Thursday, 29 December 2011

boxing day tea-time mackerel toasts

tea-time mackerel toasts
breakfast on christmas day was a wedge of white stilton with apricots on crisp toasted slices of gail's apricot and hazelnut bread accompanied by glasses of duval-leroy fluer de champagne. i love the citrus notes of this particular bubbly. we had this whilst watching nigel slater's simple christmas. my past two christmas' have featured a nigel slater recipe and this christmas is no exception. his tea-time mackerel toast recipe came handy on boxing day when o and i couldn't face eating any of our left-overs. i dialled back the richness of recipe by substituting creme fraiche for the cream. nigel recommends this as supper on christmas eve to precede the big christmas lunch. o and i had it the day after to help alleviate a twenty-four hour food coma. i was more generous with the pile of mackerel on my toasts so we got three helpings instead of four as in nigel's recipe.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

mulled wine, poicamole and christmas drinks

our little christmas tree
it was mulled wine and mince pies at thirty-two on saturday seventeenth of december, as kbt and i hosted our first ever christmas drinks. i have always loved entertaining and it's because my parents have always loved it too. mama and i used to love hosting tea and as a family we hosted lots of lunches and dinners. it was a time when our family of four would pitch in and do things together. i've also been very lucky to learn the ropes of entertaining in pakistan and abroad and yes, there is a difference. domestic help in pakistan means that you'll have helping hands for washing and cleaning-up afterwards. in places like the uk you're left to clean-up yourself which is why it's much easier to get party plates, napkins and disposable glasses. fortunately, john lewis had really nice disposable/reusable wine and champagne glasses as i don't relish the idea of drinking wine out of plastic cups. i bought some recycled napkins with a holly pattern to add a little brightness, and got kbt to bring home a long branch of winterholly with clusters of berries to use as a centre piece for the table.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

chez angelo restaurant des antiquaires

moitié-moitié fondue in a caquelon 
no one can dispute that fondue is the perfect winter food. the intensely savoury aroma of melting cheese piqued with wine and kirsch is an olfactory pleasure. gentle bubbles that erupt with the heat burst and dissipate into rings that are lovely to look at. lb has brought me to chez angelo in old town geneva to savour this swiss speciality. chez angelo specialises in fromage (cheese), bourguignonne (beef) and chinoise (hotpot) fondue. my first and only experience of eating fondue was in geneva in two thousand and eight, and i cannot say i enjoyed it much. however, i was pleased to be placed in the competent care of lb who loves food as much as i do to renew my acquaintance with fondue. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

christmas with a dishoom

love the stick-on christmas hats on this picture
o's birthday was gluttony personified. after our grand breakfast at hawksmoor guildhall we were due at dishoom in the evening for a christmas tweet-up. we therefore imposed a period of fasting upon ourselves for the remainder of the day, drinking copious amounts of cardamom laced jasmine tea to create space. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

the moolilicious rudolph

a half eaten rudolph
santa and his trusty four legged companion have delivered a truly delicious mooli for christmas. when christmas meets india and sits down at a table it brings us the flaming turkey raan complete with two vegetables at dishoom. the potatoes have had a make-over in bombay and long green beans have been jazzed up with masala. but one doesn't always have time on a weekday for a leisurely lunch, and it is quite possible that by this point most of us have exhausted our craving for the christmas sandwich lunch. so you will be pleased to know that the work day christmas lunch now has a new contender and for me it takes the number one spot on a quick even desk friendly christmas lunch. 


street-food kind of effect, the interior of east-street
east-street is the newest addition to canteen style restaurants in london. truth be told i was quite apprehensive  about trying it out as its menu is a jambalaya of east-asian cuisine. as much as i love east-asian cuisine, idon’t make it a habit to go to places that serve the breadth of the region. but sometimes curiosity gets the better of both o and i so we figured we’d give it a try.

it’s really a place that i can imagine university students frequenting. the menu is extensive and it would just on this basis manage to satisfy a crowd with diversity of tastes. since we went in the week that it opened there was an offer on which allowed us an appetiser and entree or entree and dessert each. additional such as rice, tea, drinks etc were to be paid for. o and i picked the bulgogi from the small dishes to share as a starter.

