Monday, 23 August 2010

Summer Dinners

Tom Yum Mussels with Garlic and Chili Pasta
Mussels in a Tom Yum Broth with Herbs - Weekend Dinner
The mussels were a spur of the moment purchase from a Chinese supermarket one weekend. I cooked them up with a tom yum spice mix I had brought back with me from Malaysia and tinned tomatoes. Loads of herbs I also picked up from the Chinese supermarket went in - coriander, dill and mint. Served with pasta simply tossed in olive oil, garlic and chili.

Chedder Stuffed Burgers with Courgette Crisps
Beef and Chedder Burger, Courgette Crisps and Green Salad
I stupidly didn't consider the size of my roll when I shaped out these patties. Amateurish mistake! I was so focus on getting the meat to encase the ball of cheese I forgot about everything else. The patties turned out pretty darn good though - oozy melting cheese. Yum. The meat was flavoured with a myriad of different things I found in my cupboard, which is possibly why none of my food ever tastes the same twice :) The courgette crisps were made by deep frying thin long strips of corgettes coated in cornflour.

Full English
Full English - Weeknight Dinner
Well, not really a full English since I decided against eggs and bread but I got the hash browns that I had been thinking about. I won't take any credit for this meal as Stuart knocked it up in about 10 minutes flat.

Bacon Fried Rice
Bacon and Broccoli Fried Rice - Weeknight Dinner
I had some rice sitting in the fridge, a pack of bacon I couldn't find room for in the freezer and a whole load of bits and bobs lying around. So fried rice it was and bacon just goes so well with just about anything, doesn't it?

Sweetcorn Fritters with a Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Sweetcorn Fritters - Weeknight Dinner
Someone mentioned sweetcorn to me in passing one day and I just knew I had to have sweetcorn fritters for dinner that very evening. I mixed up a batch of batter of flour, corn flour and an egg, seasoned it and added some cayanne pepper. I then added as much sweetcorn as the batter could hold. On hindsight I should have defrosted the sweetcorn before I added it to the mixture to avoid the huge sweetcorn clump. Yes, I know it's summer with an abundance of sweetcorn but sometimes I just want a pain free evening that frozen food offers. Served with a simple salad of chopped tomatoes and cucumber topped with olive oil and chili pepper flakes.

Roast Teriyaki Chicken Legs
Roast Chicken Legs - Weekday Dinner
I marinated a batch of chicken legs in teriyaki sauce, honey, black pepper and spring onions overnight. All I had to do the next day was to shove it all into the oven and dinner was ready 40 minutes later. Served with steaming hot rice, of course.

Grilled Mackeral with Thai Inspired Salad
Grilled Mackerel with Salad - Weekend Dinner
The mackeral fillets were quickly grilled (about 3 minutes each side) and served with what I like to call a Thai inspired salad (thinking along the lines of the Thai papaya salad, som tam). Long shreds of courgette, carrot, red onion, tomatoes and coriander tossed in a dressing of fish sauce, chili, lime juice, sugar and garlic.

Macaroni in a Fresh Tomato Sauce with Burger Patties
Macaroni in Tomato sauce with Spinach and Meat Patties - Weeknight Dinner
I love summer for it's abundance of fruit and veg and none makes me smile more than the tomato. My tomato love affair is intensely passionate and if I could, I would probably add tomato to all the dishes I cook. I bought a huge batch the other week and I'm desperate to eat them before they go bad. What better way than a fresh tomato sauce with olive oil, garlic and basil. I also added some spinach to my boiled macaroni and fried up some sun dried tomato burger patties (cut up into bite size chunks) to serve with it.

