Friday, 31 December 2010

kabul restaurant

o and i spent christmas and new year in islamabad with our families. the best part of my trip home is feasting. the day usually starts with a cup of strong and perfectly brewed tapal tea and toasted roghni naan (i will be putting up a separate post for this). lunch could be any manner of pakistani salan - vegetables in masala, kebabs, chicken salan or tarka dhal. aside from all the home made food there is a ritual that i take very seriously. i have to eat at 'kabul restaurant' at least once. this time mum and i had a quick lunch there in between shopping and running around on last day of twenty ten.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

christmas twenty ten

a christmas collage
i had a wonderful christmas surrounded by my parents and sibling, my other half, my grand parents and my god mother (of sorts). it was also princess zubeida's first christmas made merry with welcome scraps of roast beef and chicken bones. we had a sit down dinner for eight and here is what we ate

a cream of mushroom soup (with porcini that had travelled from turin, italy).
a salad of mixed greens, capsicum and apple with a blue cheese and honey dressing.
roast chicken whose cavity had been stuffed with citrus. 
a pan roasted beef tenderloin.
red cabbage seasoned with bruised juniper berries, sugar, orange zest and fruit vinegar.
potatoes dauphinoise.
red and white wine.

for dessert there was christmas pudding that had travelled from london with custard and mama's home made bread and butter pudding.

it was a very special christmas because it was the first time babcia and daddy had come to be with us. usually, we celebrate christmas in lahore with my grand parents. mama had been anxious thinking that they might not like the tree (after all it was very modern) and that something would happen to the food but it all went very well. 

a very contemporary christmas tree
in fact disaster didn't strike until two days later when after making two rather successful 'makowiec' (pronounced mah-koh-viets), mama succeeded in burning the poppy seed mixture to a crisp and made the whole house smell. polish 'makowiec' is a christmas tradition in my mother's household. my grand dad makes it every christmas and i love both versions - the soft moist almond one as well as the dark crunchy poppy seed one. 

mum also made a fantastic and very boozy christmas cake. it was very dark and full of dark fruits and bright red maraschino cherries. she had fed it with a homemade orange liquer. as per tradition my grand parents had brought mrs cross' christmas cake. i much preferred mum's as it is moist and boozy and more fruit to cake. cross' is lighter, crumblier and less fruity. 

what i love about christmas is that you can indulge at whatever time you please so on christmas day i had cake for breakfast and makoweic for tea. i'll think about counting calories in the new year. for now, bring on the champagne truffles that o and i brought back for the family from la maison du chocolat. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

the humble spud

the humble spud is a real treat once scrubbed, salted and baked for a leisurely time in a hot oven. i love the slight cackle of skin when you press the hot potato in a kitchen cloth to let it release it's soft fluffy yellow centre.  the humble baked spud can be jazzed up or dressed for comfort with some melted butter, or the usual suspect of grated cheese and beans. today o and i ate ours with hot smoked salmon flakes in creme fraiche with crunchy cornichons and a dusting of dried dill (only because i didn't have any fresh and it's too cold and snowy outside to go get some). 

Friday, 17 December 2010

homemade granola

there is nothing that i love more homemade granola. mine is ultra crisp. this particular batch was four grain flavoured with a syrup made of 'gurr'. in pakistan you get raw sugar in misshapen balls. often it includes nuts. it's got a dark treacle-ish taste with a rounded saltish edge. to the syrup i added some olive oil and some sea salt. for a slight spice i added cinnamon, ginger and some grated orange zest. once it had been roasted in the oven on low heat for around an hour and a half i let it cool and then added chopped dates and sunflower seeds. i love eating it greek yoghurt and some grated apple or sliced banana.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

on grief and birthday's plus nigel slater's chocolate almond cake

lighting candles on the cake
it was o's birthday today and i was in two minds about birthday cake. of course there can be no birthday without cake but then there are no rules on bereavement. when is it okay to celebrate? and what exactly is celebration? of course religion's prescribe periods of mourning but then in o's words, his grand father put a period on an official mourning at three days. i am no fool to believe that prescriptions of time periods will determine the passing away of a loved one. grief isn't linear, it is interspersed with sadness and the celebration of happy memories too. after all, homer was right when he said that 'life and death are balanced on the edge of a razor'. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