i was quite overwhelmed by the choice of noodles, rice dishes, soups and salads and after having read through the whole randomly picked the vietnamese bo luc lac (shaking beef). o had the laksa. the stir-fry’s are not accompanied by rice or noodles which have to be ordered on the side.
malaysian laksa 
the bulgogi was really good and the kimchi managed to pack quite a punch. it was actually quite a generous portion too. my bo luc lac comprised of a beef seared in a rather sweet marinade served with a rather chunky salad. the beef itself was bite-sized and tender but i was quite unhappy with the thickness of the red onion slices. in addition i think the marinade could have benefitted from balancing the sweet, soy and oyster sauce elements. the dominant note was one of sweetness. o’s laksa was sharp and peppery despite the coconut milk which usually helps tame the chili in this soup noodle dish. he was actually very content with it provided the peppery notes were downplayed a bit. i personally felt that the portion size on this was rather steeply priced at ten fifty on this.

for dessert, i wish i had listened to o and picked the thai sticky rice with coconut cream and mango. the only reason why i chose the malaysian black sticky rice over the thai one was because mangoes aren’t in season at this time of the year. o caputured our sentiment on the black sticky rice perfectly when he said it was like eating a rather unusual breakfast porridge. the sweetness of this was very mellow and further dulled by the drizzle of coconut cream. the black rice grains were broken a bit too much for my likes. the sauce that was intended to marry the rice into a pudding was quite tasteless. which was a pity because i love palm sugar and the nuttiness of coconut milk and rice.

malaysian black rice pudding
east-street is cheerful and canteen like and has a student vibe which is perhaps the main reason why i am unlikely to come back. i’ve moved on from my student years and i am not inclined to go back. having said that, if i was in the neighbourhood shopping and needed a bite, i would drop in for another plate of the bulgogi small plate...

East Street Restaurant on Urbanspoon       

Sunday, 11 December 2011

l'incontro restaurant in geneva

spaghetti vongole at l'incontro
this year lb and i have had the pleasure to dine in two cities which have been home to him at different stages of his life. in july it was sydney and in december, geneva. on the night before the closing of the thirty first international conference of the red cross and red crescent he took me to restaurant l'incontro. lb tells me that eating out in geneva isn't as exciting as in london. i can see that but then i also think it's unfair to compare the two cities as they have a very different flavour.

anna mae's chili shack

bowl o red from anna mae's chili shack
some of the eat street collective were at this weekend's chocolate festival. for me, the big attraction was anna mae's chili shack. i've been a convert since the mac n cheese i had a while back and definitely wanted to give the chili a try. today was a perfect chili con carne kind of a day as winter always calls for comfort food with bold gutsy flavours. at around half two which is when i got there, there was quite a long queue. the steam that lifted from the oversized pan of chili was meaty and cumin spiked. the shack itself is an american fest complete with the flag from uncle sam's land. you can get a bowl o red from the most patriotic of states texas, and you can choose to 'pimp it up' with jalapeno corn bread. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

hawksmoor guildhall

the entrance to hawksmoor guildhall
i’ve been in a permanent state of food coma since the last week of november. a three day trip to geneva was something along the lines of a nakd nut and fruit bar for lunch followed by a dinner of steak frites one night, italian the second and fondue on the third.  of course a visit to geneva is not without its share of chocolate. i bought myself lindt kirschstengeli, delicate batons of dark chocolate dusted with cocoa which hold a centre of sugar crusted kirsch. i have always loved the williamine morand liquer bar by goldkenn whose milk chocolate capsules spill thin and sharp williams pear brandy. for o i got a box of martel chocolates, a long standing favourite chocolaterie. i also managed in the two nights i was there to try rohr. this is a beautiful little chocolate shop that has been in existence since nineteen fifty produces handmade chocolates. i bought a box of ten assorted pralines, marzipan and nuts based ones. i had hoped to find time to go to the tearoom at chocolaterie du rhone but got caught up in the united nations bookshop and so missed a good hot chocolate. there will be more on geneva by the by as i really must tell you about the fondue i ate, but for now it's on to hawksmoor guildhall.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

anna maes darn fine southern street food

custard sunshine at primrose hill
it was a perfect sunday with custard sunshine. it has been a strangely warm winter in london so far and there is much to be grateful for. i've been enjoying london's many green spaces carpeted in leaves in their autumnal tones. today, after exploring overcoming challenges through change in yoga class with one of my favourite anusara teachers lisa sanfilippo i had planned to take a short walk up primrose hill to catch some rays of sun and enjoy the view. instead i got caught up in the primrose hill christmas fare. 

a 'fake' birthday with a chocolate guinness cake

o's chocolate  guinness birthday cake
it is k.b.t.'s birthday on fifth december and he (unlike me) is very fortunate to celebrate each growing year with his siblings. this year's celebration came early as one of his siblings  is travelling on his actual birthday. to me there can be no birthday sans cake so i baked a really fudgy and rich guinness chocolate cake. a rather petulant o kept reminding me that it is his fake birthday but that was before he cut and ate his cake. 