Fried Kway Teow (Thai Style)
Fried Noodles - Weeknight Dinner
My food is frequently Thai style but never truely Thai. I just like borrowing elements from Thai cuisine - I love the freshness, the herbs, the flavour. This is a lot like phad thai but minus quite a few of the essential ingredients like tamarind juice, crushed peanuts, lime juice, etc. I boiled up some flat rice noodles (which I love over and beyond any other kinds of noodles and know it as kway teow or hor fun), fried up some chinese leaf, thinly sliced tomato, spring onion, shredded chicken, prawns and egg. I added the softened noodles to the mixture before flavouring the dish with fish sauce, oyster sauce and my secret ingredient, ketchup. I guess I'm just a big kid who never outgrew her taste for ketchup with almost anything :) Some rough torn basil leaves went in just before the final toss of the noodles for extra flavour.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Summer Treats - Amorino & Gelupo, Soho

I've gone a little ice cream mad lately. Actually not just any old ice cream but that lusciously beautiful stuff that the Italians are so proud of - gelato. I love ice cream, I LOVE dairy .... I could quite happily eat ice cream and whipped cream by the bucket load ... did someone mention clotted cream? Oh yeah ... bring on tub down with you.

Unfortunately, dairy don't love me.

Amarino - Soho, London

Every now and then I turn a blind eye to this love-hate relationship and indulge for all its worth. First stop, Amorino on Old Crompton Street in Soho. I've poked my head in a couple of times for a good look at the lavishly displayed offerings and walking away with muttered reminders to return another day. Not that I've ever made it back for a tasting until DT showed up in London on a short notice holiday and suggested dinner. DT, it turns out, is a big ice cream fan so Amorino seemed like a pretty good dessert stop.

Amarino - Soho, London
The back wall of Amorino is lined with glass cases filled with boxes of beautifully coloured sweets for sale but look at the price!

I stayed on the safe side and got myself a small tub and got my two favourites - Alphonso mango sorbet and hazelnut. I wasn't thinking of great combinations when I got those flavours mixed. I never miss out when there's Alphonso mango on the menu and well, I kinda love anything that has hazelnuts in it. Both flavours were good but I was hoping they would blow my head a way a little more than they did. It's pretty hard to get hazelnut wrong so that was fine but there just wasn't enough 'umph' to the mango. When you put the name Alphonso in front of mango, I expect a great big hit. Then again I sometimes do expect too much .....

Amarino - Soho, London

DT got a large cup with crème caramel and pistachio (what I liked about this place is that the small cup size gets you 2 flavours and all the larger sizes gets you as many flavours as you wish to combine - cup sizes go up to XXL, I believe). The crème caramel was nice but got really sickly sweet after the second bite. Brilliant if you have a super sweet palate. Now the pistachio was a different story. It was SO good! An amazing revelation to me. You see I have spent all these years avoiding pistachio ice cream mainly because I thought it would be another case of good almond/bad almond. I like almonds as a nut but then something weird, bad and wrong happens when it's ground down, cooked, or whatever ... and I, well ... naively thought this would be the same for pistachios but it's not. It's so delicious with an almost meaty depth. So you have it ... a pistachio ice cream convert.

Gelupo - Archer St, London

A few weeks later I was on the ice cream case again (even though my 'dairy hates me' consequences from my last ice cream stop had barely faded from memory). This time I wanted to try Gelupo, also located in Soho but this time located down the slightly seedier Archer Street opposite its sister restaurant, Bocca di Lupo. Gelupo is decorated along clean line with duck egg blue tiles, marble table tops and white painted floorboards. Unlike Amorino, their offerings of gelatos, sorbets and granitas hide beneath metel domes that are only revealed when you make an order. And here you pay per flavour not by cup size.

Gelato, Sorbet and Granita - Gelupo, London

SM was quick to put in an order for blood orange granita and melon sorbet. Damn, those were my choices too! If I had to pick between melon and mango, the melon always wins. It's just so hard to find a place that does melon and does it well. But I'm adamant there will not be duplicate orders. I go for the espresso sorbet and after lots of 'ahhh-ing' settle for the hazelnut (of which I mentally kicked myself over and did berate SM for talking me out of getting the pistachio). I love my hazelnuts but I've had pistachio on my mind ever since I had it at Amorino.

Melon Sorbet and Blood Orange Granita - Gelupo, London

SM's choices were an instant hit. The blood orange was amazing - mouth puckeringly tangy with an amazing hit of dense, full bodied blood orange . There is no such thing as watering down the flavours at Gelupo. The melon in contrast was mellow with great perfume. Considering the punch of the blood orange, the melon held it's own very well.

