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.