Friday, 23 July 2010


o took me to yauatcha for my belated birthday dinner. we had done much short listing and eventually decided on coming here partly because i love dim sum so very much and partly because we’ve been meaning to come here for so long and haven’t managed to make it.

so here we were on a friday night waiting aside the macaroon and chocolates to be seated. shortly after nine we were led down the stairs to be seated. the lower floor of yauatcha is markedly different from the ground floor – the lighting is more subdued and the bar has an aquarium running along it. there is a certain calm to the busy-ness here. everything works clockwork. food appears and empty plates disappear without the bat of an eyelid or a raising of the hand.

o was in charge of drinks so to start with we had a chai la lai – a rather fruity and refreshing concoction of crushed grapes, apple syrup, vodka, oolong tea and some champagne followed by dragon’s well green tea. the chai la lai tasted as good as it looked. i was given the rather difficult task of short listing the dim sum with some suggestions – o fancied the winter melon dumpling with black fungus and straw mushroom and the crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin and pine-nut neither of which would have been my choice. the winter melon dumplings looked pretty as they were shaped like carrots with the dim sum wrapper in orange and a tuft of green herbs for the leaves, but were disappointing in taste. the pumpkin and pine-nut is a combination that i would pick for ravioli rather than dim sum. in either case i associate pumpkin with autumn not summer. the dim sum wrapper on this was delicate and perfect but once again the flavours were tepid. if i had it my way i would have picked the meaty wild mushroom dumpling or a bean curd roll. i chose the prawn shui mai with chicken, prawn cheung fun and the rice paper prawn mango roll. the prawn shui mai was excellent (which may explain why o ate more of it than the vegetable dumplings he had ordered), the rice paper prawn mango roll an experience of textures and flavours with a crispy fried exterior giving way to a rich creamy centre of prawn and mango. i loved the cheung fun which (i think) was a variation on the tradition cheung fun as between the rice noodle roll and the prawn filling was a layer of slightly crispy fried batter. 

although we had no space for dessert we decided to go all out anyway and ordered the milk chocolate and passion fruit cake with toasted hazelnuts and ginger ice-cream (this was recommended by our waiter). i must admit that i was slightly disappointed at the fact that there were no desserts with green tea or azuki beans. we also ordered a selection of chocolates. the cake was an interesting experience. i would have to deconstruct it into parts some of which were good. the ginger ice-cream was excellent, not over powering in its creaminess or in its taste of ginger and the presence of some thin flaky biscuit added a welcome crunch. the cake on the other hand was a slightly odd concoction of flavours and textures. a thin passion fruit jelly layer between an ultra non-chocolate cream on a biscuit base. in this it was the biscuit base which shone the most with a slightly nutty flavour and light crunch. the jelly could have benefited from a little more passion fruit and the cream with more chocolate.

the chocolates did not disappoint. there was a lovely yuzu one with a hint of sake, a white chocolate truffle with a heady coconut cream and the best of all, a white chocolate and matcha one which has a really intense green tea flavour.

dinner was followed by drinks at the light bar at st martins lane which is one of my favourite bars in london and does the most exquisite cocktails, fruity champagne flutes and strawberry cheese cake shots.

Monday, 19 July 2010

foodlovers market soho

o was staying in to study for an upcoming imc exam so i decided to entertain myself by taking myself down to the foodlovers market in soho. it was past noon and i was concerned that i would have missed the best of it but it was still a buzz when i got there in the afternoon.