Hazelnut Gelato and Espresso Sorbet - Gelupo, London

I'm officially in love with the espresso sorbet, which is apparently milk free ... but does this mean it's dairy free too?Not that it matters, I guess but it's one of those things that will niggle at the back of my mind until I find out. The sorbet is bitter and strong with just a twinge of sweetness to keep it in check. So, SO good. The hazelnut is good but with the discovery of the other flavours it is slightly sidelined. I think I may just have to give it a rest on my next ice cream trip. There is a whole world of amazing flavours to be tried. Rumour has it the avocado and honey is good, and there is even a rice flavour (I had it in Vietnam and it was pretty darn good).

I do believe I have a preference for Gelupo over Amorino. The flavours are whole lot more exciting and there is more heart in getting what they offer up to scratch. Food tastings aside, the service is much better at Gelupo too. Yes, I know it's an ice cream parlour with minimal interaction with staff but in those short minutes spent at the counter, efficient and friendly service makes all the difference. The servers at Amorino seem almost impatient with customers. No smile, haughty explanations of how their cup size system works and (almost) looks of disdain when recommendations were asked for. When I asked what one of the gelatos was (my Italian being non-existent, so the name tag meant nothing to me) he prattled out the name anyway and I asked him what it was exactly, there was a definite look of 'how can you not know what it is?'. Not good, not good at all ... My other gripe about Amarino is the odd queuing system - this place operates on pay first and get served later but the till is located at the far end of the room after the refrigerators housing the ice cream. So they make customers walk away from the goods they want to buy only to come back again later. This to-ing and fro-ing makes an already tiny space congested and confusing and somehow I don't believe the mind of the customer works the way they have set their operation out. By all means ensure your customers don't have to start queuing on the street but there really must be another way to all of this. Despite my grumblings I will quite happily return (I'll just have to ignore the appaling service). And believe me when I say thank heavens there are a few more decent ice cream places in central London. Not so long ago the best recommended was Scoop which I find to be pretty dire and have kept my distance ever since.

41 Old Compton Street, London W1D 6HF
Web: (there's a language choice of either French or Spanish)
Amorino on Urbanspoon


7 Archer Street, London W1D 7AU
Web -
Gelupo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Trip Down To the Coffeeshop .... Malaysian Style

I've been feeling a little homesick recently so I thought I'll go out of my way and do myself absolutely no favours by digging up some photos from my last trip home. Some lovely photos of gorgeous food .. my last meal of my trip actually which I shared with my mum. Yup, that's right ... all this food for two people :) Looking at the food is making feel all warm and fuzzy inside. A quick fix indeed.

Teochew Braised Duck with Tofu and Hard Boiled Egg
Teochew braised duck with tofu and hard boiled egg. I absolutely adore this dish - everything except the egg. It's not a dish that one comes by all that frequently.

Hakka Mee

Hakka Mee
Hakka mee - my first every bowl of Hakka mee at a coffeeshop, ever. But nothing beats my grandmother's version - oily, salty and brilliantly delicious.

Hong Kong BBQ Pork Cheong Fun
Hong Kong char siew cheong fun. Soft, silky with a decent amount of meat and a nice dollop of chili oil. Not the best but not too bad either.

Ipoh Kwey Teow
Ipoh kway teow - no self respecting stall in Ipoh would serve anything like this. Definitely two thumbs down but on the bright side the noodles where beautifully soft and silky.

Iced Barley Water and Iced White Local Coffee
Iced barley and iced local coffee with condensed milk. I really miss local Malaysian coffee with it's hints of buttery-ness. No wonder since it's roasted in margerine

Monday, 2 August 2010

Aubin and Randall - Soho, London

Knowing my father's fondness for seafood platters, I mentally jotted down Aubin and Randall in Soho as a potential place to eat when he was next in town. The restaurant was always bustling on the numerous occasions I have passed by and the food didn't look too bad either. Reviews online showed the sort of middle of the road comments ... never quite a five but around the three. Good enough to risk a meal with my parents.

Bread, Butter, Olives and a Glass of White Wine - Randall and Aubin

A no booking policy meant waiting for a table but with the nice weather and a chilled glass of wine supplied by the charming waiter, the time passed by fast enough. Once settled on our high stools in the teeny tiny restaurant, a little cramped but it's all part of the charm (though someone might want to tell the staff that the slightly overenthusiastic dance music was more than a little out of sync with the Parisian chic atmosphere that they were trying to recreate), we were supplied with bread, butter and olives (a surcharge of £1.50 is charged per person) for us to nibble on whilst waiting for our orders.

