A Sunday dinner of roasted shoulder of lamb rubbed with a paste made with garlic, rosemary, anchovies, English mustard and olive oil. Slow roasted on low heat for a good 4-5 hours. Served with gravy made from the pan juices and red wine, steamed broccoli and green beans and oddly, for a roast, steamed rice. You can take the girl out of Asia but ....
For dessert, trifle topped with hundreds and thousands - just for Stuart who was all miserable because he was just told his broken ankle will have to stay in a cast for 6 weeks. I admit I thoroughly cheated on the trifle. The cake were the last of the madelines I had brought back from my trip to Switzerland, the custard came from Sainbury's Taste the Difference range - all lovely and creamy with those beautiful speck of vanilla and the jelly came from a packet I packet I picked up from the supermarket. No booze. I rarely keep alcohol in the flat unless it's chocolate liqueur or wine or beer or ... you get the idea.
Stuart's all better now. His cast came off two weeks ago and he's limped his way round London since. I'm off cooking duty for now - woohoo! Note the lack of posts recently - boo ... but I'm sure I'll find other beautiful bits of food to blog about :)
The Jaime Oliver brand has certainly been spreading it's wings. The anti commercialists amongst us would call them tentacles. I can eat at a Jaime branded restaurant (depending on how much you're willing to spend, you can either go slightly upmarket and head to Fifteen - with branches all over the world or head down to your local Jaime's Italian), learn how to make fresh pasta and buy a ready prepared meal at his Recipease, cook with Jaime branded utensils and of course there's the famous cheeky grin on those cookbooks. Long gone are the days when Jaime was just a 'local lad from Essex' who made it so cool for guys to whip up a meal at home.
I actually quite like Jaime. Good for him I say. Well, I must admire him to some extent since I did find myself queuing outside Jaime's Italian down in Kingston, my old haunt, not too long ago. And my, he must be rolling in it ... the queue was long and it was well past lunchtime. Since I was the first to arrive, I was led to the bar for a drink - a single girl in a restaurant full of happy young families needed reinforcements, which came in the form of a glass of Bellini. Nicely chilled and deliciously peachy (please, no pun intended:) I settled in to people watch. Alright, waiter watch. It was non-stop activity. By the time P finally arrived (traffic in Kingston is maniac on weekends - how could we ever forget?), I had a nice large table all to myself and a bottle of wine to keep me company.
We decided on the Seasonal Meat Antipasti Plank at £6.50 a head, which came on a large wooden plank (it does what is says on the menu!) balanced on a couple of unopened tins of tomatoes. An interesting idea, certainly.
Our meat plank featured:
Cured meats - Tuscan fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, San Daniele prosciutto and Schiacciatapiccante. Italian cheeses - buffalo mozzarella, pecorinowith chilli jam. Pickles - green chillies, green and black olives Salad - Italian coleslaw with lemon and mint
There was a nice range of textures with the meat - ranging from the almost run of the mill, supermarket ham like pistachio mortadellato the cured prosciutto and of course, the fatty yet so lush salami. The mozarellawas fresh, almost goey in the centre and my favourite, the pecorinowith the chili jam. I liked the cheesy saltiness against the sweet chili - or as I would like to think of it as Italian meets Thai. I swear that chili jam came straight of a Thai sweet chili sauce bottle. The large green olives ultra mild and very unlike any other olives I've ever tasted. None of that olive punch in them.
For mains, P decided on one of the specials of the day - roasted belly of pork stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese served with stewed beans. For a touch of pretension, there was a scattering of micro basil. The meat was lovely - meltingly tender. However, the crackling had less crackle and more chew to it than P would have liked - not that I went anywhere near it. Crackling is evil in my book. Even the beans were delicious. A truly generous, heartwarming dish - perfect for a cold, blustery day.
As usual I took an age deciding on what I wanted - oo-ing and ahh-ing over almost every dish on offer. Not forgetting I had a good half hour by myself to decide what I wanted before P arrived. I finally settled for decidedly boring Fish in a Bag (£15.65). Sometimes I seriously question my food decisions. Opting for fish over the interestingly named Lamb Chop Lollipops ... tsk. As expected my bass fillet, Cornish mussels and clams steamed in their own juices with smashed fennel, heritage potatoes, capers, Amalfi lemon, seasonal herbs, sweet baby tomatoes and white wine was good. The seafood was very fresh but also ultra safe (boring). It was something I could easily make for a mid-week meal (alright, lamb chops isn't exactly hard to cook either but lamb chop lollipops just sound so good!). Maybe I was just jealous of P's gorgeous hunk of pork.
We were very keen to try the Crispy PolentaChips with rosemary salt and parmesan(£2.95) but a portion of Funky Chips with fresh garlic and parsley (£2.50) was brought over instead. The waiter sweetly gave us a portion polentachips for free. Yes, I know .. his mistake but it was busy and he did manage to maintain his good humour throughout our stay. I've never had polenta before - deep fried or otherwise and found it an unusual experience. I wasn't too keen on it at first but it grew on me, tasting better as it cooled down. P gave up after a couple of bites and left the rest to me (yay? nay? I'm still not quite sure). The chips really were as 'funky' as described on the menu. It was ultra crisp, delicious and very likely fried in garlic flavoured oil to give it that extra 'umph'.
Our waiter was cheery throughout despite the non-stop stream of people. He did get our polenta order wrong, which he did rectify by giving us a a free portion of chips but we had to remind him of the fact when the bill came charging us for both orders. He also miscalculated the amount he charged us when we asked him to split the bill onto two cards ... by over £10. We were sorely tempted to walk off but he was so nice and yes, maybe not everyone is great at math. But he rushed back soon enough, very apologetic about his mistake. We had a very good afternoon with delicious food. It didn't have the wow factor - no Michelin stars - but that's not what Jaime's Italian is about. It's good food (think of it of a step up from your usual run of the mill high street places like Strada) in a comfortable environment with affordable prices. Well, if you lived in Kingston you should be able to afford it anyway.
A Malaysian foodie at heart, I now live in London where, after eight years, I am still trying to come to terms with the four changing seasons. Although far from home there is never short of good food to be salivated over!Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org