Archive for August 2008

Franklins, East Dulwich.

August 21st, 2008 — 6:46pm

This is so, SO overdue. Franklins is our local restaurant, a leisurely 10 minute stroll from our front door in fact and oh, how lucky we are. It’s been said before and I don’t mind saying it again, this restaurant is a little gem to have ticking away in such wonderfully close proximity. Of course, this is not our first visit but for some reason, I never remembered to take the camera up until this point and a review without a picture is a bit pointless I think. Franklins is not a fine dining resaurant, it is ‘just’ one that serves consistently good grub and pays attention to detail. Good freshly baked bread is one of those details.

That bread may not look hugely exciting in the photo, but it is warm and seedy with a wholesome flavour and a crusty outside – I always find it a challenge not to scoff the whole lot before the first course arrives, which – surprise surprise – is oysters. We are addicts and that is the end of it. I don’t think you need to hear me talking about oysters again so we’ll move on.

To start, I had smoked quail with raddichio and aioli. Ohmygod. That quail is so intensely smoked it leaves a musky scent even after I wash the mitts I was using to chew every last scrap from its little legs. Yes, I was in a restaurant, but it was so very good. Fantastic aioli too, not overpowering but good and garlicky at the same time. Franklins has a way with meat – always loads of flavour and bold simplicity.

You can see that I plunged right in and demolished the whole thing. That radicchio is quite transformed by a good grilling.

Chris chose the crab tart, which really was that colour by the way, a perfect mixture of brown and white meat – a really strong crabby flavour. The texture of the meat was well preserved too.

For our main course, we both immediately pounced on the same dish, ox tongue with endive, snails and chorizo. We were drooling at the prospect. Oh no but, hang on a minute….where’s the snails and chorizo? That’s right people, Franklins made a boo boo. Quite a big boo boo really considering they left out two of the main ingredients. The waitress was very professional about the whole thing though, our plates were whisked away with the bare minimum of fuss, arriving back promptly adorned with bits of spicy pig and mollusc. From what we could gather the chefs were very embarrassed…

The ox tongue was beautiful, tender and melty with a fine blob of fresh, pungent horseradish on top. The chorizo was a very good one, spicy and rich, coating everything in its delicious oil. We felt the snails didn’t really add anything though. I don’t think they really taste of much anyway and you honestly wouldn’t have realised they were there – apart from the fact you could see them, of course.

Another thing that Franklins does really well – side dishes. I always order the seasonal greens and they always arrive perfectly cooked with just the right amount of bite and wrapped in a blanket of buttery goodness, well seasoned and slippery.

We thought about cheese and/or dessert but were too damn stuffed to contemplate it. We ambled the short walk home contented, slightly tipsy and really rather happy, as always.

Franklins Dulwich
157 Lordship Lane
East Dulwich
London SE22 8HX
020 8299 9598

Franklins on Urbanspoon

22 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

Covent Garden Night Market

August 16th, 2008 — 3:58pm

Covent Garden Night Market has returned to the famous Piazza this year with the same promise of many good things for our bellies. A group of London food bloggers and I were invited down to sample the wares and generally indulge and immerse, as is our nature. I was delighted to finally meet writers of blogs I regularly read, such as Niamh, Julia and Ros - so wonderful to put faces to names and find that everyone really is as nice as you hoped.

So, the market? Anyone who has ever visited Covent Garden will know that it is busy, drawing tourists and city-dwellers alike. This is no matter to a hardened foodie Londoner like myself however, a regular at thronging food markets such as Borough and akin to my fellow residents in having given up on the concept of personal space. Let’s face it, any market with as many fabulous products as this is going to be busy, that’s the point.

Regular readers will know that I am not overly-partial to overly-sweet things. They will also know that there are a few exceptions to this rule, amaretto being one of them. Well, here’s another – it’s cupcakes. My appreciation stems partly from the moment of sinking my teeth into that sweet, unctuous butter cream, followed by light spongy cake beneath but I mostly love the cute factor. How gorgeous are these bite size sweet treats from Lavender Bakery? I opted for the raspberry cupcake with vanilla buttercream (pictured above – really good, pillowy topping with subtly fruity cake), while Chris chose a disgracefully large slice of flourless chocolate cake, polished off the second we got home, with beer.

There are plenty more sweet treats for those of you more ‘normal’ than me – the old-fashioned candy above (loving the aprons), along with Middle Eastern style pastries, fudge and coconut ice. A definite country fete, blast from the past, so-sweet-it-makes-your-teeth-hurt kind of theme here. We all know however, that no-one gets their pudding until all the dinner is gone, but what to choose? I would say the market definitely leans more towards food that is cooked right then and there and products that need no more than removing from the box when you get home. That said, there are some raw ingredients like meat and vegetables available too.

