Archive for May 2009

The Palmerston (British, East Dulwich)

May 31st, 2009 — 5:03pm

The Palmerston is a gastropub on Lordship Lane, the main artery of my manor, East Dulwich. We usually end up passing it by, firstly because we love our solid local, Franklins and secondly because we have vague memories of me moaning that the Palmerston was a rip off. Feeling all delirious and happy with the sunshine however, we decided to give the place a chance – brimming with excitement at the prospect of a leisurely Sunday lunching and plenty of cold beers.The whole way there I couldn’t think of anything else but crab and crossed my fingers it would be on the menu as nothing but the king of crustaceans would satisfy my belly.

While perusing the menu, cold beers in hands, we praised the pub for its airy, modern feel (quite an achievement considering the wood panelled walls) and felt rather pleased with ourselves for deciding to try the place – even more so with the arrival of excellent, crusty bread and soft butter. I was overjoyed to spot crab amongst the starters although my heart sank a bit at the decison to give it a Thai dressing – I was after something more unadorned and unashamedly crabby. Still, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and ordered it, willing them to prove me wrong.

When it arrived however, my heart sank even further. For £8, I wasn’t expecting a whole crab but seriously, the thing was basically a canape. A teeny weeny pile of white meat arrived (a bit of brown wouldn’t hurt either), swimming in a pool of dressing, which I suspected would completely overwhelm the measly offering and I was right. The crab was merely a texture awash with the strong flavours of chilli, lime and coriander. I am not exaggerating when I say you couldn’t taste it even slightly.

We had decided to share our starters and so after the sum total of precisely one forkful of crab, I sat back to watch Chris eat the first half of his choice – smoked salmon with bread, capers and red onion. Relatively, this was much better, although they were stingy with the bread and the salmon (it looks a lot bigger in the picture than it really was).

I was in a fishy mood and so for the main event I ordered roast monkfish wrapped in serrano ham with crushed peas and a shellfish sauce and Chris the wood pigeon with lettuce, bacon, peas and summer truffles. The starters were so pathetically proportioned that our stomachs gumbled impatiently for more but alas, we were to wait what Chris estimated as forty minutes (I thought more like thirty) before our mains arrived. When they did finally reach us, my heart went through my flip flops as the dish was set in front of me. Four mean, barely centimetre thick slices, which turned out to be over cooked. The peas were fine but the accompanying shellfish sauce just tasted like a weak, canned cream of tomato soup, with none of the intense shellfish punch I had anticipated. At £17, this dish was an extraordinary rip off.

Chris’s pigeon was cooked well, blushing on the inside and crispy without but somehow they had managed to get the shavings of summer truffle to taste of nothing, perhaps through improper storage. We both agreed that the side order of Jersey Royals was the best thing about the meal – standing out for just being brilliantly, naturally tasty.

At the beginning of the meal I had been convinced we would order some ice cream to share for dessert but when it came down to it, the idea of giving these people any more money when they are clearly stretching the concept of ‘high margin’ to its absolute, unmitigated limit, was actually physically painful for me. Chris argued that it would be more sensible to go over the road to the newsagents and purchase a Snickers ice cream bar, which is exactly what he did after we paid the bill as quickly as possible. The meal came to the bones of £70, which considering we drank beer instead of wine and I was still hungry at the end, leads me to to the very certain conclusion that The Palmerston are, quite frankly, taking the piss.

The Palmerston
91 Lordship Lane
East Dulwich
SE22 8EP
0208 693 1629

Palmerston on Urbanspoon

19 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

Café East (Vietnamese)

May 29th, 2009 — 7:44am

Café East is a little diamond in the rough amidst the kind of typical outer London complex which always contains a cinema, a Frankie and Benny’s and a Pizza Hut with not much else around the outside. Simple blue neon signs indicate you are in the right place, otherwise it’s just bolted doors behind which you can hear sizzling and shouting as you catch mouthwatering wafts that drive you round the bend (literally) as you try to find the door. Once inside, the café (it really is a cafe, not a restaurant), is very simple, yet bright, airy and full of Oriental customers. Happy days.

We ordered two starters to share, a dish very much like the Chinese cheung fun (with a very similar spelling on the menu), rice wrappers with a deeply savoury filling of minced meat and topped with slices of mystery meat (to which I’m not averse in the right places – this is one of them) and crispy, sweet fried onions. It came with a dip which I see from Lizzie is called nuoc cham – fish sauce, garlic, chilli and lime juice.

