March 31st, 2011 — 7:16am
I found myself at London Bridge the other day with some time to kill and so I wandered down to Borough Market. It was a Tuesday, so I knew the main market wouldn’t be open but the peripheral shops like Neil’s Yard Dairy, The Ginger Pig and Brindisa would. As soon as you step into Borough Market some sort of money hoover is switched on and your wallet starts haemorrhaging dosh; so it was that I found myself dropping £20 in Brindisa. I bought some cooking chorizo, Ortiz tinned tuna and dried choricero peppers (also used to make paprika). I pondered how to use the latter and decided I’d try them in a Romesco sauce, a Catalan sauce which is a potent blend of peppers, garlic, olive oil, almonds and breadcrumbs.
Romesco sauce tastes about a million times better made with proper Spanish peppers and I wish I’d had Spanish almonds too. The peppers added a smoky depth and bittersweet flavour, just like the sign in the shop told me it would. The pounded, toasted almonds add richness; I adore any sauce with nuts in, muhammara being another good example. We ate it with pan fried fillets of gurnard but any white fish would work well.
I’ll be making this on my annual trip to Catalonia with two of my mates later this year and eating it with vegetables (hopefully calçots), meat, fish, anything and everything that can be grilled on the BBQ under the beating Spanish sun.
Romesco Sauce (makes enough sauce to serve 6-8)
3 dried choricero peppers
1 thick slice stale crusty white bread (if you only have fresh, dry it out in a low oven)
3 large tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons olive oil plus a little extra to finish
Begin by removing the stalks from the peppers (twist and pull), shaking out the seeds and covering them with boiling water. Let soak for half an hour. When re-hydrated, chop finely.
Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry pan, moving them around until they smell toasty and start to colour slightly. Remove and set aside. Whizz the bread in a blender to make breadcrumbs. Skin the tomatoes by make a cross shape in the bottom of each one then covering with boiling water for a few minutes. Drain, then plunge into cold water and leave for a minute. The skins should now peel off easily. Chop finely and set aside.
In a pestle and mortar, pound the almonds until they are all crushed. You can do this in a blender but you need to be careful you don’t end up with nut butter by over-processing the nuts.
Now you just need to mix everything together. You can either pound it in a pestle and mortar but I used a blender as this makes quite a lot of sauce. Don’t over-blend though, you want the sauce to keep a nice coarse texture. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve. You may want to add more lemon juice or olive oil.
11 comments » | Fish and Seafood, Sauces, Sauces, Condiments and Spreads, Vegan, Vegetables
March 28th, 2011 — 8:03am
[Edit: Menu picture below updated March 2012. To see a larger version go to My Flickr]
A while back now I had some mates over and we remembered that Wuli Wuli do takeaway. I’ve been ordering one most Saturday nights since then and it’s so good I thought it might be worth a little reminder for those locals amongst you.
Remember you need to order from the Sichuan ‘B’ side of the menu, the other side is just the usual gloopy rubbish. Last night we feasted on (clockwise from top), mapo tofu; smacked cucumbers with garlic sauce; shredded potato with garlic sauce; the appetisingly named ‘saliva chicken'; monk’s vegetables and fried pork country style. Here’s a picture of the menu (below) in case it’s your first time and you don’t have one. This is the only page you need. If you’re going to order using the numbers make sure to say, “number 126-B” otherwise you’ll end up with number 126 from the A side of the menu and you’ll be faced with sweet and sour chicken balls.
The people are very friendly, the delivery super speedy (I’ve never had to wait more than 30 minutes for my food) and cheap; this lot (with 2 steamed rice) came to £30 and it fed 2 of us twice that evening and for lunch the next day. You get 2 free beers or a large soft drink with orders over £25. For me, nothing cuts through Sichuan food like an ice cold fizzy beer.
15 Camberwell Church Street
Tel: 0207 708 5024
Free delivery on orders over £10
Open Mon-Sat 12-11pm and Sat-Sun 12-11.30pm; delivery time: 5-11pm.
23 comments » | Restaurant Reviews, Sichuan
March 27th, 2011 — 9:26am
I’ve got a new Saturday lunchtime habit and it’s called The Dogfather. Nothing sorts a hangover quite like a ‘Mexican Elvis’, which is a chilli dog of extreme tastiness.
