe pineapple (give the inner most central green leaves a tug. If it comes out easily it's ripe.)
1 large lime
1 red birds eye chilli
100gr sugar
120mls water

In a saucepan, add the sugar and the water. Make a small slit in the chilli but do not slice through completely. Bring to the boil and simmer for a minute, take off the heat, remove the chilli and leave to cool.

Peel and core the pineapple, and chop into chunks. Place in a blender with the juice of the lime and the sugar solution. Blend vigorously until smooth - I left it blending away for about 3 minutes. Chill well, and then place in your ice cream maker. Alternatively, place in a container in the freezer, blending well every couple of hours a few times so that large ice crystals don't form.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Pure Package

When The Pure Package approached me and asked if I wanted a 3 day trial of their food package plan, I said yes. The idea is that from £40 a day, between the hours of midnight and 6am, a courier delivers your 3 gourmet meals a day plus snacks in a temperature controlled bag, ready for you to wake up to in the morning. Sounds simple enough, so I selected their weight loss programme, since their website proclaims "weight loss is our speciality".

Except it's not that simple. How would the driver get through a magnetic gate? I had to send my key fob off with them, and subsequently haul myself over the 10ft gate every day.

But what about the food? For £40 a day, I was expecting something fancy. Bircher muesli for breakfast one day looked like sludge but tasted ok - as ok as soggy oats go, I suppose. Far better was the rye bread with hazelnut butter and orange segments (opening photo).

To keep you going, a mid morning and mid afternoon snack is provided. Fruit with seeds or nuts featured heavily; of the three days, the kiwi segments with pistachios were the best. An unripe, dry apple with raw, chewy cashew nuts depressed me.

Unfortunately, depression sank further on the first day, when eagerly anticipating my lunch the salad I whipped out consisted of a few canned tuna flakes, a handful of Cos lettuce leaves, a few beans, sweetcorn and cucumber. I wondered if it would have killed them to sling in a tomato or two, maybe a few slices of red onion. For £40 a day I expected more.

At least portion size improved on lunch on the following days. The box of rice noodles with Asian slaw an coconut chicken claimed "also yummy hot!". Without a microwave or oven at work, I suffered through the claggy mess cold.

Another lunch was a tangle of rocket leaves with roasted aubergines, peppers and courgettes, with a shred of buffalo mozzerella. A watery pot of vinegar was provided to dress it. The highlight was the mozzerella.

Some afternoon snacks were savoury. Sugarsnap peas with cannellini bean and roasted tomato dip would have been far better if the peas had been lightly steamed. The dip didn't taste of much.

On the first night, having suffered through almost a day of eating almost nothing and rendering me hangry, dinner turned out to be chicken breast with an orange and date sauce and steamed carrots and broccoli. After two bites it was abandoned. Sickly sweet sauce smothered dry meat, and an orange and date sauce should never be allowed near broccoli. I ate an enormous pie instead.

Day two's dinner fared better, with this cottage pie, though I questioned the addition of goat's cheese in the topping. That plate is normal sized, by the way.

Finally, on the last day, red snapper with an almond crust, courgette salad and steamed beans and carrots. All the hot dinner dishes were cooked in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes; this rendered the fish a bit dry, but at least the vegetables retained bite.

So, as you can probably guess by now, I wasn't a fan. My 3 days had a couple of difficulties; the key fob situation also wasn't helped by being mugged for my entire handbag on the evening of the first day. Their PR suggested that I wouldn't be able to give it a fair run, but my issues aren't to do with this; I couldn't believe that people would pay £40 A DAY for it. So you have your meals all ready and prepared, but I barely spend more than that on the weekly shop. For 90 days, you would spend a massive £2965.50 for the full programme. That's pretty bonkers to me.

There's also the crucial point that the food just didn't taste that good. They don't add preservatives, salt, sugar, refined carbohydrates, wheat or additives, which might go some way to explaining it. Surely we all need salt in our lives? I'm fairly certain that after a while, yes I would get used to a salt-free life, but salt (in moderation) isn't bad for me so why leave it out at all?

I have no doubt that this weight loss package is effective; if anything, it just put me off food completely.

EDIT: In response, the PR of The Pure Package have stated: "The 40 pound a day cost includes three freshly prepared gourmet meals and snacks made by award-winning chefs delivered direct to your door, including delivery charge, ongoing consulting service...it may seem expensive to the majority of people, however I think the figure seems more understandable when you break down exactly what that money includes."

