Sunday, 21 March 2010

Barbecue Korean Style in New Malden

Last week I finally headed to New Malden to check out the Korean grocery store a friend had excitedly told me about weeks ago. I had been through the town before years ago when I used to live in Kingston but it fell off my radar after I moved closer into the city. Like every out of town oriental supermarket, the Korea Foods Mart is stuff full with items so many in Asia take for granted in their local supermarkets (I know I do when I'm in Malaysia) and it's cheaper than Chinatown, my one other access to Asian food (the out of town Chinese supermarkets tend to close pretty early, making it impossible for me to get to) . So I did (understandably?) go a little mad when I was there, nonchalantlychucking things into the trolley - things I may have thought twice about buying if I were in New Loon Moon or Loon Fung.

Banchan - Yeon-Ji Restaurant, New Malden

After stocking up on grocery goodies, it was time to find something to eat. My web search of New Malden hadn't gone beyond looking for directions to the supermarket. No worries we'll just pop into a restaurant that looks like it's full of locals, which is how we ended up at Yeon-Ji. There was a large table of Korean business men and a further 3 tables occupied by Korean couples - rather promising then. And every table had either a hotpot bubbling away or a smoking hotplate with sizzling meat. Korean barbecue it was.

Samgyeopsal - Yeon-Ji Restaurant, New Malden

Samgyeopsal - Yeon-Ji Restaurant, New Malden

Samgyeopsal - Yeon-Ji Restaurant, New Malden

We had an order of samgyeopsal (thin slices of pork belly) that came with little dishes of sesame oil, salt and pepper for the meat to be dipped into once we had cooked it. The pork was good - caramelised on the edges and tasting very much like bacon. However, we were never supplied with any fresh veg to wrap our meat in or the spicy bean paste that is, I believe, usually served with barbecued meats. Oh well, it was tasty enough just with the rice and our serving of banchan.

Bulgogi - Yeon-Ji Restaurant, New Malden

Our other order was bulgogi (thin slices of marinated beef). Like the pork, the meat was delicious. The marinade made a lovely sticky sauce that went down so well with the rice.

Menu - Yeon-Ji Restaurant, New Malden

The orders of meat were priced at £8 each and it was £2 for 2 bowls of steamed rice. Not particularly expensive but it was disappointing to pay that price when there were missing bits to the meal. They also don't accept cards (for any amount) and we had to go looking for a cash machine. A pretty mean feat as we soon discovered as there were none that were in service on Burlington Road. Our server was quite sweet about it when I explained that I would have to wait whilst my companion had to head back to the high street to get some cash but what a pain in the neck experience it was for us! On my next trip to New Malden I must remember bring a wad of cash and perhaps try one of the other restaurants.

Yeon-Ji Restaurant
106 Burlington Road, New Malden, KT3 4NS Surrey

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Cake Time!

Tea Time - Friday Afternoon at the Office

We got treated to cake for tea at work yesterday by my manager. No other reason other than it was Friday =D She got a selection from Patisserie Valerie and cut each slice into half (I was all in favour in cutting each slice into 3 - I got some very dirty looks for my suggestion :S)

Tea Time - Friday Afternoon at the Office

I couldn't help posing my half a slice of chocolate mousse cake. It was a very nice bit of cake - creamy yet light chocolate mouse topped a thin layer of airy sponge. I also stole a quarter of the lemon tart when no one was looking (yup, the lemon and the raspberry tarts got cut into quarters because I was in charge of cutting them - all in the spirit of more to go round!).

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Chocolate Coated Strawberry

Friday, 19 March 2010

Indonesian Inspired Meal from a Christmas Spice Box

Indonesian Spice Box

I came back an icy cold, miserable London in the middle of January to find a rather large box with a peculiar smell waiting for me. Knowing my passion for (almost) all forms of food, Stuart's mum had very thoughtfully bought me a box of Indonesian spices (close enough to Malaysia:) for Christmas.

Indonesian Spice Box

My wonder box contained 9 different types dry and wet spice mixtures, a bottle of sweet sambal and a bottle of sauce for roast pork.

Indonesian Spice Box

First meal out of the box - sate ayam with nasi kuning, fresh pickle and sweet sambal. Traditionally none of the dishes go together but I wasn't going to let it stop me. The chicken was marinated overnight with the spice mixture, oil and lemon juice and cooked in a hot, non-stick pan with no extra oil for about 10 minutes. The rice, cooked with the turmeric and coconut mix, turned out bright yellow and smelling nutty and fragrant. For the pickle, thin slices of cucumber, carrot and red onion were steeped in a mixture of rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt. The sweet sambal was served straight out of the jar.

Homemade Indonesian Meal

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised how well the meal turned out. All the spicing was authentic enough especially the chicken. To be honest I was a little doubtful about the sate spice mix when I set out to marinate the chicken but it 'matured' really well. It tasted even better. The yellow rice was nice but dessicated coconut from the mix missed the 'umph' of fresh coconut milk. The pickle, the only dish I made from scratch, was refreshing next to the fiery sambal. Those chilies had a real hit the back of the throat kick to it - Stuart choked and I teared. What a nice pair we make :)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

New Mayflower - Chinatown, London

I've been trawling through Flickr and came across these photos from a meal I had yonks ago at Mayflower in Chinatown that I never got round to posting. Mayflower is still one of those old favourite's that is so worth visiting for a good Chinese (Cantonese) meal.