i walked around, trying little tid-bits. there were some seriously good and uber sweet cherry tomatoes at david emmett’s stall. the fosse meadows farm has bite sized pieces of rotisserie chicken with a cherry sauce in celebration of national cherry day. at hook and son’s the cream was thick and a really rich pale caramel. the food at madame gautier was beautiful to look at, the deep earthy tones of a beef confit, thick fish cakes with golden breadcrumbs and a colourful medley of salads glistening in their dressings. i tried two types of apple juice at moat farm kenton – one so incredibly sweet it was like honey and the other slightly tart like a granny smith. conscious foods had a range of power snacks which are guilt free and tasted so good that i am convinced it is not possible for them to be. combinations of poppy seeds and sesame seeds, some with nuts and molasses and others with agave – they were crunchy and satisfying, and they are ethical and sustainable too. at the brogdale farm stall i tried cherries that were a dark red-purple with a heady sweetness. i couldn’t resist buying a box. for lunch i had two risotto balls courtesy of the arancini brothers – essentially a cheesy and herby melting risotto held together on the outside in a thin slightly crispy shell. i could have eaten more but was really tempted by the cherry special baking treats at the outsider tart. i bought a dark chocolate and cherry brownie and took to queen’s square and sat in the company of a pigeon and ate (half of) it slowly. there is something about american bakers and brownies. they always manage to get the perfect texture. not too loose so that it’s cakey but not so tight that it is nothing but chewy. outsider tart’s brownie was seriously rich and decadent. a cultured and cosmopolitan brownie that was dark chocolate and melting chunks of milk chocolate with dark purple cherries. o had the other half with a nespresso cappuccino at home.

it’s a nifty little market, this one with something for both those who are there to buy produce and cheese and fruit and those who want something to eat then and there.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

ginger and white

o and i spent sunday around north west london, hampstead heath to be specific. our breakfast was a good if slightly harassed affair. we went to the brew house in kenwood house. o was a bit cranky as he’d hadn’t had a snack which made the queue for brunch seem inordinately long. once we were seated outside with our more than generous helping of free range scrambled eggs and sides of mushrooms and tomatoes we were distracted by the wind and some bumble bees. the upside was that the eggs were fantastic – creamy and loose textured. to me that’s a bit of a marvel given how difficult it is to make scrambled eggs in large quantities. but i have to agree with o that it was hard to enjoy brunch when one was being harassed by the elements and having to queue and self-serve. we are both very self-service friendly but brunch is one of those meals that needs to conduct itself at a leisurely pace.

after brunch o and i wandered through the park and eventually found ourselves on hampstead high street. hampstead high street is mostly a proliferation of chains – food and clothing alike. i was here for ginger and white, a decidedly british cafe tucked into perrin’s court. o and i placed our orders after a little deliberation and sank into a slightly distressed and very comfortable leather sofa. o wasn’t particularly impressed with his cold coffee stating with conviction that he can make as good a one at home. i had a lovely chegworth apple and strawberry juice which was sweet and tart at the same time. with it i had a rather generous slice of blossom cake – really a syrup cake with citrus and some polenta. o ordered a friand which came with a crown of raspberries that stained its custard coloured top. the blossom cake was good but having being told that it had polenta i much missed the gritty crunch. in other words it was too smooth a texture. the friand on the other hand was really good, bursting with almond flavour and complimented well by the raspberries.  having looked up a friand, you may be interested in knowing that it’s the australian version of the french financier which is basically an oval shaped cake make with ground almonds.

as o and i finished our coffee and cake, two women came in and ate breakfast at half past four – soft boiled eggs with toast soldiers and a side of baked beans. i guess there is something for everyone at ginger and white.  

4 perrins court

london nw3 1qs
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Saturday, 17 July 2010

ginger chicken roti wraps

ginger chicken roti wraps
the inspiration for these wraps came from the spice spoon. shayma has a lovely post on mother's day: ginger chicken in the pakistani manner. i had been craving the flavours of home and decided to try out this recipe. and so i did. i had so much coriander left over when i was done that i decided to create a chutney of sorts and then in this vein of creativity decided to make roti wraps. i cheated on the roti (having bought them in one of those all round grocers in finsbury park). i warmed these on a griddle till hot and then put some chicken into them. o and i spooned on the chutney liberally and with it i had a salad of diced tomatoes and cucumbers.  

for the chutney you need
three quarters of a big bunch of coriander
a tea spoon of dark muscovado sugar
a tablespoon of tamarind paste
juice of a lemon
a tea spoon of cumin seeds
enough water to whizz all the ingredients together in the consistency of a chutney in a food processor.

