Saturday, 26 December 2009

i am chicken roast

christmas diaries: christmas day lunch

this was o and m's first christmas. this was also the first christmas that m cooked a full roast lunch. there was roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing, thyme and bay leaves. for veg there was red cabbage braised with a combination of tart and bright citrusy notes of orange, lemon and red wine vinegar and the slightly piney crushed juniper berry, roasted parsnips and potatoes and boiled carrots and florets of broccoli. there was also cranberry and apple sauce.



the slater recipes were taken from two different cookbooks. the red cabbage from his kitchen diaries which my mum sent to me earlier this year and the roast from real cooking which o got bought for me i love slater's recipes. they are easy to follow and bring together very simple flavours. plus there isn't too much fuss. for dessert we decided to go for a pear upside down cake. i paired it with a dark chocolate sauce to make it richer and more festive.

Monday, 21 December 2009

la maison du chocola hot chocolate

pretty much most of my many fellow foodies concur that hot chocolate should be rich and full bodied. of course sometimes we all prefer a soothing milky version, the kind that we’ll make at home with some cocoa powder, sugar and hot milk on a cold night. but when we go out, we want something rich and luscious and decadent. for a long time it was hot chocolate from paul’s and apostrophe that hit those notes. white cups holding chocolate so thick you ‘d have to finish off with a spoon. carluccio’s does a pretty good one too. i recently tried the chocolate milano at caffè nero which was really good. not as thick as the one’s mentioned above but with a lovely velvety and strong chocolate flavour (especially for a chain).


o and i tried paul young’s hot chocolate at the beginning of the cold season. since he is a fan of water based chocolate his is a combination of strong dark chocolate and water. consequently it is a very thin but very very hot and can be enhanced with chilli, cardamom or ginger. his is the kind of hot chocolate that you have to share since it is incredibly rich and dark. 

for a long time now i have been wanting to try la maison du chocolat’s hot chocolate, a french chocolaterie with a boutique in may fair. and so i finally went there this afternoon with my flat mate who first introduced me to their truffles and ganaches. there are two different kinds of hot chocolate here – one infused with vanilla and one plain. j goes for the one with vanilla and i, for the plain one in agreement that it would be best to try both. maison du chocolat’s hot chocolate isn’t thick but the flavour is really really intense. in fact both of us are glad that it isn’t as thick as it’s so rich. we work our way slowly, savouring each sip. j’s is milkier and creamier and slightly sweet with vanilla, mine is a shade lighter than the colour of a solid bar of 70% dark chocolate but is slightly sweeter and creamier. 

we figured it best to add a really rich treat to the season of snow and festivity...if you are a connoisseur of chocolate and you haven’t tried this, hurry up and get here. you’re truly missing out. 

Sunday, 20 December 2009

note: ottolenghi recipes

we have a somewhat cult-ish following of ottolenghi. i got i a signed version of his cookbook which she then recommended to a friend of hers who is in love with it too. a colleague at work went and bought it and declared it to be food porn. of course i own an ottolenghi cookbook and religiously collect recipes that appear in his observer column every week.


the thing about these recipes is that they can appear quite complex. initially i was both daunted and felt reluctant using them because of the length of the ingredients lists and the steps involved. i’ve overcome that fear now and feel confident enough to offer you this advice. what one has to realize about ottolenghi is that they tend to use an elaborate list of spices and herbs which add considerable length to the ingredients list. insofar as the steps involved, i often find that a little bit of creativity and adventure through adaptation and tweaking can help.

last night my flat mate and i cooked an ottolenghi dinner. we had roasted chicken with sumac, zatar and pine nuts and an apricot cous cous. it actually turned out to be quite simple as the chicken was left to marinate overnight and the cous cous really didn’t take that long. Instead of soaking dried apricots and chopping them i used the shortcut and got pre-chopped soft apricots. although this time j and i followed the spirit of the recipe closely, next time i will do away with frying the pine nuts in butter and blotting them by pan roasting them instead. It saves me extra dishes to wash, less paper towel used and tastes just the same.

so here is the thing, don’t let the cookbook intimidate you. instead read through the ingredients and steps and rationalize and tweak them. cheat where you can (after all delia and nigel do it too). and then sit back and enjoy with a glass of wine.

i must say that our roasted chicken was mild and flavourful. it’s quite remarkable how ottolenghi combines an assortment of flavours and neither one of them overpowers each other. our chicken was roasted with sumac, zatar, thinly sliced rings of lemon and cinnamon. the pine nuts added richness and chopped parsley, freshness. our cous cous was perfectly fluffy and slightly sweet with apricot and caramelised onions with the cool refreshing flavour of a trio of fresh herbs – mint, tarragon and parsley.

if you have an ottolenghi cookbook. try it. you won’t be disappointed.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

broadway market and a touch of snow

saturday afternoon found i, d, o and i at broadway market. what started off as a crisp winter day with a hint of snow got momentarily washed out by rather heavy rain making us run for cover. when the sun reasserted itself we all emerged from the bookshop to feed our rumbly tummies. the unanimous decision was burgers. a beef patty each in a soft white bun with grilled onions and if you want some stilton. there are big bottles full of ketchup, brown sauce, garden chutney and extra strong mustard to dress up the burger further. o went a little too easy on the mustard and suffered too peppery an experience. they were good burgers but, every time i have a burger in london i pine for an american one.




american burgers have a thick patty which is gloriously juicy and slightly medium rare served with a large slice of tomato, some gherkins and american mustard. o prefers his bun lightly toasted, for me it’s about the freshness. if the bun is absolutely fresh i am not fussed.  

we tasted the offerings from different stalls; an assortment of brownies from different stalls revealed different shades, textures and density of chocolate. there was a fabulous pesto perched on bite sized pieces of white bread. o went oil tasting whilst i tried pumpkin ravioli which despite being luke warm was luscious with the warmth of nutmeg and pumpkin. a chicken banh mi turned out to be disappointing whilst o, i and d loved their sugary vietnamese coffee. i indulged myself in a crepe with grand mariner that was handed to me with a full set of instructions and extra tissue to catch syrupy liqueur. we also had a winter warming spiced apple served hot with ginger or lemon.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

haozhan literally a great place to eat

i and i had our tastelondon girlie dinner date last night. post two tastelondon dinners i have now been accused that i am responsible for what i call ‘a moment on the lips, forever on the hips’ syndrome. i’s contention is that we are eating more than we would do without the tastelondon card. blame it on tastelondon i, not me! anyway, haozhan is a rather glamorous chinese restaurant in the heart of china town. it’s modern and minimalist with its black furniture and clean lines. i points out that the Christmas lights are slightly cheesy but on the whole it’s nothing like its regular counterparts that feature big red lanterns and lots of tacky gold.