So there you are.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Pitt Cue Co. - Southbank

London can be pretty stunning sometimes, and one of my favourite views is from the Hungerford Bridge. What makes it even more of a favourite is that for the next four months, Pitt Cue Co. is a food truck parked up underneath said bridge.

Styled on barbeques that the Americans are so famous for, we hot-footed it down there the first day they were open (well, it IS on the way home after all). Cardboard boxes (at £7 each) full of porky delights made their way to us. Tender, pulled pork came with what initially was some chewy bread. A good soaking in the sauces made us realise what it was for; a big flavour sponge. Sweet smoky beans nestled in the box along with some crunchy, fresh coleslaw.

Gloucester Old Spot ribs were tender and juicy, with hardly any bone. Again with beans, the sweetness of the beans was off-set perfectly with some tangy fennel-scented pickles. Barbeque sauce on the side was enriched with tiny cubes of pork lardons and was sweet, smoky, and had a hint of spice.

A ridiculously decadent box of potatoes turned up. Wedges of Jersey royals lay under rotisserie chickens, slowly roasting in their fat and juices. Sticky and caramelised, these were outrageously good.

All washed down with a medium dry Burrow Hill cider, dusk turned to dark and we waddled our way home. An worthy addition to the chain-laden Southbank, I'll be returning; I am very excited about smoked corn on the cob. And they do Negronis.

Pitt Cue Co.

Under Hungerford Bridge, 7 days a week, around lunchtime till 10pm-ish.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Public Service Announcement - 16 Days at The Rye

We've already missed Creperie Nicolas, dammit, so get your asses down to The Rye, Peckham, SE15 3NX this week for other street food stalls.

I, for one, plan on stuffing my face with at least a few tacos, a load of chocolate, more than 3 hot dogs and the rest of it. You should too. (Unless you're a vegan. I suspect there's not much there for you.)

Monday, 16 May 2011

Chilli Miso Noodle Soup

I recently went to Dinings near Edgware Road and one of the dishes, a chilli salmon miso soup stuck with me for a while. It was delicious; on the menu I didn't think it would work, but I was glad I ordered it as it was intensely savoury and soothing. I decided to attempt a re-creation to make a big one-bowl meal. It ended up being a mish-mash of Japanese and Chinese ingredients and was filling and nourishing.

Slippery thin rice noodles bulked the soup out, while the pak choi and mange tout added essential crunch. I had hoped to grill the skin from the rainbow trout until it was puffy and crispy to serve on top, but it was Sunday lunchtime and I knew the honk of it would be antisocial in an open-plan flat. The chunks of fish are added to the broth to poach gently; boiling miso is said to ruin the health benefits of it, so a mere bubble of a simmer is all that is required.

Chilli Miso Noodle Soup

Serves 1

1 small salmon or rainbow trout fillet, chopped into thick chunks
1 heaped tbsp white miso
1 small piece of kombu seaweed
A small handful of bonito flakes (this and the kombu can be substituted with powdered dashi, available at Japanese and many Chinese supermarkets)
1 tsp chilli bean paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1" ginger, minced
1 spring onion - white and green parts separated
A handful of mange tout or sugarsnap peas
1 head of pak choi
A splash of soy sauce
60gr fresh thin ho fun noodles, or the equivalent dried
A few sprigs of coriander
1 lime

In a small saucepan either make up your powdered dashi with 300mls water or simmer your kombu seaweed for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and throw in the bonito flakes.

Meanwhile, set another saucepan on to boil. Slice the pak choi down the middle to halve it, and add to the simmering water. Simmer for 2 minutes, then add the mange tout and noodles (if fresh) for 1 min. Take off the heat and drain, adding it to your bowl.

Drain your soup stock into a recepticle. Heat some oil in a saucepan and add the ginger and garlic. Fry slowly until fragrant, and then add the white part of the spring onion, chopped. Next in goes the chilli bean paste, and after a good 2 or so minutes worth of frying, add the soup stock. Simmer for 5 mins, then turn the heat down and add the miso, stirring well. Slide in the chunks of fish and poach on a very low heat for 5 minutes. Add the noodles and veg back into the saucepan to warm it up, and serve immediately. Add soy sauce to taste and garnish with chopped coriander, sliced green parts of the spring onion and squeeze the lime over it.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Barbequed Prawns

I think I'm on barbeque number 7 of the year already. We definitely like to grill our food; not many weekends have gone by recently that I haven't gone home reeking of smoke.