the chocolate diary: martel chocolaterie geneva

it is half past midnight and after a frustrated google search for the website of martel chocolatier in geneva, i have given up. i don't get why, in this day and age the chocolatier does not have a website. anyway... the reason why i have been googling is because aside from the fact that their chocolates are excellent, i really want to know the name of one particular truffle that i just can't work out the filling for. my boss bought me the chocolates as a thank you for work done on our division's ministerial meeting. i had wrapped it up carefully and hidden it for a rainy day.

i opened it up today as i was in need of comfort after a stressful few weeks of being unwell. in addition o has had to fly out in emergency as his grand father is very unwell. so here i am past midnight, sitting on my couch with a still recovering foot eating seriously good chocolate. the orange peel in dark chocolate has all the zest of an orange made rich with a dark chocolate covering. the peel itself is surprisingly moist, as if it had been soaked and candied. there is an rather irregular and craggy truffle which is hard to bite but which gives way to a light and feathery chocolate mousse. it is basically three tiered with the crispy and crunch praline enclosing a soft centre but is itself dipped in chocolate ( i much preferred the dark to the milk). there was also a small pyramid shaped chocolate whose square tip was some kind of a crystallised fruit jelly. under the chocolate was a centre of pate de fruit with a very subtle flavour. the stars of the show were the dark chocolate ganache and a rectangle of chocolate with dull gold lines on its surface. i really want to know what the filling for this is as it had tones of passionfruit and an end note of sea salt with a hint of berry. 

this was chocolate heaven. 
               i am saving some for another rainy day.         
                             and i hoping that either i will be making a trip to geneva soon or someone will bring me another box.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

tea & scones

scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve
s&r came over for tea to thirty-two today. i had wanted to bake a small cake and make it somewhat of a birthday tea as it was s' birthday last week. but a rather acute case of tendinitis meant i couldn't really do much more than make sandwiches and scones (a fair bit of which s helped with) including buying the clotted cream and cream of tartar. i used my mum's foolproof recipe which is very very close to national trust recipe that felicity cloake decided was the best in her quest on 'how to make the perfect scone'.  so here is the recipe my mum passed down after scoffing at me for wanting to try delia's version which includes an egg. i was told in no uncertain terms that adding an egg to my scone mix would most definitely mean i am not making a british classic. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

barley pilaf with mushrooms and dill

i love cooking different kinds of grains because to me, it is about experiencing different textures and flavours. i also love the process of watching how liquid transforms the grains swelling their slim shapes. rice lengthens and fluffs up but something like barley or farrow or israeli cous cous expand through the centre of their bellies, shortening and growing roundish in shape. i especially love farrow and spelt and wheat-berries. cous-cous and bulghur are common favourites and i often make them as a side to chick pea stew or roast chicken. so when i saw hugh-fearnley whittingstall's pearl barley pilaf with mushrooms and dill i knew i had to make it.

fearnley-whittingstall describes his recipe as a pilaf with the texture of a risotto. i was a bit confused about that description partly because pearl barley is quite a robust grain. it doesn't soften the way rice does and it most certainly isn't starchy which is the element that brings together the fats and the stock in risotto to give a lovely creamy texture. so here are my notes of the making of the barley pilaf with mushrooms and dill

it takes about an hour or so to get the pilaf cooked and it is a lot more forgiving than a risotto purely because it needs less attending too. barley takes its good time to give way to tenderness and i personally found that it was easier to cook it by including all of the stock, bringing it to a rolling boil and then letting it simmer. this was because i realised after half an hour through cooking that it would just save me trouble. i would also make sure to follow the advice on having a mixture of fresh and cultivated mushrooms. i unfortunately had to make do without the porcini as i had none but i can see how the porcini broth would add a stronger flavour. i would also reduce the creme fraiche as the pilaf itself is quite rich with the mushrooms and the butter. but that i suppose is a personal preference. 