We’d been talking about craving summer rolls for weeks and these didn’t disappoint, soft vermicelli, sweet prawns, crunchy lettuce and strands of herbs including Thai basil and mint. They were duly dunked in the accompanying spicy peanut dipping sauce and lasted all of a few minutes.

For the main event we both ordered the Bun Bo Hue – a hot, steaming bowl of noodly broth containing prawns, chicken and yummy rare beef. The waitress asked us if we wanted spicy, we both nodded enthusiastically and it turned out to be just the right kind of heat – building nicely and giving you a bit of a sweat towards the end but no steam coming out of your ears.

The staff at Café East are attentive and friendly and the whole meal came to £30.10 (without service) for the food and two drinks – mine an iced herbal tea and my mates an iced coffee (there’s no alcohol license at Café East by the way).

Fortunately for me, the place is also but a mere twenty minute bus ride away, a fact I shall be appreciating as often as possible. Although, next time, I’ll make sure not to wear a white t-shirt.

Café East
100 Redriff Road
SE16 7LH

0208 6917777
(The restaurant only accepts cash)

10 comments » | Restaurant Reviews

Alphonso Mango Sorbet

May 19th, 2009 — 7:30pm

I always find it hard to talk myself into doing anything with Alphonso mangoes other than eating them au naturel, straight from the box (apart from using them in salsa, I am a bit addicted to doing that). The flavour of the Indian Alphonso is like well, mango but really sweet, perfumed and intensely so. Widely considered to be the finest mango – they are expensive, coming in at nearly a quid per fruit but do get a bit cheaper as the season wears on.

I saw this recipe for a sorbet on Times Online and it’s so simple I thought it would be rude not to give it whirl. You remove the flesh from 6 Alphonso mangoes – an incredibly simple process with my new mango stoner (cheers mum!) – one swift movement and the cheeks are off and the stone is ready for sucking. You blend this with 200g icing sugar, the juice of 2 limes and an egg white (beaten to soft peaks), if you fancy a lighter texture (I did). It froze quickly, I took it out, blended it, re-froze it and did the same again an hour or two later. It came out near perfect. If I was being picky I reckon it could take a touch more lime for a bit more tang. In fact, some zest on top would be fantastic. Dammit, I can’t believe I only just thought of that!

I heard today that we are in for a heatwave this summer, but I know from experience not to get over excited. The Alphonso’s on the other hand, are pretty much guaranteed to hang around until the end of June so come rain or shine, I shall be feasting on mango sorbet and dreaming of tropical climes.

26 comments » | Desserts, Ice Cream

Eating Eurovision – Denmark

May 16th, 2009 — 11:45am

If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say, ‘Eating Eurovision‘ then um, where have you been?! If you follow me or any of the other participants on Twitter, you surely couldn’t fail to notice the desperate pleas for help. Our challenge (set by food journalist Andrew Webb), was to each draw a Eurovision participating country and then go forth into the city with the aim of seeking out some traditional cuisine. To be perfectly honest, I thanked my lucky stars when I pulled this Danish beauty out of the bag and tried not to show too much relief when others plucked countries like Moldova.

My first investigations yielded the suggestion (thanks Charmaine) of Madsen restaurant in Kensington and, although it does look rather nice, I wanted something a bit more traditional, more full-on nitty-gritty hardcore Danish. My trusty friend google turned up ‘The Danish Club‘ (a stones throw from Green Park tube), founded in 1883 and patronised by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark no less! Full of excitement, I was straight on the blower to the lovely Lizette Bang, who invited me (and my mate) over for a traditional ‘Danish Platter’ – result!

I will admit to feeling a little out of place when I rocked up in my usual clobber to find something akin to a beautiful stately home awaiting me. It was the kind of place where you automatically start whispering and worrying about your posture – pillars, chandeliers and paintings with eyes that follow you around the room. The staff inside were warm and charming however, and fears of not being worthy slipped away as we moved through to the dining room to begin our Danish adventure.

We kicked things off with a strong, dark and super malty Danish beer which Lizette tells me may have been ‘Christmas Beer’ (Juleøl) – so popular that the Danes drink it all year round.

A measure of seriously potent Aquavit (Akvavit) arrived at the same time but (on the advice of our waiter) remained untouched until the food arrived – the idea being that you sup it as an accompaniment to the herrings on the Danish platter. You take a bite of herring, followed by a sip of Aquavit.