at haozhan we order in pairs – two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts as its 241. on the side we order a pot of green tea (and only later do we discover that there was quite a tea selection that we had missed). it takes us a while to figure out what we want and there is much balancing of ingredients between the appetizers and entrees. eventually, we settle on aromatic crispy duck and curry softshell crab to start with.

the curry softshell crab is lightly battered and fried golden with curry leaves and the heat of sliced red chillies. it’s a wonderful melange of flavours, soft and mellow with a little spice. I and i pick at the little bits of batter with our chopsticks till we can lift no more. next is the aromatic crispy duck that has been deftly shredded and removed from the bone.we both assemble our crispy duck, finely julienned cucumber and spring onions in paper thin pancakes smeared with a deep slightly molasses flavoured hoi-sin sauce, roll them and tuck in. i love the contrast of flavours in Chinese cuisine – sweet, salty, spicy and soothing.
our entrees arrive and both i and i stop to admire the presentation. the hoazhan tofu is squares of tofu in two tones with its cover of chopped spinach and white of scallop with a crown of salmon roe served in a row on a long white platter. the haozhan beef rib eye is served in a shallow white bowl in a contemporary shaped basket of fried vermicelli. previous reviews of this place say that haozhan’s tofu is so good it can convent non-tofu lovers. our first bite proves the point. the tofu is silken and tastes almost like a warmed custard. the scallops are fresh and tender. the only pity is the salmon roe which is more texture than flavour. but its lacking qualities do little to mar the experience as the tofu itself is excellent. i found it to be too rich after eating two pieces, a feeling that i don’t echo.
there was a brief pause before i and i tasted the beef and for a moment after that there was complete silence. the beef was tender and juicy and packed full of flavour. there was a hint of sweet that cut through the black pepper and the red wine with the onions adding a little crunch and wholes cloves of softened stir fried garlic coming together to make a fantastic entree.

i and i chose not to order any rice or noodles, a wise decision as we really were quite full at the end of the meal. we spent considerable time swapping stories about the men in our life and their eating habits, a conversation that continued through dessert.
we had thought of splitting one dessert but the waiter suggested two. it was practical advice based on 241 but not so practical for our waistlines. it was well worth it though! I was more partial to the haozhan cream of pumpkin which came in a martini glass. it is a chilled pumpkin and cream puree with a scoop of vanilla ice cream dusted with a bit of cocoa and some steamed black rice to add texture to the smoothness. i really liked the stronger nuttier flavour of black sesame ice cream with crunchy vegetable seeds.
we’ll definitely be going back here!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

caramel cake with brown butter frosting

my other half celebrated two and a half decades of his existence on saturday. last year i made him a really intense chocolate cake which was a little too sophisticated a birthday cake for a bar. so this year i decided to do something with frosting to be eaten in large thick slices or chunky squares. maya angelou’s caramel cake with caramel frosting was the perfect answer. there was one slight problem though – the recipe is far from simple. although relatively easy to make provided you follow the instructions it is really the tedium of it all and the various pots, pans, mixing bowls and spoons that get dirty making it. 

to start with there is the caramel syrup which calls for a constant swirling of the pan whilst the sugar is on the heat. the addition of hot water into the caramel is slightly scary as the sugar sputters and spits furiously with the liquid introduction especially when you are stirring it.

creaming the sugar and butter in the absence of a beater was a bit of a challenge (partly my fault as i didn’t manage to get the butter at room temperature in time). after the creaming was the sifting of the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and the beating of eggs with more sugar in yet another dish. 

once i had the cake safely in the oven (i used a square cake tin instead of two round ones) i turned my attention to the caramel frosting which called for browned butter. browning butter is all about care, the heat shouldn’t be too low so as not to get the butter hot but not to high either so as to burn the butter. i would recommend using a stainless steel pan so that the change in colour is visible. it took me around ten minutes and the butter was browned. i set this aside to cool and took a ‘dish washing’ break. 

once cooled i added icing sugar to the butter and having forgotten cream decided to improvise using the left over caramel syrup to soften the frosting. it gave it a really nice caramel colour and a deep earthy sweetness.

the cake emerged perfect from its square tin and was frosted thickly sitting on a red square base. the verdict: all of o’s friends loved it.  maya angelou’s caramel cake is a labour of love. and should you want to labour away you can find a little bit of conversation with the poet at her table and the recipe too.

Friday, 27 November 2009

sekara

the other day i was taken to eat sri lankan food at sekara: a small restaurant near vicoria that smelt heavily of sambol and spice. we had rather substantial starters – a egg hopper each. essentially a batter of rice flour, coconut milk and palm toddy that is cooked in a shape of a shallow bowl with crisped edges. the centre of the hopper is a poached egg and on the side is sambol. the texture of a hopper is a kin to that of a buttermilk pancake but with a slightly sour, yeasty edge. i tore the edges of the hopper to soak up warm liquid yolk and ate it with some sambol.
my entree was a tradition sri lankan dish called kuthu roti (literally chopped flat bread). strips of chopped flat bread are stir-fried with meat, eggs and vegetables. it’s textures are similar to chow-mein, a very substantial version that is. and instead of the salty soy there is just the comfort food edge of bread, vegetables and meats. you could it you wanted to jazz it up with a sambol but there is something quite satisfying about eating it just the way it is. the round the meal of was a strong cup of tea, sweetened with a bit of sugar and mellowed with a little milk.
an imperative for those who have to head back to work...
the only downside of the whole experience: the exceedingly lax service courtesy of a terribly understaffed restaurant.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

needoo grill

a very rainy thursday night found o and i and s and d at white chapel station where the air is redolent with the smell of fried onions and slightly stale curry power. we arrive at needoo grill half drenched to find our table has been given to someone else. in all fairness we are 15 minutes late but you would think that they would have called to check. instead, we wait in a queue periodically blasted by cold air from the door that opens and closes behind us. needoo’s waiters navigate and serve food through a rather complicated series of movements as there is little space for them to move because of the queue.