guinness chocolate cake has been on my list of cakes to bake for a while. it is to me a perfect birthday cake especially for grown ups. the bitter coffee like flavour of guinness compliments chocolate very well. whilst pales ales tend to lighten stews and batter, stout has the opposite effect by concentrating flavours giving a dense batter. in this chocolate cake the guinness makes the batter bake to give a close fudge texture with a very compact crumb. it has the same effect on chocolate as does espresso but with a sharper and slighter bitter edge. the cream-cheese frosting is therefore the perfect addition as its sweet creaminess balances the cake. nigella captures that relationship between the frosting and the cake as echoing the pale head that sits on top of a glass of stout.

my way of baking the chocolate guinness cake is a combination of gizzi erskine, nigella lawson and the humingbird bakery's recipes for this cake. i borrowed from the hummingbird bakery's recipe the use of buttermilk in the cake batter and the recipe for the cream-cheese frosting. from gizzi's recipe i took the use of chocolate in addition to the cocoa. i also used soft brown sugar in place of caster sugar. my reasons for doing so were confirmed in the final cake. the buttermilk adds an element of lightness and tartness to the batter as opposed to the sour cream called for by both nigella and gizzi. the chocolate along with the cocoa ups the chocolate factor in the cake and the brown sugar has a lesser sweetness than caster sugar allowing the cream-cheese frosting to take centre stage. here's my adapted chocolate guinness cake recipe. i used a deep twenty-one cm cake tin to give the cake more height as i like tall birthday cakes. all three of the original recipes call for a twenty-three cm pan.

250 ml guinness
250 grams unsalted butter
100 grams chocolate (i use menier 70% swiss dark chocolate)
400 grams soft brown sugar
35 grams cacao (i used green and blacks)
2 free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
140 ml buttermilk
280 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a well greased cake-tin (see above for size)

  place the first four ingredients in a saucepan on a very low heat so that they melt together. give the pan an occasional stir to ensure that they are melting evenly. once they have done so remove the pan from the heat, add the cacao and stir through the mixture.

at this stage you can pre-heat the oven to a hundred and eighty degrees celsius. whisk together the eggs, vanilla and buttermilk by hand in a jug or bowl before adding them to the sweet chocolate and beer mixture.

sift the flour and raising agents together into a large mixing bowl. then add the mixture from pan into the flour and whisk by hand just enough to get a smooth batter. your batter will look bubbly and effervescent. pour it into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

let the cake cool in the tin before you turn it out. this is quite a damp cake and it make have a tendency to stick to the sides. frost the cake only when it is absolutely cool. 

to make the cream-cheese frosting beat together 50 grams of unsalted butter with 250 grams of icing sugar until the mixture resembles coarse sand. then incorporate 125 grams of full-fat cream-cheese. whatever you do don't scrimp on the full-fat cream-cheese. you need a creamy soft icing for this cake! i frosted the cake in the morning leaving it to have a rough and wavy finish. i am sure gizzi's and nigella's cream-cheese frosting would taste reall good but thought it wouldn't be firm enough as the hummingbird bakery one which is why i chose it.i piped the initials of o's nickname k.b.t on top of the frosting in red. 

sadly, my birthday cake's are never as glamorous since i moved away from home. i am hoping that next year i'll be getting some 'mum-made' cake or perhaps something less christmas like than this year...

Sunday, 20 November 2011


if you are in london and you love food you've probably already been to brixton. everyone who is into seriously good food is talking about what's happening in brixton village. in fact i am convinced that jay rayner's article in the observer has been directly responsible for the increasing traffic. on the day that i went to eat at elephant the lines at honest burgers stretched out to double the length since i was last there. as excited as i am about honest burgers (they are damn good!) and lab gelato and kaosarn thai, what really makes me proud is a little place called elephant based in unit fifty-five. for the first time since being in london i can say i've had real pakistani food. sure there are lots of place in east london like lahore kebab house and tayyab's that cook pakistani food but there is an unmistakable indianess to their food. elephant is in total contrast to that as it is purely home-cooked pakistani food. 

aloo samosa's at elephant

a butternut beetroot spread

butternut beet spread
o loves beetroot. i usually get this sweet and earthy vegetable pre-cooked but lately the tightly wrapped plastic hugging the round beet bodies has irked me. increasingly i find myself walking the aisles of the waitrose and other grocery stores feeling sorry for food captured in plastic prisons. it's had the effect of pushing me to make the extra effort to buy beets uncooked. after all, the wrestle peeling of butternut squash doesn't make me want to buy the peeled and cut version. with beetroot it is the pink-purple stains that put me of. that being said beetroot stains are a small price to pay for cooking this vegetable oneself. 