Friday, 16 July 2010

leong's legend queensway

dim sum
o and i were in notting hill for a friend's birthday drink and weren't really inclined to eat pub grub so headed down bayswater instead (which seems like another china town). we had wanted to eat at the four seasons but given the half hour wait decided to go to leong's legend instead. i have already been to leong's legend i in china town. it was a good choice. i loved the decor which was quite tasteful. the lighting was low, the furniture black and tables were separated by what looked like partial screens made of wood. 

sweet potato and chickpea tagine of sorts

i was in a creative mood the other day and decided to put together a tagine of sorts. the recipe is inspired by m who cooked it for a week night dinner. i've made it from memory but have made a couple of changes. m used white onion, i put in red instead (i like the slightly caramelised sweetness that sauteed red onions add). i also added a hint of paprika to give it a slightly smoky flavour and some honey to compliment the thick slices of sweet potato.

you'll need a generous glug of vegetable oil
a small red onion, cut into thin rings
half a tsp of salt and a tsp of cumin powder
a pinch of paprika
one sweet potato peeled and cut into thick slices
a can of chick peas (don't drain them)
a can of chopped tomatoes
a tsp of tomato paste
a bay leaf
a cinnamon stick
a tbsp of honey
a small handful of raisins 

saute the onions until they soft - don't let them go brown. once softened add the salt, cumin, cinnamon stick and paprika and stir fry. then add the chickpeas with the water and let the water come to a boil. when this is done put in the can of chopped tomatoes, the tomato paste and add the slices of sweet potatoes. make sure that the sweet potatoes are covered with the liquid. tuck in the bay leaf and let simmer till the sweet potato is cooked. i like the sweet potato to hold it's own rather than be cooked to disintegration. in the end stir in the honey and the raisins.

i served this with cous cous (cooked to the instructions on the packet) with lots of roughly chopped dill. 

Monday, 12 July 2010

mrs marengo's

i found myself at mrs marengo’s on a monday afternoon. there perched on a high stool and reading the glamour magazine i lunched on a bowl of salad and some fruit and nut bread. mrs marengo’s salad list reads more like a list of ingredients. take for instance butternut, lentils, poppocini peppers, caramelised red onions or grilled courgette, aubergine, slow-roasted tomatoes or peaches, rocket, blue cheese, pine nuts and celery, so in a way you aren’t quite prepared for the intense flavours and contrast of textures and tastes that meet your mouth. 

the tomatoes are baked to the point that their flesh is soft but they hold their own – their cut sides sprinkled with herbs (perhaps thyme) and some garlic. the long thick slices of aubergines with their grill marks are heavy with the taste of olive oil. at the bottom of my bowl is the peach salad. the crunchy celery compliments the honey-sweet peaches, the pale green bringing out the ruddiness of the peaches even more. the pine nuts along with the blue cheese add richness to the salad and some lone rocket leaves provide a peppery and sharp kick. the lentil salad is slightly garlicky and along with the caramelized onions there is a hint of balsamic. here the butternut adds a note of comfort. i mop up the dressing that sits in the base of the bowl with some fruit and nut bread – apricots and brazil nuts to be precise. the bread is dense and very filling. i love the addition of the citrus in the water jug – a slice of lemon and orange. it’s refreshing and reminds me much of another erstwhile home – scottsdale in arizona where water was always served with lemon or oranges.   