we are seated after a short wait in a rather noisy and clamorous dining room painted red. a flat screen telly is tuned into ‘b4u’ – a bollywood music channel. we are handed menu’s which are remarkably similar to tayyab’s which isn’t surprising because needoo is the child of an ex-tayyab manager.

there is poppadum to start with – not as crisp as it should be and the mango chutney that it comes with is disappointing. the mint yoghurt sauce on the other hand is really good. the boys always order mango lassi, something i can’t quite fathom as its richness makes it a meal in a glass. in pakistan lassi is a more watered down affair. it’s british asian version is more of a milkshake. i try some and it’s saving grace is in the fact that it isn’t incredibly sweet and has a slight tart edge of curds.

for mains, we order a bhindi (okra) chicken, special lahori channa (chickpeas lahore style), chicken biryani and a chicken grill. our chicken grill puts us on a slightly inauspicious start as the hot plate of our grill has us choking. perhaps it is a the combination of spice and onion overpowered by the heat but luckily the chicken itself is tasty and juicy. the grill is followed by the rest of our entrée’s. the bhindi chicken is delicious. tender pieces of boneless chicken in a masala heavy with softened browned onions and spice. the lahori style channa’s are just that – reminiscent of lazy sunday breakfasts of channa and roghni naan in pakistan. o says they are best channa’s he has ever had [ i think that the best channa’s i have had in london were at lahore kebab house]. the biryani could be faulted only in its presentation. rather than distinct layers of rice and masala it came mixed together but it tasted excellent. the rice was perfectly cooked and the spices were earthy along with the heat of a chili.
dessert was very disappointing - a watered down version of kheer (rice pudding), it was akin to a dietary rendition of the otherwise rich sub-continental dessert. the final score for needoo grill is a bit tricky. the ups were really up and the downs really down. the entrée’s were really good and the dessert really bad. the service was lacking too. o’s verdict – give them some time as they are a relative new comer. looks like we’ll be back again.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

dinner at the modern pantry

o and i celebrated our first year together over the fusion flavours of anna hansen’s cuisine at the modern pantry. the food here can be steep on the pocket but luckily we had the london restaurant festival in our favour – two courses and a glass of bubbly for a fantastic twenty five quid.

o and i started out on sweet corn, feta, date and coriander fritters with green pepper relish and greek yoghurt and kruper quail eggs with a sweet chili dip. my fritters were a medley of colour, texture and flavour. sweet, salty, the heat of chilli calmed by the soothing yoghurt. this may explain why as always o eats more of my starter than his own. o’s quail eggs were encased in a light tempura-esque batter paired with a sweet chilli dip.

our entrees were fuller and heartier in flavour. they were both red meat: mine an onglet ofbeef marinated in miso, cooked medium rare and served carved surrounded by its juices, a tart and chili tomatillo relish with earthy and comforting thick cut cassava chips on the side. o’sduck leg curry featured a large duck leg cooked to such tenderness that a mere nudge of the fork had the meat falling off the bone. fresh green coriander added spring, lemongrass a complexity and bok choi a break from the robustness of the dish. there was fragrant thai rice on the side.

although quite full we felt that something sweet was a necessity. i think it was also a curiosity as to what there was. on the waiters recommendation we had the chocolate based dessert -chocolate and liquorice delice, chocolate granita, sautéed plums, cocoa chilli wafer. it was an interesting concoction of dark and light chocolate, textures that were brittle and melting and tart sautéed plums that had slightly caramelized edges. both o and i tried to get a bit of everything into each bite and combined together with a hint of cream for a smooth edge, it really was delicious.

the modern pantry brings together ingredients and flavours that i would not necessarily conceive of putting together but when they did arrive they displayed a natural affinity for each other – texture, flavour, colour, depth and contrasting temperatures to make for a wonderful dinner. our only advice is, don’t order the hot chocolate. it is a disappointing affair. more suited to a child’s palate on account of its pale milky-ness. it is bereft of the richness that both o and i like in our hot chocolate.

Friday, 2 October 2009

poached tamarillo, greek yoghurt, manuka honey

breakfast at the modern pantry

an early winter day found o and i at breakfast, one of our favourite meals of the day. we had chosen the modern pantry, which is known for its eclectic offerings. i had the sugar cured new caledonian prawn omelette. essentially strong asian flavours, coriander to garnish and the slight heat of chilli in from sambal. it was a great savoury note to start on although i had to order bread on the side as the omelette is served without. o’s plate was a riot of colour, emerald green spinach, slow roasted vine tomatoes with a hint of dried herbs, grilled salty halloumi cheese and poached eggs with deep yellow yolks.

i have a soft spot for tamarillo’s. a south american fruit with a ruby red flesh and skin. at the modern pantry it is served poached in a snow-white greek yoghurt with a swirl of thick, amber coloured manuka honey. manuka honey has a deep and strong taste, its sweetness is complex. it is the dark chocolate of honey. the tamarillo tastes like a cross between guava’s and raspberries albeit with a smooth texture. a must try if you are breakfasting or brunching at the modern pantry.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

bincho yakitori: japanese in soho

us two foodinista’s had a girly dinner at bincho to catch up on each other’s lives. because bincho is all about skewers and grilled things both and i had to spend considerable time navigating the menu. we picked a mix and match – there was the traditional sake teriyaki of salmon with a sticky sweet glaze, skewers of a beef tongue is a dark glaze, eringi mushroom that had a deep meaty flavour and akadashi which is red miso soup with nameko mushrooms and sancho pepper. it was a burst of flavours!

we were slightly unsuccessful with one of our shared entrees. a whole salt grilled sardine, which was a challenge to eat not only on account of its tiny bones but the double challenge of chopsticks. the grilled aubergine with miso was curiously comforting. the miso paste that formed a layer onto of aubergine whose flesh had been grilled to softened was not salty like in miso soup. it was slightly sweet and paired well with the soft and yet deep flavour of the aubergine. then there was the fried tofu with chilli and kimchee. here the mellowness of the tofu was broken by a thin gelatinous coating with a hint of chilli and the garlic-laden punch of kimchee.

dessert turned out to be a real gem. although i and i agreed that we have had much better green tea ice cream it was the layered and slightly warmed banana cake, which really shone. the contrast of warm and cold and mild and slightly strong green tea made dessert a real winner.