this week i roasted a bunch of beets with some balsamic and sea-salt flakes. i even used some of the stalks. in roasting beetroot myself i am in control of how soft or firm i want the flesh to be. initially i kept it fairly firm so that i could eat it as a salad tossed with some sharp feta cheese and a handful of walnuts. i never got round to that as i had a glut of butternut squash roasted with cardamom, finely sliced red chili and brown sugar that needed to be eaten. i'd had it thrice this week as a packed lunch with a roasted garlic cream-cheese but since o isn't a huge fan of butternut squash i had to find a to combine it with something he likes. o and i make it a point to not waste food at all and its often led to creative suppers.

butternut squash and beetroot are a perfect marriage. they both have a natural sweetness that can be tempered by using something creamy, perhaps a tart creme fraiche or a thick greek yoghurt. if you want something more luxurious you can use some cream or cream-cheese. with that in mind i decided to make a butternut beetroot spread. spreads are fairly versatile because you can eat them on toasted bread and with crackers. you can add layers of other condiments like cheese, syrups, nuts and so forth to perk up or mellow the flavours. o and i had the spread as a late afternoon snack on toasted brown bread with a thin layer of cream-cheese. it's a deep red-purple with the butternut squash lending a smooth texture. there is a little heat as well from the red chili. you could always lengthen the spread with a good vegetable stock to make soup adding a swirl of single cream to enrich it. 

raw beetroot with stalks and leaves
roasting butternut squash and beetroot is very simple. just peel and cut the vegetables into equal sized chunks and toss lightly with some olive oil. add some aromatics like bashed cardamom pods or cinnamon or both and a generous pinch of brown sugar for deep caramel notes. then place in a roasting tray and roast at a hundred and eighty degrees celsius until the flesh is soft to knifepoint . sometimes when i need to hurry the roasting time i seal the tray with foil but since i like slightly caramelised and crisp edges i only do this when i am in a hurry. once cooled place the roasted vegetables in a food processer and process. i like the vegetables to retain a bit texture so i don't pulse them until smooth. you can do your's however you prefer. this would taste really good with a tahini spiked yoghurt and some crisp pita bread too.   

things to put on toasted bread; almond cream-cheese drizzled with honey

my husband's brunch palette is limited to eggs. over time i've managed to coax him to eat eggs in other ways than scrambled. in doing so i've added to the my repertoire of egg recipes - we love eggs baked in individual ramekins like the french do, north african style in a shakshouka where they are braised in gently spiced vegetables and changa eggs turkish style where poached eggs are placed on a garlic spiked yoghurt and topped with a melted chili butter. but what i really want is a batch of thin pancakes with powdered sugar and lemon juice or the small leavened american ones drenched in maple syrup. as those occasions are rare i now make things that are good solo. i inevitably land up having my brunch once o is half way through his so i figure it's only fair that i should eat what i like, rather than spend weekend after weekend eating eggs. 

this weekend i made myself an almond cream-cheese which is quite simply a generous teaspoon of savoury-sweet almond butter whipped into cream-cheese. to sweeten it i drizzle on a deep amber honey. the jar i am using right now has travelled all the way from pakistan and is sidr honey. it has a citrus like sweetness with the depth of molasses. i like dark coloured honey as they it has depth without being too sweet. the almond cream-cheese was slightly grainy in texture as i use organic butter made with whole unskinned almonds. eating it on a seeded wholemeal bread ups the nutty factor. 

last week i'd made myself ricotta-sesame toast. o had brought home a sturdy brown bread with a sourdough flavour. i topped it with a firm ricotta mashed roughly with a fork, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. i've got a couple of other ideas up my sleeve. next week i plan to make a glossy tahini cream-cheese and drizzle it with some date syrup which has a subdued almost savoury sweetness that i love. 

putting together my solo brunches have been so much fun. in fact they remind me of the time when i lived and cooked on my own. it made me realise that relationships shouldn't necessarily mean that you always have to eat what your other half likes. batches of pancakes are better for two or more but spreads and the like are perfect for solo eating. 

to make almond cream-cheese for one person you will need a teaspoon of organic almond butter, a teaspoon and a half of cream-cheese, honey to drizzle and two small thick slices of bread toasted. whip together the almond butter and cream-cheese. spread liberally on the toasted bread and drizzle with honey. 
this is perfect followed by a strong cup of tea. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

yum bun at eat street

up close and personal, veggie bun
assertive and meaty portobello mushroom tucked into the folds of a soft steamed bun. cucumber coins and crushed walnuts are added for texture and crunch. deep in the folded crease of the bun is a slick of miso glaze that adds sweetness. i would have liked a laquer of shiracha sauce not only for it's vivid heat but a bright spark of colour too. i missed out on it because the crew at yum bun were a little overwhelmed with the queue of people at eat street king's boulevard today.  

yum buns are comfort food redefined. they have a pleasing chewiness instantly collapsing in the mouth. it is small wonder that they are said to be pillow soft... the duo behind yum bun say that these buns were inspired by david chang whose famous pork buns at momofuku in new york are known to be sensational. i really wouldn't know about that simply because i haven't been myself and even if i did i don't eat pork. but i am very thankful for the vegetarian inspired yum bun as it is in a league of its own.  