It can be a little tricky after a while to think of something imaginative to take. I don't really go in for the whole burger and sausage affair, preferring more exotic concoctions, like grilled pineapple salsa or stuffed squid. I stood staring blankly in the aisles of the supermarket before it dawned on me; some skewered prawns would be perfect. I abandoned the place and scored myself a kilo of prawns for a tenner down the local Chinese supermarket.

I made two different marinades, both very different. The first consisted mainly of chipotle en adobo (recipe here) but with an added onion, more garlic and a couple handfuls of dill. The dill seemed an odd choice but it gave the prawns a nice grassy and citrus flavour. You must eat them messily with your hands and a roll of kitchen paper, as it's the shell with the majority of the flavours that you lick off your fingers.

Chipotle Prawns

500gr prawns, shell and head on
4 tbsp chipotle en adobo
1 white onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
A large handful of dill

Set the prawns aside in a large bowl and whizz up all the ingredients for the sauce. Mix together with the prawns and leave overnight or for as long as you can - I did 3 hours and it was fine. Skewer onto wooden kebab sticks that have been soaked in water for an hour or so, and barbeque - they only need as long as they turn pink.

The second load were far more Thai-inspired. A combination of lime, fish sauce, fiery chillis and coriander ensured they packed a punch.

Thai-style Prawns

500gr prawns
5 cloves of garlic
3" of ginger
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 onion
2 handfuls of coriander
2 limes
1 tbsp sugar
4 red birds eye chillis

Whizz up the fish sauce with the ginger, onion, garlic, chillis and sugar. Squeeze in the lime juice and then whizz again with the coriander. Coat the prawns in the marinade for a good 3 hours, then skewer and barbeque.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Pickled Herrings

Once I get an idea in my head, that's it; I can't think of much else. I recently had a conversation with someone about Ikea and the foodstuffs you can purchase there and one thought of those little chunks of herring pickled in those jars, be it in sweet mustard or just dill, got the craving going. I wasn't about to attempt a trip to the Croydon warehouse of hellishness, so I set about making them myself.

I started off with Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall's recipe and went from there. Two different fish counters were scoured before I found the herrings that I needed, and for some unknown reason I even had a little cry when I gutted a pregnant herring, full of roe. Emotional stuff. The herrings were messily filleted - my knife 'skills' need work - and they sat in brine for a couple of hours while the pickling solution was cooling.

Pickled Herring

6 herrings
60gr salt

Gut and fillet the herrings - don't worry too much about bones as they are very fine and will soften when pickled. Dissolve the salt in 500ml water and place the fillets in it to brine for a couple of hours.

Pickle solution:

6 juniper berries
1 tsp mustard seeds
4 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
600ml cider vinegar
6 tbsp light brown sugar
1 small onion, sliced very thinly
A handful of dill

Place all of it except the dill in a small sauce pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and then leave to cool. Roll the fillets up and pack into a sterilised 1 litre jar or container. Rip the dill roughly and add it in. Pour the solution over your fillets and seal, storing in the fridge.

Hugh's recipe recommends you leave them for at least 5 days, but you can leave them up to a month. I left mine for 6 days before I tucked in. You may notice in the photo that there are strips of orange rind in the pickle solution too; I didn't find this very successful, it was too... orangey. So I'd leave them out. Otherwise, they were delicious. Slightly sweet, properly pickled and firm of flesh. They went beautifully with this summer salad.

Pickled Herring & Potato Salad

Serves 2

5 or 6 large new potatoes
A large handful of broad beans
150gr asparagus spears
7 or 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
Half a red onion
2 pickled herring fillets


4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp dill, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk the dressing ingredients together well. Meanwhile, set the potatoes on to cook in boiling salted water. I used frozen broad beans so I blanched them and then peeled them of their tough skins. Cook the asparagus until al dente. Toss the broad beans into the dressing and when the potatoes are cooked, halve them and add to the dressing while hot so that they soak it up.