Friday, 25 September 2009

cocorino


focaccia tricolore
at cocorino mellow, rather sentimental sounding italian music mutes the voices of chatting people. a long broad counter displays food and a blackboard announces the menu. admittedly, it’s a bit bizarre to find granola and porridge on the brekkie menu of an italian place but i guess londoner’s need catering for. i am here for the focaccia and settle easily on the classic – mozzarella, tomato and basil (pesto) – the pesto tastes good. each of the ingredients shine and the garlic doesn’t over power. i have to abandon reading and eating together as the pesto oozes and luckily misses the book and lands on my bookmark. i find myself doggy bagging the other half as the size is very ample. on the way out i pop into the gelateria next door, a visit to which is in order with o.

kaffeine


it’s a sunny friday and i’m not working. it’s too good a day to stay in doors so armed with a book, my moleskin and a pencil i set out to explore foodie london. there is kaffeine on great titchfield street, one of london’s new square mile serving coffee shops. aussie/new zealand owned/run coffee shops have remarkable similarities in the way they are done up. sharp angular wooden furniture, clean lines and the colour black as an accent. my long black comes served in a black cup. the coffee smells nutty and fresh with a lingering note of summer. i have it with a splash of milk and some brown sugar. it’s actually really really good. i drink it slowly as i read… and while i do so the smell of warm spice and baking wafts through the air…

Friday, 18 September 2009

iranian at behesht

getting to behesht was a bit of a trek. the tube had severe delays and eventually the bakerloo line delivered us to kensal green station into a less than savoury neighbourhood. but for the promise of authentic iranian cuisine by s, o and i would have been unlikely to venture to kensal green. but true to s’ word, it was well worth it!
we started on shallow bowls of a hearty iranian stew called ashe reshteh made of vegetables, beans and noodles topped with slightly soured goats milk yoghurt and texture in the form of fried and crispy onions. along with this were stainless steel dishes of thick creamy yoghurt, spinach and a hint of garlic served with fresh bread from the oven.

it takes us a while to choose our entrees, given there are so many things to choose from. i forgo my oft chosen chello dishes for zereshk pollo ba murgh – essentially rice with chicken and barberries. i love these little red jewel like berries that look akin to pomegranate but are slightly more tart. they are served moistened in butter on top of perfectly boiled fluffed rice – some of which is saffron infused. the chicken, which is hidden in the rice is juicy and so tender that it falls from the bone at the slight nudge of the fork. 


i wasn’t particularly interested in what the boys were having given they had lamb and i’m not a fan of lamb. we spent considerable time post dinner drinking very sweet iranian tea that continued to gain strength from the warm candle base that it was served on. around us are iranian families tucking into oversized entrée’s or enjoying sweet meats with tea. the place itself looks like a cave of treasures. there are lanterns, elaborate carpets and rug cushions, silver pots, arabic calligraphic inscriptions and pictures of the shah of iran. the mesh of colours and objects can be a tab bit overwhelming but should you want a truly authentic and delicious iranian meal i would really recommend behesht. thank you s!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

the gay hussar

o and i finally made it to the gay hussar. tucked into the corner of greek street in the heart of soho, this is an unassuming dining room with a very established reputation. the dining room has a homely feel. its wood panelled walls are lined with framed caricatures (mostly politicians) courtesy of martin rowson. there are book shelves on one side with a range of political biographies and titles. this isn't surprising as the gay hussar is a frequent haunt for politicians, journalists, artists and writers alike. o loved the gay hussar and with good reason, given his political leanings and love for political satire.

on to the food.
dining at gay hussar is a relaxed affair. appetisers, entrees and dessert make it to the table at leisurely pace and perhaps if we visit again it would be wise to have some wine. this time round we had ample time to enjoy the warmth and culture of the dining room itself. most of the people who eat here appear to be regulars. our waitress is particularly helpful when i ask her for recommendations - she says the goulash, which is what i was learning towards anyway but the question was which one; beef or venison? she said the venison as it is very tender so that is what i ordered whilst o went for the beef.

both our entrees came served in shallow white bowls and both our goulash's were rich and bursting with deep flavours of wine and paprika and texture lent by the accompaniments. my venison was a deep reddish brown and was served with red cabbage and tarhonya (lit. egg drops). this is an egg barley that tastes and looks quite similar to wheat berries. it is quite dense and filling especially when eaten with the stew. pickled cucumber added a rather tart and vinegary edge. o's beef goulash came with galuska - thimble egg dumplings that texture wise are similar to gnocchi. they came resting in the stew, absorbing its rich flavours and finished with a flourish of cream.

despite being quite full o and i decided that there had to be dessert. we were split between the sweet cheese pancakes, a dessert made of rum, cream and walnuts and the poppy seed strudel, as they were recommended as being quintessentially hungarian. as we love poppy seeds, it was the poppy seed strudel that we had. i can safely say that this is the best poppy seed strudel i have had so far. paper thin flaky pastry dusted with icing sugar encasing a centre of poppy seed paste - moist poppy seed, soft fruity apple, sultanas soaked to the point that they melted in the mouth. i am pretty certain that there was a hint of liqueur too. the strudel was served warm which seemed to add a depth to the flavours.

we finished on after dinner coffee. mine was a strong cup of filtered coffee that balanced the sweetness of the dessert and o had a cappuccino. if you haven't already been, both o and i would recommend at least one visit to the gay hussar. and if you are having dessert, make a beeline for the strudel. it is well worth it!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

wednesday night supper


wednesday night suppers ought to be simple, quick to put together and shouldn’t require intensive grocery shopping. o had been through a gruelling six hour assessment centre and i wanted to cook a nice mid-week dinner…in my fridge i had a tub of yeo valley crème fraiche with a looming best before date. i also had some lemons and garlic and pasta in the pantry cupboard and on my windowsill are pots of herbs. there had to be a way to make a tasty supper out of this. it didn’t take me long to realize that salmon was the answer. o loves salmon! so off i went to the grocer after work and bought some oak smoked salmon trimmings and some peaches to bake for dessert. it took me roughly twenty minutes to put this whole thing together.

first, i put generously salted water to boil for the pasta. then i peeled some and chopped some plump cloves of garlic, took out the trimmings from their packing, washing a big handful of dill and chopped it up roughly and grated the zest of the lemon. 