Thursday, 17 November 2011

rosalind's kitchen

rosalind's kitchen window
rosalind's kitchen's twitter feed would make any food loving person hungry. they've been on my list of places to get breakfast or lunch for a while now. i must confess i haven't been inclined to wake up early and grab breakfast on the go from there, and on most days i sadly lunch at my desk. then one day i got lucky because i was in rosalind's neighbourhood. i really wanted to have fruit compote with granola. fearing that it would run out before i managed to get there i tweeted a 'please-keep-me-some-granola-and-compote'. almost instantly someone tweeted back to tell me that they'd keep me some.

rosalind's kitchen is a compact little space with a lovely flamingo pink mural on it's walls. an old fashioned cake stands holds the orange curd cakes which have become quite a twitter icon. those who know me well know that i find cup-cakes a sad excuse for cake but i've had to make amends as rosalind's are perfect. the orange curd cakes have just the right balance of tart, sweet and moisture and best of all they aren't topped with a mountain of frosting, just a dainty drizzle of orange icing. i am now wishing i had tried the passionfruit and chocolate cup-cakes as well. 

returning to breakfast (which i did have at my desk at work). there was a very generous helping of cinnamon spiced chunky apple compote with a layer of sharp yoghurt and a granola with lots of fig, cranberry and pumpkin seeds. it's one of the few really good granola, yoghurt and compote breakfasts i've had in london and makes you feel like you've been really good to yourself with all that nutty fruitiness packed into it. 

a few days from now i will pick custom made mince pies from rosalind. they'll be travelling to geneva, a present for a fellow food lover who can't get his in his hometown. picking them up will give me an excuse for lunch so you'll be hearing more about rosalind's kitchen from me soon.follow rosalind's kitchen @rosalindsW1 or 'like' them on facebook for the daily menu.

Rosalind's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 13 November 2011

nigel slater's easy shallot chutney

one of the best things about the year coming to a close is nigel slater's bbc series on cooking. as is nigel's style, his cooking is always simple but this year it had a theme of 'marriage and relationships' between foods, flavours (sweet and sour, soft and crisp) and ideas (weird and wonderful). what i love about nigel is that his recipes are not just recipes. they are suppers put together with what is in the fridge and the pantry combined. this is a really cooking for the home-cook  because his ideas provide insight into making meals interesting. i know that i owe a lot of my creativity to the principles that i have picked up from his series and his wonderful book the 'kitchen diaries'.

cod poached in spiced coconut milk

cod poached in a spiced coconut milk
with basmati and wild rice
when it comes to southeast asian cuisine, i much prefer their clear broths. don’t let the clarity and lack of colour fool you, as not only do they pack depth but in most cases an unbridled chili heat. i like how the clear soup with its medley of flavours makes the taste-buds sing and sometimes the eyes water. needless to say o isn’t too keen on clear soups. he loves the heavier creamier cousins that mute the chili and awaken the senses only gently.

Friday, 11 November 2011

dhal chawal (lentils and rice)

dhal with a garnish of coriander and green chillies
i don’t know what it is about dhal chawal that comforts so much. it could be its cheerful yellow spruced with fresh coriander. oil warmed with cumin and garlic stirred through it brings a breathe of spice. dhal adjusts to the mood so when i want heat i add thinly sliced green chilli as a garnish. on early winter evenings i like to a squirt of lemon juice. i often make dhal on a sunday in anticipation of the busy week ahead. if nothing else, o can boil some rice scented with cumin and cinnamon on thursday night when i am at yoga late.