The platter is apparently a very traditional meal, typically served at lunchtime and bulging with fish, fish and more fish. Oh, and meat. As suggested, we started with the herrings (my favourite part of the meal). There were three kinds – the first marinated in Madeira, the second straight up pickled and the third served in curry sauce – all sweet, soused and incredibly soft, almost buttery in texture. Among the other fish we devoured were smoked eel, fried plaice, prawns and smoked salmon. Among the meats, a Danish meatball (frikadeller), crispy bacon and pate with rye bread. It is the use of rye bread which makes Danish cuisine different from that of other Scandinavian countries apparently – the bread is spread with butter and the fish piled on top to make an open sandwich, or Smørrebrød.

Amongst all that fish nestled some welcome crunchy beetroot and mystery pickle, which my friend and I tried and failed to identify as pickled pear. Together with some crispy fried onions, the whole plate was a fishy, meaty extravaganza of contrasts although in the end, it defeated even two ladies with seemingly bottomless pits where our stomachs should be.

At this point the restaurant was really filling up, as was the surrounding bar. I imagine this place is a real haven for the Danish community in London – there are some 600 members of the club, although Lizette would like to encourage more of the 40,000 strong Danes in the capital to sign up. I left the Danish Club feeling rather privileged actually, to have been so generously invited and to have enjoyed such warm hospitality. A huge thank you to Lizette and the staff at the Danish club for making my Eurovision challenge a success and a pleasure.

Posts from the other participating bloggers here.

20 comments » | Blogging Events, Travel

The Real Food Festival

May 12th, 2009 — 6:19pm

You may be aware that I also blog for The Real Food Festival website where I’ve been posting about some of the producers. The 2009 festival may be over but the blog will keep running, although now it will be more recipe focused. I’ll love you forever with a cherry on top if you take a look now and again. There will be a larger set of pictures on the RFF blog soon but for now here’s my favourite bits.

The prize for the most animated market stall most definitely goes to the guys at Gaby’s Hot Stuff. Top marks for the music, dancing and banter. Their chilli sauce (below) is certainly ‘lively’ on the palate too. My friend and I dived in enthusiastically. Silly really, considering we should have learned our lesson the day before when we literally laughed in the face of a man who asked if we could ‘take the heat’. Turns out we couldn’t. It nearly blew our heads off. Eyes watered, tongues burned and there was sucking of air through teeth.

We later roped our mate into trying it too, knowing full well what he was in for but allowing him to carry on for our own entertainment. The look on his face afterwards though filled us both with remorse as we re-lived the pain vicariously. He left us to find his fiancée soon afterwards.

I did buy a bottle of the super strength stuff even though it packs a hefty punch, because it also has the most incredible fruity scotch bonnet flavour. I actually bought it for my boyfriend but I am the one who’s become addicted. I’ve eaten it with eggs, chips and I might as well admit that last night, I actually ripped the corner off a loaf of bread, just so I would have something to dunk in it to get my fix. If you’ve got a problem with chilli sauce like me, then how about trying this little game for jinks, courtesy of the chilli men themselves; next time you are feeling the burn, try putting the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth and holding it for as long as possible. When you really can’t take it any more, release and savour the ensuing endorphin rush you chilli freak.

Now on the hunt for something to cool and soothe, we turned our attention to oysters. These Jersey Oysters were an irresistible bargain at a mere 50p each, which is why the guys above were constantly opening them, poor shuckers (sorry). I promptly ordered six and waved goodbye to the fire plus the last lingering effects of over-indulgence the night before. Oysters are one of the best hangover cures going in my opinion, just make sure you get the most of their delicious sea flavour by giving them a good ol’ chew.

Cheese is also an excellent soother of palate and among the many on offer I found the Laverstoke Park Farm fresh buffalo mozzarella the most interesting. Made in Hampshire, it has an excellent flavour which kind of explodes in your mouth in a milky burst. Slightly unusual in texture, it is firm and almost grainy although not unpleasantly so.

I had to stop by DeGustibus too – for the entertainment as much as the bread. The guys here are super friendly and always up for a bit of banter. Take Jim (above) for example – if he’s not waxing lyrical about the latest loaf or cake from the DeGustibus kitchen, he’s having a laugh. Kneading clearly gives you great biceps.

This young chap from was also in fine spirits. He seemed slightly surprised (or possibly scared?) by my excitement at finding he had Brew Dog beers or perhaps he just doesn’t get that many female customers. Don’t worry though sisters, I’m representin’.

I also packed some Halen Mon smoked salt and a bulb of smoked garlic from French Flavour into my bag nestled next to a jar of excellent aubergine pickle from Cafe Spice Namaste (above), which gives me a great excuse to make a curry this weekend.