i started making the pasta sauce shortly before putting in the pasta to boil. first, i heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to which i added the chopped garlic and the lemon zest. i fried this slightly until it released its aroma and the garlic was lightly coloured. after this i added the tub of crème fraiche and heated it gently. it is at this point that i put the pasta on to boil. i used fusilli but penne or linguine would be good too. 

back to the sauce, i added the smoked salmon trimmings and warmed them through. be careful with the heat here. it should be as low as possible otherwise the crème fraiche will curdle and that won’t be fun. the roughly chopped dill should be the last to go in. once your pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce. stir it gently to coat evenly and then tuck in. oh, and a dash of coarsely ground black pepper. it does marvels!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

emni: indian rediscovered

i have a one-month trial membership from tastelondon, which i am putting to good use. the other day o and i tried an indian place in islington called emni. emni sets out to rediscover indian cuisine reflecting it in the diversity of its menu that includes regional dishes from around india. let’s be very clear, if it hadn’t been for tastelondon i wouldn’t have tried this place because both o and i are agreed that for the size of the servings it’s a bit on the pricier side. we’re both from the sub-continent and are more prone to eating our indian and pakistani food in the east end that is markedly cheaper and very very good.

so returning to emni. o picked a fantastic starter – a harra (green) kebab. it took a while for the starter to arrive but when it did it was worth it. spiced spinach and lentil kebabs with a centre of fig served with some tamarind sauce.

our mains were a selection of dishes including a west bengali kamla phool kopi: cauliflower and potatoes in a rather spicy and almost reduced sauce. a benarasi rampur chicken korma, which was rich with cream and spices including the infamous red kashmiri chilli, that gives it lots of warmth. lemon rice dotted with peanuts, saffron and onion seeds, which tasted exceptionally good. the rice was perfectly boiled with each grain tender and yet whole. as an after thought we had a punjabi saag paneer (spinach and cottage cheese) given the size of the servings. i have to confess that there was ample paneer and the spinach was well seasoned and spiced.we also had ridiculously over priced tandoori roti.

on the whole the food was really good. the spices were top notch and you could easily detect the different notes as they came through in layers. the korma for instance had a creamy note with a kick of chilli in the end. and the saffron and lemon in the rice didn’t compete for attention but came together in a perfect marriage. having said that i don’t think i’ll be coming here unless i get a tastelondon card. without the 50% off i would rather go to the east end or perhaps even nip into masala zone, which despite being a chain offers some really good indian food.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

square mile coffee caff's


so, square mile’s coffee seems to be all the rage in london right now. independent caff’s seem to be hooked onto square mile coffee beans. i happened to try tina, we salute you and the espresso room this week both of whom use square mile coffee. here’s what i think…and should you be wanting a list of more caff’s serving the same you can find one on the square mile blog

the espresso room which is in the heart of the bloomsbury, london’s leafy and literary borough is literally the size of an average sized room in a london flat. it’s high ceilings however, give the space depth and openness and the illusion of being much much bigger than it really is. there are shelves along one wall, quite high to reach that stock bags of coffee. there are also long slim wooden benches lined up against the wall and window. and you can breathe the coffee in the air. t and i were there friday afternoon at lunch between work… quite keen on trying this relatively new place i went with the flat white and she with a double macchiato. the coffee blend here is a bit like a lazy sunday. not hard edged but rounded and warm. its good on a friday afternoon in preparation for the beginning of the weekend but i’d probably need something stronger in the morning on weekdays. the barrista there recommended a piccolo if i wanted something stronger and t advised on a double shot of espresso in my flat white. in its perfection of coffee the espresso room’s service is a tad bit slow – so you should either be willing to wait in the interest of good coffee, or try and come at a time when there isn’t too long a queue.


saturday found o and i at tina, we salute you. i have to confess, what drew me to going here is the name. i was curious about tina. turns out tina is the woman on a poster who the owners of the café have a soft spot for. this place has a slightly grungy vibe. the music is loudish and there is a cacophony of voices. on this saturday afternoon the communal table is over run by mothers and their children. assorted bottles of preserve, runny honey, peanut butter and squeezy marmite sit around the table. o and i spent a considerable chunk of our afternoon here, reading the newspaper and running through some forms – along with coffee [a long black for me], a flat white for o, a slice of vicky’s sponge and some crumpets too. the coffee was very good and so was vicky’s sponge. it was a pity that we were so full because the sandwiches looked damn good. they were made with extra thick sliced bread. too sad tina’s isn’t nearer to me, but i may just be tempted to make my way there again.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

peacock at the rowsley


on bank holiday o and i were out in the peak district in derbyshire. our weekend splurge involved a three-course dinner at the peacock at rowsley. the dining hall is a simple rectangular room whose windows look out into a well-kept garden. one of the walls is painted a spring green lending freshness.

we start of with aperitifs in the bar and then make our way to the dining hall. once seated o and i are handed the dinner menu. we consult back and forth on our choices and eventually decide as follows – i start on a salad of a melon, berries and rum. it is beautifully presented with my melon sculpted in a rose shape served on a disc of watermelon and berries and cherries on the side. the dressing is of rum. it’s a quintessential summer salad and the fruit is very sweet and juicy. on the other side of the table o is tucking into a rather elaborate starter – a square of toasted brioche topped with a poached egg, a disc of warmed goats cheese, an asparagus spear and hollandaise sauce. for a person not so keen on goats cheese o looks quite satisfied and before i can say anything he tells me that the goats cheese is quite mellow and hasn’t over-powered the rest of the ingredients.

our entrée’s arrive and are once again beautifully presented. o’s is a classic british roast, slices of carved beef whose centre is a deep pink edges are seared a dark brown. with it is a yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and gravy. steamed vegetables bring up the side; bright carrot batons, peas and cauliflower with cheese. i have chosen sea bream that comes sitting on top of puy lentils – its skin is bring silver and glistens lightly. the sides have a length of warmed turmeric cream. the fish flakes easy and is full of flavour.

choosing dessert turns out to be a tricky affair as most of the choices are tempting. first both of us are tempted by the creamed rice pudding that comes with cherry preserves but we veto this choice as it’s something we can get pretty easily, all the time. next is the trio of ice cream that includes strawberry sorbet and passion fruit ice cream both of which are homemade. o also toys with the idea of white chocolate cheesecake with blueberry compote that i am not particularly keen on [i like the good old fashioned baked cheese-cake!]. then there is the lemon tart…but really i had already made up my mind on the sticky toffee pudding. and o after some mulling over chose the same. we couldn’t have chosen better. the pudding came served in a bowl, warm and a dark toffee in colour. there was a huge dollop of cream on top and thick toffee sauce all round. each bite revealed a dense toffee flavour with the zest of orange.

we finished on after-dinner coffee that was served with cream and milk and delectable hand-made truffles whose centres were liquid dark sea-salt caramel that oozed after the first bite.