chili con carne; the perfect tv dinner

chili con carne on brown rice with crème fraiche
i have always taken love for chili con carne as granted. it is wholesome and comforting food that is very easy to make. but that was before i met o who didn’t really have that kind of affinity for chili con carne. in fact he wasn’t even a fan of minced beef dishes. i am convinced that this is because he didn’t eat keema (pakistani beef mince) at my house. i loved aloo keema with large chunks of potato that collapsed under the fingers when eaten with roti. keema mutter flecked with peas brings back memories of picnics near rawal lake and nasty oversized crows that would try and pick our plates. then there was keema simla mirch made with green capsicum, it’s slight bitterness tempered with cumin and spice. more recently mama starting adding channas (chickpeas) to the mix. my love for chili con carne is perhaps an extension of my love for keema because they have something in common. minced beef is only good when spiced right and cooked to a deep brown. when making mince the pakistani way i sauté it well to bring out its colour. this process of bhuno although tiring is what makes keema so tasty. in chili con carne the combination of frying the mince and then simmering it to let the flavours get to know each other well is what makes it good.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

paratha and chai at thirty-two

parathas at thirty-two
my phupi (aunt) tells me that the best way to eat a paratha is the way kashmiri's eat it. they  sprinkle it with salt and eat it washed down with a cup of strong yet milky and very sweet tea. i like the contrast of sweet and salty in this combination. i find eating paratha with something more substantial like a fried egg (which the way o likes it) difficult as the dough is rich with oil/ghee. my dadi (paternal grandmother) made the most delectable parathas. they were soft and flaky with lots of layers. she would often treat my brother and i to 'chirri roti', literally a paratha shaped like a bird. chirri roti was sweet because sugar was tucked into the centre of the paratha which would turn to syrup from the heat of the griddle. as i grew older i acquired the taste for achar, the spice heavy oil of would discolour my nails. i loved the pungent taste of it with the very mild bread. sometimes for sunday brunch my dadi would make stuffed parathas. she would boil potatoes and mash them with cumin, a little spice and some fresh coriander. the potato mash would be covered with dough, rolled out and fried on a griddle. these were best eaten with a cool yoghurt and a fiery mint sauce.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

remember remember the gizz-mo movember

movember at byron
i'm a girl and girl's don't do moustaches (of course there are exceptions to this rule but i am not one of those girls). being moustache-less however, doesn't leave me any less of a mo-sista because my appetite as a lover of food makes me a very effective one at byron. byron has a movember burger on its menu called the gizz-mo, fifty pence from which goes to the charity movember.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

chipotle mexican grill

the burrito and i became acquaintances on my first trip to chicago in the nineties. it was my cousin z who introduced me to taco bell. i don't remember much about them, perhaps an indication of the fact that they didn't taste that good. but all said and done, it was the nineties, we were teenagers and we thought we were so cool eating taco bell. we would also much prefer eating bean burrito's than home-cooked pakistani food. these ones came from the supermarket and were frozen. a short whizz in the microwave would reduce them to a crumpled mess of slimy and gooey cheesy and beans mashed to baby food consistency. we ate these too.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

hardcore prawn

indonesian crab bisque, hardcore prawn and black bean
sirloin steak skewers
there has been much ado about street-food this year which is nowhere near dissipating. the focus is now on specific locations in central london providing a home for mobile carts, vans and trailers so that more of us can try them out. the collective at the brand new king’s boulevard is the newest kid on the block. described as a micro-market, at kx is on from wednesday to friday. i was there last friday especially for hardcore prawn. had i been a couple of minutes late i would have missed the indonesian crab bisque. i got the last helping scraped clean from the bottom.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

truffled egg toast

truffled egg toast is gusty and certain of its ability to please. 
o and i have to thank russell norman for bringing truffled egg toast to london. we first ate this super-calorific treat at spuntino in soho. it is basically a thick slice of bread whose depressed centre holds two very runny yolks framed by melting fontina cheese. the real pleasure though is olfactory - the sharp stinky nuttiness of melting fontina taken up several notches by pungent truffle oil. 

the politics of pesto

pesto with toasted almonds 
i cannot recall the first time i tried pesto but i am certain that it was made by mama. i took to it instantly. what's not to like about the delicate peppery notes of basil combined with the slight bite of garlic, fruity olive oil and most importantly the rich oiliness of pine-nuts. in pakistan, pine-nuts (called chilgoza's) are often eaten in the winter. shelling them is tedious and messy as the flaky brown skins are fragile. i was taught by my aunt to gently bite them on the defined edge of the shell and then chip the shell to reveal the slim nut. ever since i have spent many a satisfying evening shelling and eating chilgoza's by the fire. the italian food that i enjoyed growing up conveniently abbreviated itself to three p's - pizza, pesto and pasta. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

life is dessert first.