As much as I had a good time filling my belly and emptying my wallet, I’m sorry to say I didn’t catch any cookery demonstrations or tastings. Although, you can probably tell from the pictures that I most enjoyed talking to the producers anyway. The RFF recognises the value of the small producer, subsidising them – enabling many to attend that could not otherwise afford it. The benefit for the customer is that we get to taste the difference in something made with a bit of love and for that reason alone the festival made me a very happy lady.

11 comments » | Food Events, Lovely Food Producing People, Markets

Fregola Sarda with Roasted Vegetables and Wild Garlic Pesto

May 4th, 2009 — 7:52pm

Yesterday I made my 7th notch on the 2009 BBQ bedpost. Not too shoddy considering it’s only spring. Every Brit knows you need to make the most of each glimpse of sunshine – case in point being this very next day as we are dealt a dose of predictable bank holiday gloom. Cloud and drizzle hangs over London, no doubt putting paid to plans of picnics, walks and BBQ’s everywhere. By the end of the summer though, I will have grilled, smoked and charred every ingredient I can think of over a hot kettle of coals. There will be memories of beers that flowed, fingers that got burned and I will probably have gained half a stone.

Our most major BBQ achievement this year has been actually bothering to find out how to use the thing properly. I always wondered why slow cooking joints just didn’t happen until I consulted google when making this lamb. Still, mustn’t get too cocky – there are always lessons to be learned. The moral of the story this week? Don’t forget your drip tray.

You see, this salad was actually just an afterthought addition to the BBQ, the leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, out of place with the rest of the menu but delicious nonetheless. The main event was supposed to be these jerk pork ribs, big meaty beasts that had been sucking up that spicy sweet seasoning all night long.

The butcher had sold out of regular ribs so I opted for strips of pork belly with the ribs still attached, figuring that more meat is clearly a good thing. Knowing they would need long cooking I started them in the oven with the intention of finishing them on the BBQ. In my excitement however, I forgot to position the drip tray to catch all the fat and just slapped them right on.

I wandered off for literally a minute before I heard screams from outside and turned to see 2 foot high flames leaping from the Weber. The ribs were sticks of charcoal within 30 seconds. Ruined. In true carnivore fashion though, we picked through the burnt remains for nuggets of meat in the kind of frenzied, primal display that can only take place among good friends. That is why I bring you pasta.

The Fregola Sarda is a toasted Sardinian pasta with an earthy, nutty flavour, made by rubbing with the hands to form crumbs (‘fregare’ apparently means ‘to rub’). It is immensely toothsome and satisfying – a pure carb hit to help me on my way to that extra half stone. I mixed it with some roasted aubergines, peppers and a few stray spears of aspargus.

For the wild garlic, a big thank you must go to The Food Urchin, who has been kindly supplying the food blogging community with a seemingly endless supply of plants from the bottom of his garden. A handful of leaves make fantastic pesto, with none of that raw garlic edge you get when using more than half a clove in the regular variety.

Determined not to let the rib fail get us down, we took inspiration from the flames for dessert – bananas flambéd in rum with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Classic hot and cold and sweet caramelised goodness. The remaining rum went into mojitos, which we enjoyed while sprawled on sofas, cradling our over-stuffed bellies and bickering over a board game. There may even have been dozing at some point. Someone bring me a pipe and slippers.

Fregola Sarda with Roasted Vegetables and Wild Garlic Pesto

1 packet fregola sarda
3 bell peppers (I used two red, 1 yellow)
1 large aubergine
4 spring onions, just the green parts really, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Wild Garlic Pesto

1 handful wild garlic leaves, well washed
50g pine nuts
50g parmesan
Olive oil (about 100ml)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

– Preheat the oven to Gas 6/200C
– Cut the peppers into wedges and the aubergine into inch cubes. Spread the peppers and aubergines out on different oven trays then drizzle each with olive oil and season. Roast them for about 30 minutes or until soft and slightly charred. Allow to cool then chop to desired size.
– Cook the fregola sarda according to packet instructions (about 15 minutes in boiling salted water)
– When the pasta is done, drain and mix with the vegetables then add the sliced spring onions.
– Make the pesto by either putting the wild garlic leaves in a blender with the pine nuts or crushing them together in a pestle and mortar (good for stress relief). Then stir through the grated parmesan, lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Taste and adjust as necessary (add more cheese, seasoning, whatever). Stir the pesto through the pasta and serve.

25 comments » | Barbecue, Lunchbox, Main Dishes, Pasta, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetables

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