i loved making it as much as o and i loved eating it. this is serious winter comfort food. it is very hearty, very moreish and very filling. the mushrooms add a meatiness, the creme fraiche a slight sharpness and the dill, aside from adding some brightness also adds texture. 
if you likely barley, or would like to try a fusion pilaf made on the lines of a risotto, this is a recipe for you to try out.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

wholemeal french toast with orange & apricot brandy syrup

i made french toast today, mostly because i was nostalgic and missing home. my mum used to make us french toast on the weekends. slices of dawn bread ( i hadn't discovered wholemeal then) soaked briefly in a mixture of eggs whisked with milk and a bit of sugar. she'd fry it in her non-stick pan that she had reserved specifically for 'our' frying. the cook didn't get to use non-stick pans simply because he couldn't grasp that metal spoons scratch away the teflon. she was generous with the butter and would let the toast shallow fry until the edges would go a dark brown and caramelise slightly. i woke up dreaming the taste of mum's french toast and decided to make my own.

the problem is though, that i rarely ever have white bread around. what would have been really nice is a creamy coloured buttery brioche but neither o nor i were inclined to go buy some. so wholemeal bread it had to be. i was pretty secure in my ability to jazz up wholemeal bread. and jazz it up i did.

here is what you will need to make the french toast - two eggs, a hundred ml of milk, a couple of drops of vanilla and a tablespoon of caster sugar. whisk all of them together. slice the bread very thick and soak briefly in the egg mixture on both sides. meanwhile heat a pan with a walnut sized knob of butter. slide in the toast when the butter froths slightly. do watch the heat as butter burns very quickly. let the toast fry for at least three to four minutes or until the edges are deep brown and caramelising. flip over to the other side to do the same.

meanwhile in another small sauce pan put in the juice of one orange, some orange zest, two tablespoons of sugar and a shot glass full of apricot brandy (or contrieau). bring to a boil and simmer till it thickens slightly. 

to serve, put the french toast on a plate, drizzle liberally with the orange and apricot brandy syrup and dust with icing sugar. i have to say that the wholemeal toast added nuttiness and a rather robust texture which white toast doesn't. and the orange and zest added a freshness and welcome sharpness.

Monday, 1 November 2010

acorn house restaurant

the acorn house restaurant took the runners up spot for best ethical restaurant in 2010 (observer food monthly awards 2010). it has been on my list of places to eat at for a while and my tastecard gave me a wonderful 50% of for the first visit. i decided that s and i would lunch there today and it was a decision well taken.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

sunday roast at the black lion

my ex-flat mate recently moved to kilburn from arsenal. a rather warm but rainy afternoon found me wandering into her neighbourhood to join her and another friend of ours, s from helsinki who had come down to london for the weekend. j had chosen a local pub  'the black lion' to have sunday lunch. i know the black lion from my days of working in the area. it was a common after work drink pub and we had an office party there too. the pub is housed in a period building and it's ornate ceiling with its accents of gold and dark mahogany are grade ii listed. the dining hall is slightly off the bar area and is brighter than the drinking area. 

all three of us settled in and then had to decide whether we were going to have the chicken  or beef roast. after much deliberating about how beef roast is tricky because we prefer it medium rare we all ordered the same, that is the beef roast asking for it to be medium rare. we also decided that we weren't going to order wine but then landed up ordering a bottle of red. j, who is generally my guide for wine ordered it but we could have done without it as it really was quite vinegary. 

the beef roast came beautifully presented with all its regularly vegetable accompaniments - potatoes, broccoli, carrots and sugar snap peas, yorkshire pudding and gravy. sadly the beef was far from medium rare having been done more than well. the gravy however was flavoursome and the vegetables were remarkably well done. they weren't mushy. instead they had a little bite. the carrots in particular had a lovely buttery glaze and were just right. the yorkshire pudding wasn't much to write home about. i've had much better. 

would i go back for a the sunday roast? i don't think so. but i'd definitely go for a drink at the pub if only to admire the ceiling. 