Monday, 3 August 2009

roti & naans


i love roti, in all its shapes and forms - the laal mandari which is round, quite thick and made of wholemeal flour (strangely termed ‘laal atta’ which literally translated means red flour). then there is pateeri roti made of slightly fermented dough and is slightly thinner. roti’s white flour cousins are called naans - roghni is a round patterned one, sprinkled with sesame seeds and brushed with clarified butter as soon as it emerges from the tandoor. afghani naans tear away in long strips as they are long and linear hemmed in by a thick and very soft crust. stuffed naans are a meal unto themselves and are best enjoyed with yoghurt, plain or minted, the best is keema naan (minced meat). on my last visit to the tandoor mum and i stood in the sweltering heat and while we waited for our order of roti and naans to be prepared we couldn’t resist the temptation of a fresh roghni naan. fingers and tongues slightly scalded we tore bits and peices and ate, all the while grumbling about mid-meal snacking. to me roti from the tandoor is what warm bread is from the oven to europeans - or as euphorium bakers say, it is the simplest pleasure in life.

Friday, 17 July 2009

yildiz

one evening shortly after my return from pakistan o & i landed up at  yildiz ocakbaşı restaurant i discovered after a little google-ing that ocakbaşı means a grill restaurant with an open fire pit in the middle. the london restaurant doesn't have a fire pit in the middle but it does have a rather long grill as soon as you enter. the lighting here is dim and the interior warm with the heat of the grill and the smell of meat. o likes starters and orders the hellim - charcoal grilled slices of very salty haloumi cheese. i personally prefer my haloumi sliced a little thinner but it was tasty all the same. with it came pide, warm and dusted with sumac.


for mains i ordered the chicken shish and o, the chicken beyti. the difference between the two is that the beyti is a mince kebab and the shish, cubes of chicken. both of them were cooked on the grill. neither of us were prepared for the generosity of the helpings. along with the rice, pide and salad that made up each plate there was a scrumptious complimentary serving of grilled onions in turnip and pomegranate sauce, the tang and tart of which accentuated the clean herby and salty flavour of the meat. the complimentary fried onions dressed with some sumac were equally good. 

the next day i came over and we ate the left overs with a fresh order of imam bayildi - a large aubergine stuffed with tomates, onions and garlic served on a bed of rice. yildiz's rice is incredibly good. long grain and fragrant. we would all recommend eating here. especially since not only is it really good wholesome food but its very well priced too.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

t at sara's

my (self appointed) god mother organized a tea for me post my marital-engagement. there were two kinds of open faced sandwiches; a thick layer of pesto with a garnish of tomato & basil, mozzarella and tomato. and chicken baked in a soothingly mild manner. of course there is a signature seasonal fruit salad and auntie s’ infamous crepes stuffed with peaches and cream that o has developed a penchant for. with it was tea, the perfect cup of it. brewed to a strong perfection and whitened with full cream milk.

Friday, 12 June 2009

mandalay burmese

at mandalay, there is a map on the door that details the location of the toilet. this tiny family run restaurant finds itself on the grubbier side of edgware road. i, o and i would definitely recommend a visit and also advise that you order starters to tide over the waiting time – we ordered a mix of dishes and a starter as an after thought that arrived alongside dessert. yes, i agree that that is a rather bizarre manner of eating but hunger coupled with a 45 minute wait doesn’t help. notwithstanding, do not let that put you of visiting this place. it’s really worth the wait!

we ordered a medley of dishes. there was lentil rice which to me was a rather trendy version of kichiri – a pakistani dish made of yellow split lentils and rice but in a soft consistency (often used to soothe upset tummies). mandalay’s version wasn’t creamy. Its rice held its shape and was flecked with lentils. the okra was cooked to perfection maintaining its greenness and garnished with crispy fried onions. a personal favorite, the khauk-swe which is made up of noodles served in a curry flavoured coconut milk with prawns was excellent. the coconut milk adds depth and tempers the edge of chili and the noodles, meat and vegetables in it make it a wholesome meal. the chicken in tamarind was tangy and sweet.

dessert arrived alongside the prawn and vegetable fritters, essentially shredded vegetables and baby prawns dunked in a flour batter, deep fried and served with some mango and chili sauce. the banana fritters came as whole banana’s with a crisp golden coating and my semolina and coconut cream was an interesting combination of little blocks of pale cream semolina nesting in coconut cream with a drizzle of dark caramel syrup.

Monday, 8 June 2009

grandma jeann's roast chicken

chicken being prepared for roasting
j and i roasted a chicken for monday night supper. the recipe we used came from the observer food monthly and is recommended by alain ducasse. it calls for a particular french hen which we cannot get in london so j went down to our local butcher and bought a rather plump medium sized free range hen. while j gave the hen a washing, i quartered three eye stinging red onions and partially peeled cloves from a whole head of garlic. the garlic cloves were stuffed in the cavity of the chicken and the onions were tucked into the sides of the roasting dish to secure it. the hen was rubbed liberally with salt and oil. once prepared it went into the oven at a hundred and eighty degrees celsius for an hour and a half. j and i deliberated briefly over the temperature and the sealing of the juices of the chicken by starting off at a higher temperature. in the end we decided to trust the recipe as it was. the recipe was also rather strange in that the roasting chicken had to be placed on its side, resting on its wing. however, it confidently maintained that it was this particular roasting position that makes for a really tender breast meat. j roasted potatoes for herself whilst i chose a granary roll with which to mop up the juices. we also boiled some peas.