The carnivores are spoilt for choice with bangers, burgers and all kinds of meat-in-bun scenarios. There was a particularly enticing scent coming from Carluccio’s (I could not even get close) and from this Bratwurst stall below. Also check out the hog roast, two of them slowly turning and getting all juicy on their spits.

I was gutted to find that the wild boar sausage had all sold out but I had my eyes on another prize and remained resolute in my determination to find it above anything else – I had heard of a stall selling squirrel meat. I know this might sound disgusting/weird/heinous to some people, but I have to say I’m really curious. I had plans for it and everything. Alas, it could not be found. I asked a vendor at Manor Farm Game if he knew of the whereabouts and he replied that everyone in the market had been talking about it but no-one had seen signs of the furry ones. Apparently, he had been inundated with requests, so it seems I’m not the only one who is curious. No matter, I snapped up some pigeon breasts instead. I’ve had a recipe waiting all summer for those little beauties.

I kicked myself when I realised I forgot to buy some Girolles (below), the colour is beautiful and I can just picture them eaten simply on toast. I may have to go back. This could get a little strenuous on the wallet. OK, so the market ain’t cheap and I can see where others are coming from but the products are high quality and let’s think about the area, it’s Covent Garden, one of the most popular tourist areas in London. I certainly don’t like paying over the odds at markets (e.g. Borough) either but then I don’t shop there every day and I do enter fully into the experience. I live in hope that the higher the demand, the lower the prices…

So, what else did we actually remember to buy? Well, some wonderful marinated feta, redolent with oregano and some silvery anchovies, again, marinated, with a hint of chilli and the most wonderful texture. It must have been the way they were preserved but they seemed much drier than a lot you can buy and much the better for it. As you can see, there was lots of fragrant lavender too but I am emerging from my lavender phase and so managed to resist.

We started looking around for something more substantial to feed on as the smells wafting around started to get the better of us. There were rows of pretty tarts and pastries, paella, risotto, grilled halloumi and falafels among the stalls.

As always, we passed the lot in favour of heading straight for the oyster bar which was a bit weird, being the middle of summer and all (supposedly), but they were perfectly passable and washed down very nicely with a glass of bubbly.

I was in the market too for some spelt bread but disappointingly couldn’t find any. It seems to be catching on rather too slowly for my liking, I really enjoy the texture and my local bakery (The Blackbird Bakery in East Dulwich) does a great one (available on Wednesday’s and Saturday’s).

As usual, I needed zero persuasion when I spotted the sushi stall. It seems I will never tire of eating it – the cravings are getting out of control. These two gents were making endless California rolls with crab, salmon and a veggie option. Not an extensive selection but good nonetheless. Enough to satisfy a craving which was quite mild really, for a Friday.

They even managed to persuade me to try tofu (again). Oh tofu, how I have tried to like you! I realise that you are oh so good for me and a great source of protein, anti-ageing blah blah blah but you taste of NOTHING. I have tried marinating the tofu but obviously didn’t try hard enough because this was actually really good. To be fair, there wasn’t much tofu involved. It’s that brown thing on the right which is basically rice coated in tofu and then deep fried. It was sweet and delicious. Maybe frying is the answer?

If you haven’t eaten enough by this point you can grab a decadent ice or milkshake from the van on the way home. I also like the sound of the ‘brownie fudge sundae’ – who wouldn’t.

Cost and thronging masses aside, this is a great addition to the London food scene. Anything that encourages people to shop in this way is a major bonus in my book. Buying food direct from producers is something that is much talked about but how practical is it really? Well, imagine a wonderful future where everyone has a local market stuffed to the brim with people who care about what they sell and offer real food, not intensively mass produced at God knows what cost. We all thought the vegetable box was a funny idea at one point didn’t we? It is markets like this that get people interested in food and where it comes from and to me, that is a wonderful thing.

We’re not the only ones who think so of course – the Hairy Bikers were there too…

Covent Garden Night Market is in the West Piazza every Thursday and Friday in August. Open from 4-10pm on Thursdays and 12-9pm Saturdays.

24 comments » | Markets

Fennel and Orange Salad with Raspberry Vinegar and Poppy Seed Dressing.

August 4th, 2008 — 2:03pm

I haven’t cooked much since we’ve been back from Iceland, mostly due to the humidity. As the plane was landing we listened to the usual pleasantries from the pilot, ” welcome to London Stansted, local time is approximately 19.30, temperature 27C.” 27! At 7.30? Has the summer happened while we’ve been away? Of course, I’m not complaining or anything, us Brits should celebrate whatever we can get. It was a stark contrast though, leaving the cool, clear, crispness of Iceland and plunging into the sticky city. Straight off the express train and a run for the bus, which was packed, by the way. Squeeze our way on only for the driver to promptly get off and start an argument with a cabbie in the next lane. Welcome home.