274| kilburn high road| nw6

Black Lion on Urbanspoon

Friday, 29 October 2010

dessert at albion caff

for h's birthday o & i took her to papadoms in bricklane and to albion caff for dessert. we figured we'd give her the flavour of home in banglatown ending on a note of sophistication at albion. it's funny but o and i usually wind up at the albion almost every time we are in east london. there is something quite charming about this casual eatery with its open plan kitchen, its dim custard lighting and the smell of comfort food. this is the home of hearty british staples like pot pies and rarebits and kedgeree. then there are the wonderful classic pudding the likes of crumble, poached fruit and bread and butter puddings. we also love the tea served in pots with quaint knitted colourful poises and tall enamel pots with coffee. 

h chose the apple and blackberry crumble, n the warm chocolate mousse and i went for the steamed syrup pudding. both the crumble and the steamed pudding came with a jug of creme anglaise, that delightful and sophisticated pale version of custard flecked with vanilla that blunts the edges of tart and sweet, taming flavours with creaminess. my steamed syrup pudding was everything i could ask of of a classic pud. served in a rather creative manner in a tate and lyle treacle tin. i dug my spoon to the bottom to blend the golden syrup at the base knowing that if i didn't do this my last couple of mouthfuls would be painfully sweet with the edge of salt. then pouring over the creme anglaise i tucked in. if done well, steamed pudding is something that never fails to please me. it strikes all the perfect notes for a wet, rainy and cold london day. warmth, comfort, sweetness tempered by a hint of salt. it was perfection in a treacle tin.

as a side note, the crumble was good. but i'm one of those who much prefers making crumble at home only because it means that i don't cheat the topping of a much needed crunch. the chocolate mousse didn't really resonate with me much. i like my mousse to be lighter than heavy cream whipped with chocolate and served with more cream. i like it dark with fluffed egg white whisked into it and albion caff's is the heavy creamy sort. not my cup of tea.

on my next trip i am trying to bread and butter pudding. 

2-4 boundary street| shoreditch| e2 7dd

Albion at The Boundary Project on Urbanspoon

Monday, 25 October 2010


today was the most hellish monday i have had in a while. i left work late and arrived at the tube to find tube chaos on the piccadilly line due to a person on the tracks. i made a dash for the victoria line only to find out half way down the escalators that it too had been suspended due to a signal failure. since o was working late too i called him and told him to meet me at green park to while time over dinner in the hope that we’d be able to tube home.

o suggested jom makan but i was wanting japanese so suggested that we try toku. toku’s menu is quite extensive and o and i studied it whilst eating wasabi peas so sharp that i had watery eyes. i always like eating sashimi, mostly because i love the taste of it but partly because it is an indication of the freshness of the fish and the skill of the chef. toku gave me the perfect combination of salmon sashimi don – a bowl of rice with sashimi and miso soup on the side. o ordered his usual chicken teriyaki set. i choose the genmai cha (brown rice tea).

chicken teriyaki
the tea had a robust roasted rice flavour. out of curiousity i lifted the lid of the teapot and found brown rice in the filter along with some ground matcha. both our entrees were beautifully presented. the teriyaki had a glossy brown glaze with a bright and colourful salad on the side. the rice had some black sesame sprinkled on it. a gentle stir with chopsticks brought together the cloudy centre and clear edges of the miso soup. my sashimi was a contrast of salmon pink and spring green onion and wasabi.

salmon sashimi don
and it all tasted as good as it looked. the miso was as it should be. not too salty with the hint of umami and the comfort of warm broth. the sashimi don was accompanied by what appeared to be a soy sauce but was actually very mild. together, the sauce with the slightly warm rice and the crunch of spring onion cut through the richness of the salmon. the salmon itself felt like silk in the mouth. o’s teriyaki had that sweet and salty and slightly sticky taste that is customary of it. the sweetness is akin to brown sugar but something more complex. it is a taste that i have always failed to identify.

daifuku mochi
to finish, we had the daifuku mochi which have a reputation for themselves. apparently, mochi is a traditional japanese sweet made from rice that is pounded and stretched into pastry. the pastry is filled with anko (sweet azuki bean paste). what i love about these tiny ball shaped sweets is the texture – the stretchy, chewy rice pastry contrasting with the smooth mellowness of the bean paste. not to mention the deep maroon filing against the pale slightly cool rice white. daifuku means ‘great luck’ so i am hoping that eating them will bring changing fortunes, although i fear that the only changing fortune with our waistlines.
we would definitely recommend toku and i personally think it is quite reasonably priced too. 