lentils and spice

it is a glorious summer afternoon. the sun burns hot and my already nut brown skin glistens. the slight breeze carries across the smell of lentils simmered with lemon, cloves of garlic, a cinnamon stick and a bay leaf. when in need of comfort i turn to pots and pans - open up jars of subcontinental spices to inhale the smells of memory and the days of a simple life - when excitement was weeks of summer vacation. pots, pans and jars of spice to me, recall those simple pleasures. i am recreating a favourite meal. fluffy white rice and brown lentils.

i saute a small onion thinly sliced in some vegetable oil. when slightly caramelised i add a bashed and finally chopped clove of garlic, a cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of cumin seeds and some chilli flakes frying them lightly till they release their fragrance. into that i throw a cup full of green lentils. i top this up with water and simmer the lentils until tender and cooked. i also add a ring of lemon to this.

my favourite way of eating lentils is on a bed of steamed rice. except that i have very little rice and lots of lentils. on the side i love a salad of diced cucumber, tomato and a hint of onion with a squeeze of lemon or a cooling cucumber raita.

to me, that the soul of home in a bowl.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

divorced eggs at macondo

it is a sunny saturday afternoon. i and i are having brunch at macondo in islington. we've moved two doors down from our brunch favourite 'the breakfast club' to try something new. i snitch a table and wait for i in the company of a orange and strawberry juice which is thick like a smoothie and breathing summer. i love mexican glasses - coloured and thick rimmed. i arrives a little later having retrieved her forgotten mobile which was the cause of her late arrival. i had been musing over the menu for a while now and was no where near a decision. and i, despite having spent an afternoon last weekend at macondo is just as confused. the tortilla's look delicious but they aren't brunchy enough and we're certain that neither of us wants to be eating paella for brunch. after much deliberation i and i both settle on 'huevos divorciados' - divorced eggs.


two fried eggs, resting on tortilla's and draped in two different colors of salsa separated by mexican beans arrive shortly. the salsa roja is a dark brick red and has a rich earthy chilli flavour that comes from ancho chilli pepper. it contrasts with the salsa verde made with green tomatillo's. i wouldn't have minded my yolks to be a tad bit more cooked. notwithstanding they tasted really good and for a while i and i were in foodie heaven.


post brunch, i's brownie craving led us to paul young who makes incredibly decadent brownies - while we were there we tasted milk chocolate with bergamot, caramelized cacao nibs and coffee chocolate. paul young's chocolate boutique smells of dark chocolate tempered with the addition of condiments the likes of herbs and caramel. i was wondering whether we could capture the deep chocolately and some what spicy and burnt sugar aroma of the shop and take it home.


we spent the rest of the afternoon on my balconette drinking tea while i baked a vegetable medley with whole cloves of garlic and some sprigs of rosemary. i'll squeeze the garlic out of its skin and mash it into cream cheese to serve along side my rosemary, olive oil and balsamic kissed aubergines, red peppers and tomatoes. 

a perfect summer lunch. 


Friday, 22 May 2009

borough in pictures





borough-ing thru food

a rather sunny friday afternoon found me at borough market
and that too after a long time - i and i had spent a fair amount of time here the year before when we were still at university and had enough time for leisure. i had forgotten how crowded and how delightful borough is. my timing didn't help as it coincided with lunch time and the market was full of suited booted men and women in a rush to grab the tempting array of sandwiches, burgers and wraps that can be found around this teeming food market. 

borough smells of grilled and cured meat, brine, fresh fruit, grilling onions, fish and chocolate simultanesouly. every food stall leaves its mark. at the veg shop i am wrapped in the smell of shiny oranges that are being juiced. i walk through brindisa with its smell of cured meats, the olive stalls smell briny and the olive oil ones of fruity virgin oils - outside the chartucurie i pause to take a picture of a pig shaped board displaying the menu. 

deciding what to eat is hard. i see people walking past with all manner of tempting wraps, juicy burgers and what not. at degustibus one of the servers is busy carving salt beef stuffing it into bread that has been slit around the middle to open its face. some one walks along with a steak sandwich. a man in corporate garb holds his burger at arms length in a bid to avoid the juices from ruining his clothes. i see a girl bite into steaming hot falafel that smells delicious. there is fresh pasta and gnocchi and bean burgers all in a row one after the other. i am getting hungrier and hungrier and more and more confused. 

in narrowing down my options there were two camps - if it was veggie then there was veggie burgers or falafel wraps with tahini. if it was meat then it could be a fish stew with open faced clams, a smoked prawn wrap, venison burgers or a chicken wrap. i vetoed the veggie option against the backdrop of the rich meaty smell that surrounded me. the chicken wrap option got elimated because it was going to take a twenty minute wait. the smoked prawn wrap was out on account of too much mayo [not a big mayo fan], fish stew was too messy and too big a serving - so it had to be a venison burger. what i got was a soft white bun with a really succulent venison patty accompanied by some really strong peppery mustard, grilled onions and ruby red cranberry sauce. i sat on the curb side almost infront of neal's yard diary and monmouth coffee. straying strands of sunlight fell on me as i ate my burger while breathing the smell of neal's yard cheese and whiffs of freshly ground coffee.

this is my idea of perfection and bliss.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

colbeh

post working pubbing, i was hungry and having somewhat of an arab food craving, perhaps a chicken shawarma with its juices and pickled green chilies. o decided he was particularly in the mood to be going to the arab mecca that is edgware road with its slightly sad grey look oddly accented by men and women dressed top to toe in designer labels. so instead he took me to a persian place knowing full well that i would love its bread, fresh out of the clay oven with sesame seeds pressed on its surface.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

a mountain lunch

i am at i’s mountain house today in ormea. here the kitchen is the heart of the house. our afternoon meal borrows from last nights left over’s – cold tongue and a ‘zuppa di legume’ and ‘friselle’. for the first course i’s mum has put together a soup of legumes. it is thick, hearty and wholesome – a smattering of legumes, red, black and borlotti beans, chick peas and some brown lentils and quinoa in a seaweed flavored broth. it comes served in shallow bowls with a drizzle of olive oil on top.

after the soup we have friselle, a summery salad of tomatoes, basil and really good olive oil on moistened bread. friselle resemble bagels split around their middles and baked till they are very hard. because of this they have to be moistened in a bowl of water before they can be eaten. before putting them in water they are rubbed with a clove of garlic. friselle should only be moistened to the point that they are slightly soft; the bread should retain its shape and not disintegrate at all. i had halved cherry tomatoes, tossed then in olive oil and roughly torn basil leaves which were piled onto the bread.  to finish off, we ate last night’s tiramisu and went off for a walk to build an appetite for the night’s meal.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

nonna's cooking


there are three generations of women at the table – vociferous and full of life. there is incessant translation from italian into english and vice versa. here is a sketch of a meal prepared by nonna, i’s grandma.