So we are mostly eating raw foods at the moment, salads filled with refreshing ingredients and the odd piece of fish. Poppy seeds are my ‘new thing’ and they work really well in this perky little dressing. I love their little flecks against the orange and fennel. I threw in some purple radish shoots which added a nice peppery element but you could easily do without. A nice little twist on a classic Sicilian salad. We ate it with a piece of pan fried haddock, which I managed to coax Chris into cooking, such is my summer oven fear.

This dressing is my entry for this month’s ‘No Croutons Required‘ hosted by Lisa at Lisa’s Vegetarian Kitchen. The theme this month is, you’ve guessed it – dressings.

Fennel and Orange Salad with Raspberry Vinegar and Poppy Seed Dressing

4 small oranges
2 small fennel bulbs
Small handful purple radish shoots (optional)
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
Salt and pepper

– Finely slice the fennel and segment the oranges. Combine in a bowl with half the radish shoots.
– To make the dressing, whisk together the raspberry vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl. Add salt, pepper and the poppy seeds and mix again. Add to the salad to taste. Sprinkle the remaining radish shoots on top.

26 comments » | Fruit, Gluten-free, Healthy, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegan, Vegetables

Eating in Iceland

August 2nd, 2008 — 7:25pm

Oh, how I wish we had spent longer in Iceland. I think nearly everyone I have spoken to about it has asked whether we ate puffin during our stay. I am sorry to report that we didn’t. There is only so much you can cram into four days and it just didn’t happen to cross our path. No bother, we still had some delicious experiences, a couple of which were suggestions of our fantastic tour guide, Gunnar. Sixty nine years old but you would never believe it. Perhaps it’s all that bathing in mineral rich waters, breathing clean mountain air, enjoying the fantastic scenery at every turn. Gunnar remained firm that the reason for his youthful looks and constant cheerfulness was down to all the fish he eats and who could disagree with that? We all know that fish is really, really good for you – physically and psychologically. This man was the best advert for a fish filled diet that you could possibly imagine. Full of energy, warmth and more than the odd song..

The first meal in this little round up was one of Gunnar’s suggestions although this time, sans fish. On our way to see the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall, he mentioned a famous lamb soup on offer in the cafe there. He described how the soup comforts the weary on cold winter days – meltingly tender lamb chunks and vegetables swimming in a clear flavoursome broth. It wasn’t particularly cold, but the soup was still incredibly comforting, like it was easing and fortifying tired limbs with each mouthful. Make sure the bread has a good thick coating of Icelandic butter..

I decided even before the plane had landed in Iceland that sushi was most definitely on the menu at some point. I warn you now though, I have done a bad thing. To be fair, I didn’t actually know what I had eaten until after it had passed my lips. Some ultra-bright red sashimi whizzed past on the conveyor belt – uber-fast by the way – someone having a joke methinks. It was unfamiliar therefore I had to try it. Unable to identify it from the menu and no staff in sight I could wait no longer, it got ate. Not particularly exciting, I couldn’t really identify a flavour as such, it was very mild, a little like beef but different in texture and colour. It wasn’t until we struck up a conversation with two French-Canadian guys opposite us that we found out, it was whale. I know, I know. My bad. We’re not supposed to eat whales are we?

The rest of the sushi was good, nothing amazing but good. The real star was the sashimi, really, really generous bowls of melting tuna which I just couldn’t get enough of. We washed it all down with generous amounts of Asahi beer. While I’m on the topic of beer, the Icelandic brew Viking definitely deserves a mention. It’s a strong beer (hic), at 5.4% but it’s also light tasting and had the ability to make me burst into fits of giggles, particularly on a boat in the middle of a rather choppy Atlantic. A lot got lost on the deck.

I know, I know, how could I? All that Icelandic food to work my way through and I caved to a burger. It was the Viking. That’s all I’m saying.

After the waterfall, we moved on to Iceland’s national park, Vatnajökull, spectacular and fascinating as it is situated directly along a fault line. The European and and North American plates are splitting apart, resulting in dramatic landscapes and a big old lake. Apart from being the only place above sea level where this phenomena can be seen, it is also one of the top diving destinations in the world – you are actually diving between the tectonic plates.

This isn’t the lake! It’s very close though and rather pretty. The water is crystal clear. This was the spot where Gunnar asked if we might like to try his dried haddock, a snack which can be found pretty much anywhere in Iceland – of course, we said yes please. You tear off a piece of fish, spread some butter on top and it’s down the hatch. It’s delicious actually and is washed down incredibly well with a glass of beer, which is what Gunnar is dishing out in the photo. A perfect little food moment in such a stunning history-steeped setting. We were completely beat by this point but it remains one of my fondest memories of a magical country.

14 comments » | Travel

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