cream-cheese with pistachio frosted carrot cake 
"life is uncertain. eat dessert first" 
or better still have dessert for dinner as i did this tuesday night. 
for those of you who are frowning please be aware that carrots are one of five a day. if you still don't agree then dan lepard (creator of this recipe) will convince you that the ingredients of this cake are good for you - 'carrots are good for you. tahini, excellent for the liver and skin. pistachios, all that nutty protein and those plant sterols that reduce cholesterol'. at this point i'll ask you to overlook the cream-cheese frosting. 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

diwali at dishoom

dishoom covent garden
this tuesday i skipped my yoga class to do something very fun and special. i went to dishoom for a diwali preview dinner. the evening began with all of us seated in somewhat of a circle near the bar downstairs. a most serene and elegant lady brought to life the story of diwali. well known as the festival of lights, diwali is the shortened version of deepawali which literally translates into row of lamps. this five day festival marks the hindu new year. a number of legends from the ramayana are part of the celebration and on this night we heard the story of rama and sita. as vayu naidu says, this is a story for all ages so that in the telling of an epic of old she embraces the new - like the sounds of cocktails being mixed at the bar, or the flavours of food tasting unbecoming to the lovelorn sita. we were even told that the legends have responded to changing times through changing versions. so during the time of the mughal's sita walks behind rama rather than alongside him as is often done in muslim tradition. diwali is an affirmation of hope, of light against darkness and knowledge against ignorance. so rapt were all of us that despite the din near the bar we were able to hear most of the story and join in the conversation afterwards. 

citrus coriander baked fish

 citrus coriander baked fish, baby new 
potato chili coriander hash
i spent this week catching up with nigel slater's simple cooking on bbc one. watching his shows or reading his cookery books always inspire creativity in my kitchen so today, i explored a spicy and cool marriage by putting together a citrus coriander baked fish. o said that the fish had a distinctly thai flavour. i used medium smoked cod fillets and served the baked fish with a baby new potato red chili and coriander hash. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

carluccio's brunswick

a single stemmed yellow rose
the carluccio's brunswick has a special significance for o and i as this is where our life as a couple commenced. so it was apt when o said that we should dine there on our third anniversary. on a clear autumn night on what was the twelfth of october i met o at carluccio's at the brunswick for dinner. he presented me with a single long stemmed yellow rose because as we both agree, friendship is the most important element of a relationship. love can wax and wane but friendship is a constant. 

lazy roast garlic and courgette soup

i love courgettes but for some reason i always forget that i bought them. they usually make their presence known when i am doing the next round of grocery in the mistaken belief that i have run out of vegetables. this week i made a lazy roast garlic and courgette soup with my 'a little on the tired side' courgettes. 

{lazy courgette and roast garlic soup}

500 grams courgette 
three tablespoons of olive oil and a little extra to drizzle on the garlic
an unpeeled bulb of garlic 
a tablespoon of dried mushrooms
a roasting tin
enough foil to seal the roasting tin

Sunday, 16 October 2011

chatsworth road market

coupling bikes at chatsworth road market, e five
if autumn were a fragrance it would be a combination of musk and wood fire. it's tone would be a deep amber to imitate the changing colour of leaves. autumn is undoubtedly my favourite season of the year. today was the perfect autumn day and o and i spent it doing what we do best, eating. a quick overground ride led us to chatsworth road market in hackney. i was on my way there to eat some kimchi cult street food. as always, i've been following my palate around london. 

chatsworth road market is very much for the local area. it isn't crowded like other london markets and yet it is still quite busy. we did a round to find kimchi cult and waited patiently for the customer ahead of us to finish chatting with danny. kimchi cult's chatsworth road stall has three items on the menu: the bulgogi sub, the kblt and the pulled port and ginger slaw sub. i was a little disappointed about the absence of the kimchi slider but given that i love bulgogi was more than happy to settle on the sub. o for some reason decided to go healthy choosing the seeded roll. i stuck with the soft white roll whose soft texture is just the right counterpoint to the filling. the bulgogi sub is like a korean philly steak sandwich. the beef was soft and slightly caramelised on the edges. the slightly warm kimchi had a strong bite. i haven't had a soft white roll in so long and had forgotten how good it tastes. i must thank baba for introducing me to kimchi and bulgogi those many years ago in pakistan. 

danny assembling our bulgogi subs 
despite being quite full o and i decided to try the okonomiyaki from the stall next door. these thick japanese cabbage pancakes were a fusion version with the addition of cheddar cheese. the combination worked very well and in any case who doesn't like melted cheese. a drizzle of wasabi mayonnaise gives the kind of heat that makes your nostrils flare and the okonomiyaki glaze itself is fruity and sweet. what japanese and korean street food have in common is the multiple layers of flavours and textures that emerge. 