Crispy Aromatic Duck - Mayflower, London

Vegetables for a Crispy Aromatic Duck Pancake Wrap - Mayflower, London

Stuart's 'must' dish' - Crispy Aromatic Duck with pancakes, spring onion, cucumber and hoisin sauce

Braised Belly Pork with Preserved Vegetable - Mayflower, London

My 'must dish' at Mayflower - Mui Choy Kau Yoke (braised pork belly with salted preserved mustard green). A hearty Hakka dish that is lusciously beautiful in every way. More Chinese restaurants should put this on their menus.

Sweet and Sour Pork - Mayflower, London

Sweet and Sour Pork - one of the best versions I've had in London with the pork encased a crisp batter enhanced with the addition of cornflour, just like they do it in Hong Kong

Chili Fried Beef - Mayflower, London
Crispy Chilli Beef

Fried Dau Mui with Garlic - Mayflower, London
Stir Fried Dau Mui - one of my all time favourite vegetable.

Dry Fried Ho Fun with Beef - Mayflower, London
Stir Fried Hor Fun with Beef - lovely charred flavour from an incredibly hot wok

Stuffed Tofu, Aubergine and Peppers with Black Bean Sauce - Mayflower, London

Aubergine, Peppers and Tofu Stuffed with Shrimp Paste in a Black Bean Sauce

New Mayflower Restaurant
68-70 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6NA
New Mayflower on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 March 2010

Cheat's Cookies

I made cookies the other day - cheats - straight out of the red- edged Betty Crocker packet into a mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of water then plopped onto a baking tray.

Cheat's Cookies

10 minutes later - freshly baked cookies. They weren't great but to be fair they weren’t terrible either. And it did satisfy that sudden cookie munchie craving – when the nearest shop seemed like a million miles away and the thought of making my own cookies threw me into a shudder of laziness (that is if I could have mustered up the energy to shudder).

Good Morning

Breakfast at Work

I freely admit I’m not a morning person. Nine out of ten mornings I suffer from terrible grumps cleared only after about 2 hours of wakefulness and my usual routine of coffee and serious overload of butter soaked carbs. The morning carb of the moment - cinnamon and raisin bagels – toasted with a good smear of butter, usually the fake stuff (spread) but the real stuff is better, and unfortunately also a luxury I don’t always indulge in. Whilst saying that I had some butter laden mash last night …. So good I’m having the leftovers today.

Happy Monday! (At least the sun is shinning in London today and temperatures are expected to raise to 14 degrees C. Yay!)

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Lunch Cravings - Nando's Chicken Pitta

Chicken Pitta with Chips and Corn on the Cob - Nando's, Holborn

I've never been a big fan of Nando's ... that is until I discovered their Chicken Breast Fillet Pitta with 2 sides - chips and corn on the cob. I thought it was so yummy that I had it twice last week. Emm .... I think I'll have it again next week =D

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Weeknight Dinners

I admit it, I am a bit of control freak in the kitchen. I'm terrible at delegation unless I'm pretty darn certain the person I'm delegating to is pretty darn capable. And I'm a harsh critic. It's likely I won't say something is good unless I really think it is. This is probably explains why Stuart has only ever cooked a handful of times for me over the last 6 years. To be fair he does know his way around the kitchen and would cook a great deal more if only I let him. And come up with something really decent too.

Roasted Belly of Pork, Broccoli and Rice - Weeknight Dinner

He took over the kitchen one night this week and made some scrummy roasted belly of pork, Chinese style - I tasted soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper ... the usual suspects, including my embarassing favourite - ketchup. It has been noted on several occassions by different people that I have not given up my childhood taste for tomato sauce (that is what I grew up calling it - ketchup was a weird word I had to adapt to when I came to London). I would quite happily eat ketchup with anything, almost everything ... With the pork, Stuart made fried rice with peas and corn and just for me, a side of obligatory green - steamed broccoli.

Barbequed Chicken and Stir Fried Veg with Rice - Weeknight Dinner

And when one is stressed and tired, there's nothing worse than the thought of cooking. So for another evening it was stir fried veg (Sainsbury's does a a nice bag of mixed veg in their Basics range for a quid - which they happily advertise is heavy on the beansprouts), pre-cooked chicken in a barbeque marinade and steamed rice. Easy stuff for a weeknight .. or any night.

The Garrison - Bermondsey Street

Exterior - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

The sniffles and coughs and seasonal tummy bugs finally caught up with me a few weeks ago and I have been feeling absolutely sorry for myself. I did, however, manage a nip down to The Garrison down by London Bridge before the seasonal viruses set in.