16 regent street| london| sw1y 4ph

Toku, Japan Centre on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 24 October 2010

sweet potato & beetroot soup

it has been unseasonably cold this last week and i have been craving a big bowl of soup, soup that is thick and substantial. there was a lone sweet potato in my kitchen. since it wouldn’t be enough to feed the two of us i needed to add something to it and that’s where the beetroot came in. i also had half a tub of crème fraiche which became a handy garnish with the addition of a bunch of dill, a thinly sliced red chilli and some grated lemon zest. the only sad part was the toast – it would have been really nice to have some crusty sour dough instead.

to make the soup you will need
a medium red onion, chopped
two tablespoons of olive oil
one sweet potato, peeled and cut up into bite sized pieces
roughly 250 grams of beetroot [i used cooked but if i had had time i would roasted mine]
two tablespoons of red lentils
a pint of chicken or veggie stock
a red chilli
a teaspoon of paprika
a teaspoon and a half of cumin powder
quarter teaspoon ground cinnamon
a teaspoon and a half of brown sugar
a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
salt to taste

start by chopping the onion. heat the olive oil and sweat the onion until it is soft. then add the paprika and cumin powder and cinnamon powder and let fry gently for a couple of seconds. add the chopped potato and fry for a couple of seconds. add the lentils and fry for another minute before adding the stock to the pan. cover and boil until the sweet potato is tender.

while the sweet potato is boiling process the cooked beetroot and red chilli leaving a bit of texture. remove and keep aside. once the sweet potato is cooked cook process it. return all the ingredients to the pan, add the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and salt and simmer gently for ten to fifteen minutes.

you can add more stock if you prefer a thinner soup. o and i much prefer a thick soup.

i served it in deep bowls with a generous tablespoon of dill and chilli crème fraiche and well done toast. 

Sunday, 17 October 2010

sushi of shiori

ever since sushi of shiori's review in the observer i have been wanting to try it out. so finally on a late september afternoon s and i met up there for lunch. it's location is a bit strange as it is on the far end of drummond street, a decidedly sub-continental street marked not only by the numerous sub-continental restaurants but also by the very pronounced smell of curry powder and fried onions. 

the chef preparing sushi
finding good reasonably priced sushi in london is quite a mission. in fact i can't remember the last time i had good sushi here so sushi of shiori turned out to be a real treat. sushi of shiori is a tiny space (just seven seats). one counter faces the window and the other the open kitchen. s and i were lucky enough to have gotten two seats facing the kitchen where an intent detail obsessed chef ran his sharp knives through fish cutting and slicing and turning his cuts into creations of art. 
sashimi lunch
deluxe sushi
s and i both chose from the lunch menu. i am partial to sashimi as i love the texture of fresh raw fish so i went for the sashimi lunch. s went for the deluxe sushi. we figured it would be a good combination to try both. the sashmi platter was an exquisite combination of bright colours - salmon shaped into a rose on a large shiso leaf, red snapper with a hint of shredded daikon and wasabi and seabass with a garnish of spring onions. there was also two kinds of salad on the plate. the slight bite of mooli cut through with the sweetness of carrot and a sashimi salad with a fruity, citrusy and nutty dressing. on the side was a bowl of miso soup and some rice. the miso soup was excellent. s' sushi was also beautifully presented and tasted just as good. the fish was absolutely fresh and tasted like silk in the mouth. i had kept in mind jay rayner's critique of the rice and had pre-warned s about it too. the rice wasn't resistant to separating with ease but it could have done with a bit of warmth. of course we had green tea on the side.

black sesame ice-cream
to finish, s and i split the homemade black sesame ice-cream. i have had it before at a chinese restaurant. sesame ice-cream is sublime. it tastes like frozen creamy tahini paste and is very rich. black-sesame has a slightly more intense nuttier flavour with a hint of bitterness like that of dark chocolate as an end note. i have to confess that i am not much of a fan of the slate-grey colour though. it looks a bit like cement. 

so the final verdict, sushi of shiori is definitely the best sushi i've had in london so far. i definitely want to go back for the omakase style menu. 