okonomiyaki stall at chatsworth road market
the making of the okonomiyaki
as if eating all that wasn't enough o and i then sat down at creperie du monde whose eclectic decor drew me into it. whoever did the interior here has really good taste. i loved the distressed leather sofas and empty frames to encompass blank wall space and break the monotony. o and i were almost tempted to order a belgian waffle but were openly very glad when the waitress failed to hear our request. i had an ice cream espresso which is creperie du monde's version of an affogato. o had his customary flatwhite. the espresso here is has a very assertive character with a slightly bitter nutty taste. the vanilla ice-cream had just the right mellow counter-point. as always o much preferred my order than his and ate a couple of generous spoonfuls. i definitely want to come back here for brunch sometime soon as the crepes looked very good!

glasses for water at creperie du monde
creperie du monde

babcia's suji ka halva (semolina halva)

my grandmother is polish which is why we call her babcia. strangely we call my grandfather daddy which is what mama calls him. that of course makes sense given that he is her father. i do recollect babcia telling me a couple of times that dziadek is how they say grandfather in polish but daddy stuck and that is what both of us siblings call him. but i digress. when mama was little her mum used to make her suji ka halva, a halva that she then made for murad and i when were little. it is one of those things that i have not grown out of and when i think comfort i think of this suji ka halva

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

pb and chocolate chip cookies

ready to go into the oven
peanut butter and i were lovers at first bite. 

we first met out of a skippy jar, the one with the turquoise sticker and turquoise cap. the one that called itself creamy. this particular jar had traveled all the way from the land of uncle sam in a huge carton packed with other fun things, for instance toys that had been neatly adapted for water fights so that i had a calculator that squirted water when you'd press its buttons. this was all courtesy of my baba who was away in missouri on a training course. i think there may have been a barbie in there too. although the recollection of the barbie is hazy, the jar of skippy creamy peanut butter and a candy bar called payday, a contrast of salted peanuts held together by a very chewy caramel have held sway over my memory. perhaps this is because my meeting with peanut butter was the beginning of an enduring relationship. 

Monday, 10 October 2011

yalla yalla

i and i have never had luck at yalla yalla green's court. our hunger and impatience always gets the better of us. and it doesn't help that there isn't a convenient waiting space. however all that has changed because there is now (in relation to the green's court location) a super size yalla yalla right of oxford street. on the evening that we went the weather was so warm we sat outside. inside, the decor has been kept to minimal with an emphasis on the woody tones of the  walls. the seating is canteen style. i personally prefer the green's court yalla yalla if only for the intimacy and more subdued conversation. yalla yalla winsley street is the teenage version of green's court. 


Sunday, 9 October 2011

omakase at sushi of shiori

it is jay rayner who is responsible for my introduction to omakase. in his review of sushi of shiori in august twenty ten he speaks of omakase as 'a japanese-style tasting menu prepared according to what's best and available'. elsewhere i had read that omakase means to entrust yourself to the chef's choice. at the conclusion of our omakase lunch today, the petite and intent japanese woman who is also the chef's wife said to me in a concerted manner that one must only have omakase if one trusts the chef. it is imperative of the experience. this was in response to our unanimous appreciation of our lunch as both i and i savoured every bit of it.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

‘sicilian brioche breakfast’ at la gelatiera

la gelatiera from the outside
the morning of the sicilian brioche breakfast turned out to be bright and sunny and really really warm. it was as if the gelato gods had aligned themselves with british weather to give me the perfect excuse to indulge myself. the italians generally indulge their sweet tooth at breakfast. when i was in turin with i we would have biscuits and espresso for breakfast. in sicily they eat what is essentially an gelato sandwich - a brioche with gelato in it. la gelatiera had brought together four food bloggers for a morning in their kitchen with italian patisserie chef leonard kadio. 

tapped and packed no. twenty six rathbone place

no.26 rathbone place
i passed by no.114 tottenham court road recently and was instantly taken by the large windows and the decor of the space. i also instantly connected the dots between it and no.26 rathbone place which i had seen on a recent walk through goodge street with o. unfortunately it has taken me a little while to get myself over to tapped and packed, the blame for which falls squarely on the fact that i am not located very near it. also, since o and i have freshly ground coffee at home (mostly monmouth) we don't really frequent coffee shops as much as we used to. nonetheless i think of myself as a collector of coffee places and cafes. i love unusual coffee shops with comfortable seating that lend themselves to extensive and lazy sundays with the observer newspaper. 

pitstop cafe at berwick street market, soho

pitstop cafe
there is this mobile van on berwick street. if you want an absolute location it is on the corner of where berwick street meets broadwich street. it is on the side of the corner of yauatcha. it is a two person show called pitstop cafe and is run by carol and sing. pitstop cafe is at berwick street market from tuesday to friday but sometimes when life happens carol and sing tweet to tell you that they aren't in so it's best if you follow them on twitter @pitstopcafesoho.