To serve, scatter the asparagus on a plate and top with the broad bean and potato mixture. Halve the tomatoes and add on top with thinly sliced red onion. Finally, slice each herring fillet into 3 large chunks and place carefully on top.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Yashin, Kensington

'Without Soy Sauce but if you want to' is Yashin's motto. Their belief is that their chefs season their sushi and sashimi correctly without you needing to dip anything in soy, as is the norm. A fairly odd motto in its non-commital nature, but that was the general feeling I got from the place, further amplified by the very strange weird Euro-electro lift music playing throughout the restaurant.

Having been to the much-lauded Yashin twice now, I can safely say it's hugely expensive. Sure, the dishes look pretty, but £30 for the Omekase 8 selection (8 nigiri and a maki roll) is quite wild.

The sushi was beautifully presented and it very much reminded me of Sushi of Shiori's style with a little dab of toppings. It differs in that the fish is blow torched so that it's lightly scorched and sitting at the bar gives the best vantage point of the chefs at work. In particular, salmon topped with ponzu jelly was a favourite.

The omekase isn't enough for a complete meal so we had starters too. I only tried one of the marinated oysters and the shallot dressing was over-powering. The blue-dyed ice was pretty though.

Speaking of pretty, we ordered a piece of scallop sashimi after the white spheres of flesh looked so delicious in the cabinet. Balanced on a gold globe atop a piece of shiso leaf, the attention to detail was stunning. Similarly, carpaccio of grouper with a spicy dressing lacked any spiciness but was arranged and fanned beautifully.

It wasn't all a success. Seafood salad with potato, vinegar and sweet miso was disappointingly low in seafood. Much like aforementioned carpaccio, the soft shell crab starter came piled high with undressed and superfluous leaves.

Ultimately, it seemed a little style over substance. Sure, the fish was expertly prepared with well matched seasonings, but for the money I'd rather go back to Sushi of Shiori for a more homely and comfortable feel. Their omekase, a multicourse affair was far more exciting and stimulating than just a plate of sushi brought to you. I left feeling slightly ripped off and not quite satisfied; both feelings that you never want to leave a restaurant with.


1A Argyll Road
London W8 7DB

Tel: 020 7938 1536

Yashin Sushi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The New Cross House


Inside - very Capital Pubs-esque

Buttermilk fried chicken


Enormous pizza oven


Beer garden

Inside at the outside beer garden...

Upstairs of the beer garden

Capital Pubs have done it again; in what seems like yesterday since the Meateasy closed, they've transformed the desperately grimy Goldsmith's Tavern into a sleek new outfit. In our sneak preview, we saw that wallpaper to mimic original tiling decorate the walls. Booth seating, seen in many Capital Pubs, line one side of the pub and an enormous pizza oven sizzles thin-based pizzas that I know I'll be stuffing myself with in the future.

But perhaps the best bit (especially for a dirty smoker like me) is outside; plenty of seating on the patio decking and a wood burner to keep people warm. Upstairs in the mezzanine is like being on holiday; ivy frames the window frames and sun spills onto the wooden frames.

Time will tell what the atmosphere will be like; predominantly student-heavy, from nearby Goldsmiths? Yummy mummy Brockleyites? Local young professionals, like me and my friends? An amalgamation, I imagine.

Opens MONDAY 9th MAY 2011.

New Cross House

316 New Cross Road,
New Cross,
SE14 6A

Deptford Dame reports here.

Brockley Central reports here.

Friday, 6 May 2011

No. 67 - Neighbourhood Dining

I recently received an email from Nick, a charming and softly spoken head of the kitchen at No. 67, a cafe housed in the South London Gallery on the Peckham - Camberwell borders. With the frank subject of 'shameless self-promotion', I was drawn to it. Usually a lunching or brunching spot, No. 67 was flinging its doors open to embrace the evening crowd. Would we like to visit? Of course. So off I went with a friend who had previously raved about their brunches.

Walking inside was like being in someone's house. Some seriously cool minimalist light fixtures dangled from the ceiling and flickery candles lent the room atmosphere. On a short but succinct menu that is changed daily, you can tell that seasonality is at the heart of the kitchen. After nibbling on a bowl of olives and dipping some lovely, charred bread in olive oil and balsamic, I opted for purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy and flaked almonds. The anchovy element had been worked into a thick sort of mayonnaise, lubricating the al dente broccoli stems well. A solid dish in its simplicity, it was exactly as I'd hoped.