144| drummond street| nw1 2pa

Sushi of Shiori on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 10 October 2010

the hundred and fifty thousand calorie anniversary tea at podium park lane

so, my anniversary surprise set me back a couple of thousand calories. this isn't a high tea for the faint hearted and even o struggled to plough through. on a very sunny and unseasonably warm sunday o walked me up  park lane to the london hilton. our second year anniversary was celebrated with a massage followed by the 'confessions of a chocoholic tea'.

we started with peach bellini's and open faced sandwiches. five rectangles of thin sandwich bread arrived on a long white platter. there was smoked salmon with horseradish, prawn mayonnaise and baby gem lettuce, cucumber and cream cheese with chives, egg and cress and honey roast ham and pommery mustard. the sandwiches were a mix and match of tastes. the smoked salmon was disappointing as the slices were too thick and there was no sharpness or citrus to cut through it. i couldn't detect any horseradish. the egg and cress was a rather pale making it seem like the egg had been cheated of the yolk. it could have done with a little freshness with something green. i don't eat ham so can't vouch for what it tasted like. the prawn sandwich was delightful though. nice and light with a crisp baby gem lettuce leaf. the star of the show was the cucumber and cream cheese with chives.

next came the three tiered stand best described as indulgence. o went for the chocolate chip scones whilst i had the raisin ones. the presentation was beautiful, especially the top tier with all its chocolate creations placed on a chocolate tray dusted with gold dust. on the side was clotted cream, chocolate praline spread and strawberry jam. o and i started bottom up. i didn't think much of the chocolate chip scones. my raisin scones were really good though. the strawberry jam was a disappointment though. very watery and runny and definitely not spreadable. the clotted cream had the texture of whipped cream as opposed to the thick luxuriousness of cream so thick it is hard to spread. the chocolate praline spread was lovely though with a lightly whipped texture.

on the second tier were four fanciful cupcakes. i have to confess i am not much of a cupcake fan. i find them a poor excuse for cake usually topped with more frosting than necessary. the cupcakes at podium were no exception. o and i tasted the tops and discovered that the cake underneath was remarkably uniform across the three ( we didn't try the coconut and key lime).  

the final tier on top was a celebration of all things chocolate. the two miniature fancies that we didn't fancy much were the pineapple crumble with a chocolate jelly. the combination of milk chocolate with sweet crumble and an even sweeter pineapple came across as just too sweet. and somehow the combination didn't work. the cone of marshmallow and chocolate ganache was a tab bit too childish amidst the sophistication. i would have loved more of the lychee, raspberry, rosewater mousse, caramel of white chocolate and praline and the pistachio and chocolate macaroon. o had the hilton tea blend and i chose the oolong which was excellent.

so the final verdict. the sandwiches were okay. the scones very good. the cupcakes not much to write home about and the miniature fancies really really good.the service was really good and we even got to doggy bag our chocolate without having to ask. definitely worth the indulgence if you are able to overlook some of the shortcomings.

Podium Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 7 October 2010

ten ten tai

o and i are around soho and we've ruled out our regular suspects: byron, busaba, itsu. yalla yalla is closed for a private dinner and i am not in a mood for chinese. i would love a bowl of steaming udon but don't relish the idea of waiting in line to eat at koya. and that's when i suddenly remember that i've been meaning to try ten ten tei. 

california rolls and salmon sushi
 ten ten tei is a slightly cramped japanese place on brewer street. it's slightly shabby too. we wait briefly the door before being led downstairs to a less cramped seating area. i do a quick scan of the al a carte dishes settling on the tempura soba. o orders udon with tempura. to start with we have california rolls and salmon sushi. at ten ten tei the service is patchy and the table diagonally opposite us is served quicker than us despite having placed their order later than ours. the sushi tastes really good but it's presentation leaves much to be desired for.
tempura udon
o's udon looks lovely. thick white noodles in a clear broth topped with tempura, a poached egg, mushrooms and chopped spring onions. my soba is equally good. a very flavourful clear broth with a generous helping of light and crispy tempura and spring onions. the soba noodles were perfectly cooked too. once again the service was a let down though with us having to wait for quite a while to be served. 

ten ten tei is good value for money. just don't expect any frills and fancies and presentation wonders.  