Kitchen - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street
The kitchen hard at work

Condiments Shelf - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street
The charming if rickety looking sauce cabinet below the serving window

I'd been told how good the food was, the menu online looked promising and it went on the 'definitely try' list. I asked a friend who lived in the area what she thought of the pub and her answer was, "oh, the poncy one?". I took it to mean it was less of a boozer and more of a gastro-pub. Bodes well for a meal then. The website does warn diners to book a table but we thought, "fiddlesticks that, we'll just turn up for an early dinner!". Ahh but apparently 6PM on a Tuesday evening is not quite early enough at The Garrison. Diners really do take the reserve a table warning seriously, very seriously. For every table that was occupied, there were probably another 2-3 with reserved signs in them. We were told we could either wait 45 minutes for a proper table or try to squeeze onto the high stool and bar area in front of the open kitchen. Squeeze, we said! Not exactly the most comfortable seating but it gave us a brilliant view of what was happening in the kitchen (very efficient if I may say so) and all the lovely food that was coming out.

Daily Specials Menu - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street
The daily specials

Wild Rabbit Terrine - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

We were probably being painfully picky but nothing on the menu particularly captured our eye that evening (be warned, several dishes shown on online are missing from the actual menu - if they are going to put a menu online, why don't they keep it up to date? Like I said, I was being picky). There was plenty of oo-ing and ahh-ing,very normal for me, but a little irritating for our perky waitress. She came to take order 4 times before she exasperatedly told us to call her over when we were ready. Egging each other on, JN and I decided we would go for the full whack - 3 courses. I started with the Wild Rabbit Terrine served with pear & grape chutney and chunky brown bread toast (£6.80). I remember the first time I had rabbit, I cried. All I could see was Thumper, a dead Thumper on a stick (my first rabbit dish was satay). I ate that stick of satay and have never looked back. My portion of terrine was very generous. A thick slab of shredded rabbit in jellied broth, thick slices of toast and a healthy portion of chutney. Unfortunately for this dish I must say, thank heaven's for the chutney. Whilst the meat was tender, the terrine was lacking in "umph". Eaten on it's own, the sweet flavours of the meat and jelly came through (studded throughout with little nuggets of carrot) but it barely held its own against the punchy chutney. And for a starter, there was definitely too much bread.

Warm Smoked Haddock - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

Warm Smoked Haddock - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

JN's Warm Smoked Haddock with a poached egg, blinis and a chive & lemon beurre blanc (£7.40) fared a lot better. The fish was flaked very nicely and was well cooked, the yoke of the poached egg burst forth beautifully and the chive and lemon beurre blanc was lush - butter sauces are just so hard to resist, don't you think?

Braised Guinea Fowl - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

I a little torn between the pheasant from the main menu and the guinea fowl on the specials. I've never had either before so whichever I chose was going to be interesting. In the end I went for the guinea fowl (£13.50) - it was on the specials so perhaps the chef had something good up his sleeve. Guinea fowl tastes like chicken. I say that in amazement because I rather hoped something great would be revealed to me - like a a brand new favourite meat. That might not have been the case but I got a very generous portion of game-y chicken (earthier with a deeper flavour). The 3 generous sized thighs were falling off the bone tender, the sauce had bags of flavour but the fresh tagliatelle was a little boring. The sauce was a little too thin to lend enough flavour to the big mound of noodles - they should really think about cutting down on the portion size.

Pan Roast Haddock Fillet - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

Being in a fishy mood JN opted for yet another haddock dish for her main, this time the Pan Roasted Haddock Fillet served with red onion, parsley and aubergine couscous (£14.60). The portion of fish generous and was well cooked but the couscous flavours was a bordering on bad. The first thing that came to mind was airplane food. Whilst it wasn't terrible but who wants to eat non-descript food if they didn't have to?

Sticky Toffee Pudding - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

Insistent we plough on with our decision of a 3 course dinner (we started to falter after our starters), we ordered decided on dessert. JN had the Apple Crumble with vanilla ice-cream (£5.50) and I went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with ice-cream (£5.50). I am a huge fan of sticky toffee pudding but have never found one as good as Delia's recipe (which is GORGEOUS). The Garrison is not Delia but it certainly does a mean sticky toffee pud. I love how there was still a slight grittiness from the dates and they didn't stinge on the thick sauce.

Apple Crumble - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

The crumble was nice - there was nothing wrong technically and taste wise but after the crumble from Roast in Borough, there are few that seem to match up. I personally like my crumble topping with a bite to it. Here it was too fine and really too little of it - the top barely covered the fruit beneath.

Muscat Beaumes De Venise 2003 - The Garrison, Bermondsey Street

I also ordered a glass of Orange Muscat Essencia 2005 but ended up with a Muscat Beaumes De Venise 2003 instead. I'm no wine expert (to be fair, I know very little about wine) but what I had in my hand didn't quite taste right. By the time I had figured out I was given something else, I had already drunk half and really wasn't in the mood to get it changed.

Bill (Original) - The Garrison, Bermondsey StreetBill (Revised) - The Garrison,  Bermondsey Street
The bill(s)

What I did get changed was the bill. My main was overcharged by £3.40. Not a big deal and it was sorted very efficiently by the manager. Other than a few hiccups, service was good. There were some very nice dishes - the smoked haddock starter and the sticky toffee pudding - but there wasn't enough for me to give it a full thumbs up. Maybe just half of one.