on the hob is a silver saucepan in which i mixed full cream milk into mashed potatoes, the heat reducing them to a perfect creamy consistency. in the pot behind that is home made pasta known as trofie being done to al dente in water at a furious simmer. on the counter sits a bowl of jewel green pesto along with grated parmesan. much as we all would have loved to take our meal in the kitchen i’s grandmother has taken out dinner china and set the table in the dining room. i’s grandmother has catered specially to my needs by making a tuna salami which is to be eaten with the home made mayonnaise that i’s mother had just made before coming. for i, there is tongue. i watch nonna take the boiled tongue and peel it carefully to reveal a dark reddish brown meat.

when the pasta is done i drains it reserving a couple of tablespoons of the water in which it was done to mix into the pesto. the drained trofie is placed in a shallow serving dish; the pesto is mixed in with a generous number of tablespoons of fresh parmesan. this is our first course for the night. dinner discussion at this point is about the etiquettes of eating bread with pasta. i’s grandmother uses it to secure the pasta on her fork. i’s mother maintains that bread is to be used to catch the remains of the pesto but only with the use of a fork. i and i rather unceremoniously use a piece of bread and wipe our plates clean.

the second course is boiled tongue accompanied by fluffy mashed potatoes and tuna salami (a roll of tuna bound with potato and spread liberally with home made mayonnaise). now i am not a tongue eater. or not at least in pakistan where the meat is a pallid color and looks far from cosmetically appealing. nonna’s tongue is far from that. it is a beautiful brick red and sliced like a roast. feeling adventurous (as well as well intentioned) i decided to sample some. i retrieved her camera to have a kodak moment of my first tongue tasting. the tongue tasted sublime, rich and meaty and tender together with the comfort of mashed potato.

a short pause after the second course led us to dessert - fresh strawberries dipped in sugar and an oblong cocoa powder dusted tiramisu. the strawberries were the soul of summer, sweet and flavorful, good even without the sugar. the tiramisu was in a league of its own. layers of light mascarpone and sponge fingers soaked in coffee and rum finished with a dusting of sweetened cocoa powder. it was heaven on a plate.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

albion at the boundary

the entrance to the albion is through an organic produce-cum-deli. shelves of biscuits, loaves of fresh bread, stands with cake and slices of fruit and sweet and pastry and most of all, fresh fruit and vegetable. pink rhubarb with small streaks of green. spinach and kale and other leafy greens. the usual suspects like potatoes and carrots were present too. the shop extends onto a long rectangular space that has a warm custard glow. an oven and kitchen run to one side.

pho


pho is the vietnamese face of the fast proliferating far asian eateries that have come to populate london’s world food-scape. pho is functional, both in terms of its decor and its food. straight lines, white walls with round glass lights and red surfaced tables. bowls of steaming soup and a side of herbs and garnishes or stir-fries are served in white bowls emphasizing the colours of their contents.

fuzzy's grub


i have to confess that i have an inane addiction to fuzzy’s grub breakfast. over the last couple of days i have been unable to do a packed breakfast and inevitably find myself at fuzzy’s for a morning fuel. there are three things that i particularly love – porridge with honey and raisins, chunky brown or granary toast spread liberally with smooth or crunchy peanut butter or better yet a fried egg sandwich.

peanut butter is good period. i don’t really care if it is smooth or crunchy. it’s always welcome. at fuzzy’s grub they toast bread to a crunchy perfection, then spread it very generously with peanut butter on both sides, sandwich and slice it on the diagonal, wrap it deftly in thin paper and bundle it into a paper bag which bears pen marks ticking the specifications of your breakfast. by the time i get to my desk and peel back the paper the peanut butter has oozed from the sides and through the crevices. i love the slightly warmed and runny peanut butter. if i was home i’d add some honey to it too.

when it comes to egg sandwiches, i am slightly persnickety. i like my friend egg well done. [drippy yellow yolks don’t endear themselves to the etiquette's of eating food-at-the-desk at work]. also i don’t like any condiments aside from a seasoning of coarse pepper and salt but most of all my fried egg shouldn't be greasy. fuzzy’s grub manages to get all those in and more. there is thin granary toast, lightly toasted, the centre of which is a well-done fried egg. i watch the eggs being prepared on a skillet brushed with oil. the waitress often turns them over and gives them an affectionate pat.

i guess you probably aren’t surprised at this addiction. i’m a brekkie addict and fuzzy’s grub is my drug.


Monday, 13 April 2009

the providores tapa room



on the ground floor of the providores tapa room there are two semi-skinny high tables running the length of the space. there is the noise and clutter of conversation. the sun is shining in brightly and women sitting in the window are brunching over the sunday paper. o and i have a short wait outside the door before a cheery waitress comes and seats us. there isn’t much room for maneuver and the waitress skirts around the tables rather skillfully, all the while balancing crockery and cutlery. i have read much about the changa eggs – a turkish inspired offering. o settles on these and me on a tortilla that combines a number of my favorite ingredients. a teapot of earl grey presents itself soon after our order – i have come to love the serving of tea, a white tea cup holding a tiny jug of milk in its rotund base with a spoon aside. o is a smoothie lover and orders a tamarillo and kiwi fruit one. it is a delightful concoction of sweet and tang that has a dark pink grapefruit color and comes with a slice of kiwi wedged onto the rim of the glass.

food for thought

this tiny, mostly cramped and crowded veggie establishment has reputation on the veggie food landscape that is larger than the space it occupies. it offers an ever-changing daily menu, a host of salads, thickly sliced bread and scones. here is a sample from a number of visits. recently a black bean gumbo with corn bread – a bowlful of blackbeans cooked with tomatoes and a medley of veggies, some cheese and served topped with squares of corn bread.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

african kitchen

o and i wandered onto drummond street the other day. i was in search for asian food but strangely landed up at the african kitchen. this is a tiny establishment whose walls are home to a wealth of african masks. the space is tiny and often the warmth of the food and those eating it cause the window to fog over.