Ten Ten Tei on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 October 2010

roasted tomato soup

o isn't feeling too well. he has a terrible cold and his tonsils are all inflamed. i decided to make him some chicken soup for the soul except that he doesn't like chicken soup. so instead i made him a sophie dahl nostalgia inspired roasted tomato soup.

lots of plum tomatoes cut into half, a few springs of thyme, two onions sliced into thick rings and a whole bulb of garlic were placed into a roasting tin and roasted for a little over half an hour. you basically want the tomatoes to collapse and reduce with the heat. once roasted let the tomatoes cool slightly. squeeze the head of garlic into a pan, add the rest of the roasted ingredients and process with a handheld blender until smooth. this is the point where my recipe differs from sophie dahl's. into the pan i added a cup of warm chicken stock and the hard crust of parmesan cheese along with a few drops of worcestershire sauce, some balsamic, a pinch of sugar and some salt. i kept the consistency quite thick and moreish. 
i served both o and myself in deep bowls with some crisp toast fingers.
sophie dahl's original recipe can be found here

Saturday, 25 September 2010

the first hot chocolate

it is a rather cold and chilly day in london. winter is definitely on its way in. so i made omair and myself a 'pick me up' hot chocolate. a pinch of cinnamon, some cardamom crushed in my mortar and pestle, two tablespoons of green and blacks cacao, two squares of lindt dark ginger chocolate and a tablespoon and a half of sugar heated with two mugs full of milk.

really really good!

Sunday, 19 September 2010


o and a and i met at caravan in exmouth market for brunch on sunday. as is the trend these days we couldn't make a reservation so we waited at the bar. it was very busy and we did have a considerable wait. what was nice though was that we were kept updated on the progress on our table. o ordered a filter coffee to start with. the bar was a wonderful place to wait at. the centre of the counter had a little structure which held ceramic coffee filters. every time a filter coffee was ordered hot water and a cup would be added to the structure and you could watch the coffee drip its way through. caravan is a family friend place as well and the music does well to mask the ruckus of children. 

Sunday, 12 September 2010

sunday brunch; cornbread

o loves cornbread. 
or correction he loves the cornbread that ottolenghi serves. their's is light and has a loose crumb with a hint of red chilli.
i decided to make some at home. there was nothing delicate and light about mine. it has a dense crumb and is very wholesome and filling. i shied away from adding any savoury and spicy elements to it because i wanted to be able to teem it up with different sides. o and m had their's with a cheese and dill omelette and baked beans. i had mine with honey cream cheese.  i am thinking it would be nice with roasted aubergines and garlic cream cheese. 

the recipe i used is an amalgamation of a number of recipes. i upped the cornmeal content reducing the flour accordingly. to make cornbread at home here is what you need -

1 and a 1/4 cups coarse corn meal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 a teaspoon salt
1/2 a teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar or honey or brown sugar
an egg
one and a half cups buttermilk* [to make buttermilk at home add a tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of milk and let stand for five minutes]
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or unsalted melted butter 

place all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix together to ensure that the baking powder and baking soda are well incorporated.
whisk the egg lightly then add the oil or butter and the buttermilk. add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix until no steaks remain.
pour into a lightly greased nine inch cake or pie pan (square or round) and bake at 200 degrees celsius for 25 - 28 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. the corn bread should shrink from the sides and turn a golden brown on top.

let it cool slightly before cutting into slices and tucking in.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

foxcroft and ginger

soho seems to be the post code of choice for flat whites. the newest addition is foxcroft and ginger which interestingly enough is just a couple of yards from flat white itself. the milk bar is right around the corner.  foxcroft and ginger is quite different from the milk bar and nearby flat white. it's more open and spacious and is slightly brighter too. it has a slightly industrial feel on account of the high ceilings with exposed pipes. the sitting space is more comfortable and lends itself well to sitting around. so much so that i spent two hours alternating between reading, writing postcards and bbm-ing virtual flat whites to a in pakistan and s in dubai which was followed by a rather long description of flat whites themselves. if you don't already know see my two beans worth coffee blog for a fantastic description including latte art.