The man dishing up the dogs is Cooper who, like all maverick street food traders, wouldn’t tell me where he buys his ingredients, revealing only that the dogs are made by “a Jewish guy.” What I do know however is that they’re 100% beef, kosher, halal and contain no mechanically reclaimed meat, sulphates and something else I can’t remember the name of; whatever nastiness it is though you can rest assured it isn’t in there.
The taste of that juicy dog is to die for and I wonder if he uses the same supplier as Yianni from The Meatwagon. Yianni and Cooper’s chilli dogs are totally different in the dressing though. Yianni uses much more chilli and cheese while Cooper keeps it a bit lighter. I love them both.
The dog is packing: fried onions, 100% beef sausage, a glorious chilli with meltingly tender beans and shreds of meat, cheese sauce, tangy jalapenos and a cheese slice. The bun, as ever, is key and it’s perfect; soft but with enough stamina to finish the race. Hot sauce, French’s and extra fat jalapeno slices are optional.
It’s all about the show with street food and as I watch Cooper (dressed like Elvis) flip, squeeze and fry we chat about the dogs and how he got started; he tells me he used to work in a diner and just got the bug for the style of food. It’s as good a reason as any.
There are 4 dogs on the menu at The Dogfather: The Mexican Elvis (chilli dog, my favourite); The Snoop Dog (pictured above, beef dog, bacon, BBQ sauce and creamed corn mayo); The Slum Dog (a curry based dog with saag aloo and onion bhaji flakes) and a 4th dog I can’t remember. It’s okay though as Cooper’s just signed up to Twitter, so I’ll find out soon enough. Let’s face it, I’ll be back there on Saturday anyway, inhaling my weekly treat.
North Cross Road Market
North Cross Road Market is now open Monday-Saturday.
23 comments » | Sandwiches, Snacks, Street Food
March 23rd, 2011 — 8:31am
I never thought I’d find myself writing about muesli. The word brings to mind bowls of dusty old oats that either catch in your throat or have you chewing each mouthful for an eternity; the bland food of Health Freaks and Nutrition Nuts, more punishment than breakfast.
Bircher (let’s not call it ‘muesli’) is different because the oats are soaked overnight in apple juice (use cloudy juice for the best flavour) and by morning they have plumped and sweetened. I then add creamy natural yoghurt (full fat, please), grated apple and mix it all together before topping with whatever I around; this morning it was pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Yesterday it was sliced bananas, toasted coconut, sunflower seeds and a good drizzle of runny honey.
This is the only breakfast that has ever been able to keep me going right through until lunch and that’s saying something because even after a full English I’ll be ready for snacking at 11am.
About 50g rolled oats
Enough apple juice to cover the oats
A couple of tablespoons of thick, natural yoghurt
Half an apple
Whatever toppings you fancy. Banana, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds, seasonal berries, whatever.
A drizzle of honey.
Combine the oats and apple juice and leave to combine for at least an hour but preferably overnight. Grate in the apple, add the yoghurt and stir to combine.
Add your toppings. Done.
23 comments » | Breakfast
March 15th, 2011 — 10:07am
I rarely write about restaurants these days. Eating out is still something I do several times a week but a restaurant rarely inspires me enough to want to sit down and tell you lot about it. Nopi is a perfect example. I mean yeah, it was okay but something about it feels a little uptight and damn, it’s expensive. Ottolenghi’s books, I find inspiring. His restaurants, not so much.
Anyway I am breaking my fast with Spuntino because it’s simply bloody brilliant. Nestled amongst the neon strip-lit sex shops of Soho sits Russell Norman’s latest project. It’s a small yet beautiful space, which Russell designed himself; on the first day of ownership he beat a pickaxe through the soulless MDF crust of an Indian restaurant to reveal glorious white glazed tiles and mosaics, slightly faded. Most of the seating is at the bar, the stools made in one of the UK’s oldest forgeries in Elephant, the very same which forged the lions in Trafalgar Square. Caged bulbs hang low above our heads; it’s all very basement chic.
We start ordering. It’s small plates, just like Polpo and Polpetto, all more than reasonably priced (Ottolenghi could learn a trick or two from Norman). We start with crunchy fingers of smoky aubergine plunged into fennel yoghurt. Brilliant. Then there’s just no stopping us. The modestly named ‘egg and soldiers’ is just that, but the egg is encased in a crunchy crust, golden oozy yolk ripe for the dunking. House pickles were perfect, not to sweet nor sour, the fennel the best of the bunch and something I’ll definitely be trying at home. Lardo on toast was brilliant because it was lardo on toast (properly charred), caperberries the perfect astringent foil. A ground beef slider was seriously beefy, with that richness and depth that comes only from bone marrow. Melted cheese can never hurt, and it didn’t.
