Tuesday
Sep112012

Culinary tour of London

Luckily for me London is only an hour long train journey away from where I live. So once or twice a year my husband and I take the opportunity of going down for a weekend of gastronomic adventure that is not easily found where I currently reside. Before leaving for the big smoke, I made a pledge that I wasn't going to waste any meal on mediocrity, given the vast number of great eateries London has to offer.
Setting off on Friday evening we arrived in London and immediately headed for Covent garden to sample the delights of Wahaca. Wahaca was co-founded by Thomasina Miers, who won Masterchef a few years back. This rapidly growing chain of restaurants serves Mexican market food for a reasonable price whilst upholding an ethos of locally sourced and sustainable raw materials.
It has lively and vibrant atmosphere with knowledgeable staff, tasty cocktails and a queue out the door on a Friday night.
The dishes are flavourful, colourful and simple but not for the faint hearted. If you have a delicate constitution take your gaviscon and avoid the spicy tomato juice with the tequila.
Once you've recovered from the previous nights cocktails and chilli a hearty breakfast from Brew will set you up for the day. http://www.brew-cafe.com/
This is a great little cafe which serves really interesting dishes alongside more tradition breakfast fair. Satisfying sweet and savoury options and great coffee make this a must visit place. It is a very popular spot so make sure you get there early to avoid the rush. In winter you can still sit outside as you get a blanket to wrap yourself in as you eat. They also have a lunch menu.
If you want foodie heaven, get yourself down to the real food market on London's vibrant South Bank. http://www.realfoodfestival.co.uk/home. It's is like Mecca for all food lovers with Spanish, polish, Jamaican, French, English, middle eastern, far eastern and many other cuisines laid out like a kaleidoscope of colour.
It runs though the summer on Fridays, Saturday's and Sunday's.
Before you catch the train home stop off in Soho for a fancy cocktail in Mark Hix's bar. Maybe only the one though as they are quite pricey, or skip dinner and have a few!

Tuesday
Nov082011

Great British Bake Off Challenge

I love almondy things, to the point that I would happily sit down and eat an entire block of marzipan. So Battenburg, one of the challenges on the great British bake off, is right up my street. I have never made one before, mainly because it looks like a bit of a faff and fiddle, but also because I'd eat the entire thing, and would be considerably larger than I am. I do love a challenge though, and since I was palming the calorie laden coffee and walnut battenburg onto my appreciative work colleagues, it was all fine.

The recipe can be found here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/coffee_and_walnut_88342

The finished result was pretty good, although it could have looked slightly better. It tasted very nice though and I had a fight on my hands trying to wrestle it off my husband so I could take it to work.

Sunday
Nov062011

Paul Hollywoods Focaccia

If you have been glued to the Great British bake off as I have, you will have seen Paul Hollywood's focaccia made. I love bread, especially Italian bread and when I've made it before, it's been the typical dough you would make for most bread. According to Mr Hollywood, this is not how an authentic focaccia is made, so I decided to take the challenge.
The photo really doesn't do justice to this fantastic recipe. It took three tries to make it, mainly because I didn't realise I had the wrong type of yeast! It is a very messy and sticky dough due to the large amount of water added and takes a bit of practice and any sort of scraper to help handle this difficult dough!

Once you have mastered it though you will make it again and again. It is a perfect bread for accompanying a meal or even to have on its own, with maybe a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in. I'm now going to try adding olives and sun dried tomatoes to add other flavour dimensions but it is still amazing with simply salt and rosemary as I've added to mine.

The recipe can be found here

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/focaccia_08389

The Great British Bake Off book is excellent too so here it is if you fancy an early Christmas present!

Great British Bake Off: How to Bake: The Perfect Victoria Sponge and Other Baking Secrets (Great British Bake Off TV Tie)

Good luck!

Tuesday
Nov012011

Easy tasty meal

I have made this meal several times recently, and it is an extremely easy and tasty family meal. It has chorizo in it which imparts a rich punchy flavour but if you want to make it vegetarian meal, you can omit it. This makes enough for about six servings and it freezes well so it makes a quick meal if you are short of time. There are a few ingredients to get but they are reasonably cheap and will make a large quantity. If you serve it with bread, it will eke it out a bit more.

Ingredients

1 red onion, chopped
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 tin of sweet corn
1 tin butterbeans
1 tin of kidney beans
1 small garlic clove
1 tin of plum or chopped tomatoes
500ml vegetable stock
About 100g cooking chorizo, chopped
Small tub of sour cream
1 avocado
Small bunch of coriander, chopped
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
A couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat a large pan to a high heat and add a little olive oil. Fry the chorizo until starting to go golden, then empty onto a plate and set to one side. Lower the heat to medium then add the onion, celery, carrot, bay leaf and thyme leaves to the pan and cook for a few minutes until softened. Add the garlic and fry for a few more minutes. Then add the chorizo back into the pan and add the drained beans, sweet corn, vegetable stock and tomatoes. Simmer for about 30 minutes until you have a reduced, slightly thickened rich stew. Taste to see if you need to add any more seasoning. Stir in the chopped parsley and coriander and heap into bowls. Top with a dollop of sour cream, a few pieces of chopped avocado and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the top with a little pepper and sea salt flakes if you have them and serve with crusty bread.


Saturday
Jul092011

Two of your five a day!

I've been in the midst of decorating, trying to sell the house, failing to buy a house, buying a different one, moving out and having to wait until the new house ( not our house yet, don't want to tempt fate) is ready! So with all that stress and spending on the credit card what can a girl do. In short, have a Gin and tonic.

I love a good G&T, it seems to make the world right, and with a hint of lime, cucumber and a little elderflower liqueur ( maybe a little overkill for G&T purists, but I can't get enough of the stuff) it makes you feel summery, even if in mid July you have to wade across a river to the car in the mornings. Just to clarify, if my manager is reading this, I don't have Gin and Tonic before work!

This probably isn't your kosher way of making a G&T but it was bloody good and frankly I don't care.

Gin - 1 bottle :-) I recently had 6 o'clock gin, which was very nice. Try to get a really interesting gin as it's flavour will shine through.
Tonic - again try and get one that's got a bit about it, apparently Fever Tree is good stuff.
Elderflower liqueur - optional
1 lime
A few slices of cucumber
Lots of ice

Put a load of ice into a shaker, you don't generally use a shaker but it makes you look cooler!
Cut a few slices of cucumber and chuck into the shaker, halve a lime, squeeze it in and throw it in too. Pour in a measure and a half of gin and just under a measure of elderflower liqueur. Shake, look cool!
Strain into a glass with lots of ice, a fresh slice of cucumber and lime and top with tonic water. If it's a bit strong, you've got it just right! In case of emergency add more Gin.