to return to foxcroft and gingers flat white, it's probably not the smoothest one i've had. the coffee here is sharp and robust and very strong. there is no doubt that the milk adds a very creamy and round note but it isn't mellow like at flat white or the milk bar. nonetheless, it's very good. and i loved the quirky manner of serving. a delicate porcelain cup with a gold rim sitting on a mismatched saucer with blue and white patterns. 

as i was heading to ashtanga post coffee i had to forgo the goodies on display but i am definitely coming back for the chelsea buns. the man at the table next to me was having one that was sliced thickly and smelt of cinnamon and citrus peel and was dark with currants. 

Foxcroft and Ginger on Urbanspoon

Monday, 6 September 2010

yalla yalla

so yesterday, i finally made it to yalla yalla. s, r, o and i turned up at yalla yalla for an early dinner. it was seven and the place was packed but luckily we only had to wait fifteen minutes. i stress the only because the previous four times that i have tried coming here i've been told the minimum wait is forty minutes. and i've usually been too hungry to wait that long. 

Saturday, 14 August 2010

mama's channa masala recipe

a was sleeping over and i wanted to cook something. i decided it was time to make channa masala. mama's recipe is super easy and requires very little work. with it i boiled plain white rice. a and i ate it with some preserved lemons. pity i didn't have yoghurt. it would have been really nice to have raita but i wasn't inclined to walk down to the local shops thanks to the rain.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

yum yum thai

o and i and i got soaked in summer rain on our walk down to yum yum thai in stokey. i had at one point contemplated going to au lac, a trusted favourite but was vetoed by o and i alike. our rain-soaked trio was seated rather promptly on arrival. and from the point of the beginning of our dinner to the end there was a flurry of service. at yum yum thai, the food appears and disappears with alarming alacrity. even on a tuesday night the place was packed full – and yum yum is no small fry. it’s quite a large restaurant.

as part of tastelondon we got a fifty percent of the total bill provided we ordered a starter and an entree each. i went for the yum yum dimsum with a chilli and garlic sauce and o and i both chose deep fried chicken starters. o’s lok chin tod were balls of chicken marinated in thai herbs and served with a plum sauce and i’s golden bags round bags of chicken encased in a deep fried golden and crisp pastry. the plum sauce was more of a sweet chilli sauce than plum. the dim sum was good – not outstanding but good enough. a medley of vegetables and some white meat wrapped in a dim sum wrapper and steamed. the only difference between my chilli sauce and the plum sauce was that mine was chillier.
for mains we ordered the kang peneng, essentially thinly sliced beef in a ground peanut curry with coconut cream and kaffir lime leaves. i picked the chicken stir fried with onions and cashews and i went for the pad ke-mao – stir-fried flat noodles with chilli, holy basil, thai herbs, prawns and egg. we all shared the entrees.
the stir-fried chicken as o noted tasted like pakistani chinese. it was sweet and sour with a base that tasted distinctly like thinned down ketchup. the onions obviously made it sweeter. i had asked for the chilli to be put down a notch in the pad ke-mao but what we got was incredibly bland. we did like the kang peneng which had a lovely and creamy peanut base made luxurious with coconut cream. i wish there had been more kaffir lime leaves to cut through the mellowness of the dish though. overall the kick of chilli and herbs was sorely missing.
our desserts turned to be the best part of dinner. an adventurous take on a classic french crème brulee with the addition of lemon grass and pistachio biscotti was good. i felt that the custard could have been a tad bit warmer but it was good nonetheless. o had the banana fritters with ice-cream. the lemongrass tea was faultless.
overall, yum yum thai was a disappointing experience. all of us had been drawn to trying it out because it was featured in gordon’s f word. the problem is it didn’t taste like thai at all. there was none of the heat and vibrancy of colour that i associate with thai. and the entrees were quite stingy in size.
so, i am pretty certain that we won’t be going back.

Yum Yum on Urbanspoon

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.