And then it came: truffled egg toast. Inspired by a dish in a New York caff with limited cooking facilities, the egg is cooked in the centre of fluffy white bread, a layer of melting Fontina in place of the ‘white’. The whole thing is infused with truffle oil. We descend on it like starving gannets, the yolk oozing from the bread with every cut. This is the food of dreams. There’s also a duck ham, pecorino and mint salad, sausage, lentils and radicchio heady with fennel and mustard and my first taste of grits: cheesy and spiked generously with paprika. Really though, it’s all about that truffled egg toast.
We still find room for dessert. Liquorice ice cream with carpaccio-ed pineapple arrives first. “It’s like eating a Black Jack!” I say to the barman who trumps me by saying it’s like eating a Black Jack and a Fruit Salad sweet at the same time, which it is. Brilliant fun. The ‘peanut butter and jam sandwich’ however is even better: the ‘bread’ is made from peanut butter ice cream, thick raspberry jam in the middle, crunchy bits and pieces sprinkled all over. Our spoons clash over the final mouthfuls.
The bar is great too. The staff are knowledgeable about both drinks and food and manage to be super trendy yet not annoying. The atmosphere is buzzing and I say more than several times that I could stay all night. In fact the only problem I can see with Spuntino is the urge to eat absolutely everything on the menu, and drink the bar dry. We spent £120 between two but we ate and drank like Kings and Queens. ‘Spuntini’ are priced at £3-£4.50; the average price of other dishes £5-£6. You can buy a shot of Dewar’s Scotch Whisky for £2 due to the ‘wafer thin margin’. Oh just go. Go, go and go again.
61 Rupert Street
Spuntino operates a no booking policy like Polpo and Polpetto.
23 comments » | Restaurant Reviews
March 13th, 2011 — 1:23pm
A dreadful thing has happened: I am too busy to cook. If I’m at home of an evening then I’m so dog tired that I just need something fast, tasty and relatively healthy before I fall asleep in front of the telly, glass of wine in hand.
Octopus on toast is ticking all those boxes. I buy ready-cooked baby octopus in oil, chop them up, mix with herbs, chilli and lemon, pile on toast and sprinkle with a little good EVOO. You can find cooked baby octopus in fishmongers, or they are readily available uncooked in Asian supermarkets (a cheaper option). You can also buy octopus morsels tinned in major supermarkets.
This was delicious and ready in 5 minutes. I can see ‘things on toast’ becoming extremely popular in this house over the next few weeks.
15 comments » | Fish and Seafood, Healthy, Seafood, Snacks
March 11th, 2011 — 10:40am
People do weird and wonderful things to raise money for charity. Consider the idea of living in a shop window with 300 deadly spiders for 3 weeks as an example. Me, I prefer to cook. I’ve Macmillan Coffee Morning-ed and I’ve Big Lunched, now it’s time to crank things up a gear or ten.
This time I’m joining forces with Ollie, Rambo and Lizzie, to raise extra money for Ollie and Rambo’s Marathon Fund; they’ll be running 26 miles around London in aid of Action Against Hunger. So, for one night only the 4 of us will be taking over the kitchen at The Drapers Arms pub in Islington and cooking dinner for 55 people. The gaffer, Nick Gibson is letting the 4 of us invade his kitchen and feed his paying customers, so we’d better be good.
All the ingredients for the evening will be donated by producers and transformed into a 4 course spring time menu. We’re still ironing out the details but you can expect a welcome cocktail and nibbles, a sexy spring terrine, braised hogget and sides, cheese, a naughty, fruity pud and a warm fuzzy feeling inside. That’s a whole lot of fun for forty of your English pounds.
The event will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 20th April and you can BUY TICKETS HERE (£3 booking fee, soz – we did try to get it waived). Money from sales will go to Action Against Hunger. Do your bit for charity this year by stuffing your face!
The Drapers Arms
44 Barnsbury St
Yes, I will be going to North, that’s NORTH London. See how far I’ll go to raise money for charidee, mate?
Thanks to @full_beard for designing the logo.
1 comment » | Charity Events