I stayed fishy for my main, opting for a whole grilled mackerel with rocket salad, rhubarb and cream. Mackerel and rhubarb are classic pairings; the tartness of the fruit gets right through to the oily flesh of the mackerel, while the cream cossetted the palate. I thought the rhubarb needed a touch of sweetness - not much, just enough to take the edge off. The skin of the fish took on the flavour of charring, while the meat flaked away nicely.

I turned rather green with jealousy when my companion's roasted pork belly with fennel and orange turned up. A slab of porky goodness, made appropriate for Spring with the tangy salad. Having tried a gobful only made the food envy worse. A side dish of Jersey royals bathed in olive oil were devoured.

Replete, we could hardly ignore the dessert menu when it had things like orange polenta cake with caramelised oranges on it. It sounds positively healthy (ahem). The cake was gorgeously light, but erred on the bitter side. The dollop of cream counteracted this, but once it ran out I was left wanting for a bit of sweetness. The pear and raspberry tart, however, was a thing of great beauty.

A mere 5 mins on the bus from my house and averaging around £25 per head (I estimate; dinner was on Nick) for a 3 course dinner, No. 67 will get a repeat visitor out of me. It's nothing fancy, but it's cosy and comfortable; the dishes are inventive, done well and with great ingredients.

No. 67

65 Peckham Road
London SE5 8UH

Tel: 020 7252 7649

Dinner isn't served on Sundays or Mondays - check website for opening hours.

More photos HERE.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Aubergine, Coconut & Lime Dhal

One year when 7 of my friends and I took a jaunt down to Cornwall, I cooked up a vat of dhal (very Cornish, yes?) flavoured with gentle spices, coconut and lime to feed the masses and accompany a spicy dry lamb curry. Watching your friends devour something you've made is pretty damn satisfying and since then the recipe has been requested. I couldn't quite think of why it wasn't on the blog until I made it recently; it's quite ugly. Nevertheless, it's delicious and it feels like an enormous hug in a bowl, so here it is anyway. It's fairly adaptable; I've in the past thickened it with slimy okra, or loosened it with stock to make soup but my favourite form is as a dhal, to be scooped up with roti.

The coconut milk cooked with velvety aubergines can be quite rich, so a cooling red onion and cucumber salad freshens it all up a bit and adds a bit of punch.

Aubergine, Coconut & Lime Dhal

Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main

200gr red lentils
1 can of coconut milk + 2 canfuls of water or stock
1 tsp salt
1 large onion
6 garlic cloves
2" of ginger
A large pinch of asafoetida - not essential, but it keeps the uhm, wind away
1 tsp turmeric
1.5 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp (or to taste) chilli powder
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 green cardamom pods
1 tsp garam masala
1 large aubergine
3 tbsp oil
Chopped coriander, to serve
1 lime

Chop the onion, garlic and ginger finely, or whack it in a food processor. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook until they become aromatic, then add in the onion, garlic and ginger mixture. Cook this on a low heat until a deep brown but not burnt; this takes about 20 mins.

Add the chilli powder, asafoetida salt, ground coriander, the cardamom pods (split) and turmeric - stir well to combine. Wash the lentils and add to the pan, coating with the spices and finally add the coconut milk and water / stock. Bring to the boil and simmer merrily for 40 mins, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice the aubergine into fingers. Heat the rest of the oil in a nonstick pan and fry until browned on both sides. Add the aubergine into the simmering dhal - they need a good 20 mins in there so don't dilly dally.

5 minutes before the dhal is ready, add the garam masala. To serve, squeeze the juice of the lime over the dhal and sprinkle with coriander, chopped.

For your salad:

Red Onion & Cucumber Salad

1 red onion
1 red chilli
1/2 a cucumber
1 clove of garlic
1 stalk of spring onion
1/2 tsp black onion seeds
1 lemon
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil

Slice the red onion finely into half moons and using the juice of half a lemon, soak for 1/2 an hour. Drain, rinse and return to a bowl. Peel and deseed the cucumber, then add to the onion. Add the chilli, chopped finely. Mince the garlic and the spring onion and toss though the onion and cucumber. Finally, add the onion seeds.

Heat up the oil until almost smoking, then carefully pour over the onions and cucumber mix - it should sizzle. The idea is this brings out the aromatics. Leave to cool, and serve with the dhal.