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Saturday, 10 July 2010


sk’s parents took us out for dinner to refugium in gendarmenmarkt in berlin. it was a very warm night and we sat outside in part to enjoy the weather and in part so that sk’s mum could watch germany play uruguay. the outside seating has a commanding view of the konzerthaus berlin (the concert hall) and the french friedrichstadt church. i got a glimpse of the interior of the restaurant which is in the vaults of the church and is really beautiful. the menu is a fusion of sorts and one of the fish entrees with kaffir lime sauce and stockfish croquettes sounded really interesting. unfortunately, it was unavailable and i had to move onto my second choice – the medium roasted slices from leg of venison on broad beans and chanterelles with pepper cherries. o, sk and her mum went for the fillet of halibut with artichoke and tomato sugo with farfalle and sk’s dad had a salad. the food was well presented – the colour of the venison contrasting with the bright green of slightly blanched broad beans. the pepper cherries were tart and i am yet to work out what they were macerated in. the venison was tender and accompanied by a reduction of its juices. sk gave me a taste of her halibut which was firm and flaky and well complimented by the slight citrus and tart of tomatoes. for dessert sk and i shared the trifle with baked apricots and fresh garden berries and yoghurt elder flower sorbet whose presentation was so pretty that i almost did not want to eat it. there is nothing more summery than berries and sorbet with the tart cutting through the sweet iciness. the trifle was slightly too creamy for my taste. i like mine with a strong kick of sherry, the sponge soaking the alcohol and a little less sweet. but the apricots were well baked and with the roasted flaked almonds it was quite a comforting affair.
i am saving the best piece for last though, the bread basket. we ate lots of it. a white bread made piquant with salty olives and a nutty brown one and a plain white one all eaten with olive oil and balsamic. it was a lovely dinner on a warm summer evening surrounded by beautiful architecture and friends that are family. 
gendarmenmarkt 5| 10117| berlin

Thursday, 8 July 2010



sk and i have strawberry daiquiris’s - a riot of berry red in a luscious pile collapsing in the melting ice and topped with a twisted lime. this daiquiri is the soul of summer, alcohol spiked. for starters there is bruschetta; a twist on the classic is the inclusion of a semi-circle of soft sheep milk cheese. i personally prefer my bread to be toastier but the freshness of the tomatoes and the cheese more than made up for it. sk and i both order salads. it seems to be the best choice given the heat in berlin. my salad is a riot of colour – semi-circles of pineapple, the honeyed sweetness of melon and sweet strawberries add to thick slices of grilled chicken. the mango chutney is made of slightly tart mangoes and cuts through the sweetness of the fruit and the mildness of the chicken. i love lettuce with its pale watery taste and the peppery arugula. the dressing on the leaves is creamy but not over powering and there is just enough to glaze the leaves. sk’s salad was an interesting combination of roasted pepper, salad greens, sheep’s milk cheese and grilled scampi. 

dessert was a sample – a really rich chocolate mousse and vanilla cream tart with the two flavours balancing each other and a lemon and poppy seed cheese cake with a vanilla cream which was more delicately flavoured. 

Thursday, 1 July 2010


a warm and dry london summer is opportune ice-cream eating weather. i have been wanting to try gelupo, the latest addition to the gelato craze that has hit the capital. so on a very warm night o and i headed down to soho for some gelupo gelato. the front half of gelupo is a gelateria whilst the back is a delicatessen (albeit a slightly forlorn one). the gelato itself is hidden in round silver canisters with little name tags for flavours. luckily, the people at gelupo are very taster friendly and o and i get to try some before making up our minds. i tried the pine nut and fennel seed which was good. it is an interesting mix of flavours but personally the oily pine nut doesn’t team too well in a cold dessert. the avocado and honey sorbet on the other hand was sublime, summery, cooling and rich enough to be ice cream. i didn’t make it all the way to granita’s as i was interesting in having a chocolate fix so my final selection was a waffle cone with a scoop of ricotta, coffee and honey and a really decadent concoction called bonet which is basically dark chocolate, egg yolks, coffee, rum and amaretti biscuits. the ricotta was actually flecked with coffee and had a mellow custard flavour. o had an italian ice-cream sandwich which was recommended to him – an ultra rich ensemble of three scoops of gelato and some whipped cream in a brioche. he had the nuttier flavours as they went well with the brioche. his verdict – go for the gelato alone as the brioche makes it too rich. my next trip to gelupo will be for the granita – i am thinking burnt almond and blood orange.
any takers?
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