Fruits der Mer - Randall and Aubin

Finally the pièce de résistance arrived - the fruits de mer. Our waitress advised getting the minimum order for 2 people (priced at £29.50 per person) with the serving being rather large and getting a few sides to share or another main (or two) later if we were still hungry. And how right she was .... the serving was very generous - a selection of rock oysters, whole crab, giant prawns, Atlantic shrimp, diver picked scallops, whelks, cherry stone clams and green lip mussels. There was supposed to be langoustine on the platter as well but as they had run out for the day we had extra oysters. All the seafood was fresh and tasted good. My father was satisfied. So all was good.

Pommes Frites - Randall and Aubin

I had started eyeing another table's order of roast chicken and frites when we were standing outside waiting for our table but with our large order of seafood to finish, I had to settle for a side order of fries (£2.65). Not the best fries I've ever had but it had to do for the day.

Zucchini Frittes with Basil Mayonnaise - Randall and Aubin

To jazz thing up a little further with a touch more fried food I also ordered the zucchini frites with basil mayonnaise (£4.95), which were yummy-delish! Juicy batons of courgette encased in light batter served with basil tainted mayonnaise. I absolutely adore mayo with fried food so was particularly delighted with this dish.

Pan Fried King Scallops - Randall and Aubin

After much debate if we should get more food, we finally decided to "not overdo things" and get a main to share instead. The waitress recommended the pan fried king scallops with braised fennel and sauteed potato crisps (£16.85). The scallops were nicely cooked and despite being a fennel hater ... I found it rather yummy. Braised but still retaining a little crunch. The most interesting part of the dish was the sauce which took quite a few guesses to try to get right. Saffron, mango juice and star anise amongst other things ...... who would have thought ... it came out robust with an underlining fruitiness. Even then it was the waitress who came round to inquire if I had guessed the ingredients correctly. Apparently it is a common occurrence with customers who order this particular dish to conduct a taste test on the sauce.

Decent food and friendly service. Our waitress even gave us a little lesson on the French occupation of Algeria as she sorted out our bill. I think my father might suggest another visit when he is in town next.

Aubin and Randall
16 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F 0SQ
Randall & Aubin on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Moo! - Whitechapel, London

Moo! - Whitechapel, London

Flicking through Time Out online on Friday, I came across a review for Moo! a new-ish Argentinian café and wine bar in Whitechapel (from the same team behind the popular Battersea steak house, Santa Maria del Sur which was featured in Gordon Ramsey's F Word). Just a stone's throw from Farrigdon Station, the area is deathly quiet on Friday evenings but perfect for a chilled out bite to eat.

Moo! - Whitechapel, London

We were greeted, seated and the small menu explained by the very friendly manager (I didn't get his name but from the Time Out article he must have been Jose, the Argentinian manager who runs the place with his South Korean wife). Moo! is all about the lomito (sandwich) with the option of beef, chicken or aubergine. You can either have the simple version (£5) - just tomato and lettuce or go full whack and get the lomito completo (£6.50). Big ass with ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce and egg. Or if you're feeling particularly picky, you can make your own (£4). Additional toppings are £0.50 but additional beef, chicken or aubergine will set you back another £2.50.

Tomato, Mozerella and Basil Empanada - Moo! Whitechapel, London

Tomato, Mozerella and Basil Empanada - Moo! Whitechapel, London

To start we ordered a tomato, mozzarella and basil empanada to share, despite being warned by Jose (with a smile) that our orders of lomito completo with chips (add £1) were large. But Jose had never seen SM and I eat. Our baked empanada arrived steaming hot - bigger than a curry puff but a whole lot smaller than a Cornish pasty - and filled with lots of oozing mozzarella, chopped fresh tomato and torn basil leaves. Cheesy puff. Nice but nothing to write home about.

Lomitos with Chips - Moo! Whitechapel, London

Our lomitos finally arrived and Jose was not lying when he said they were large. They were HUGE! To share we ordered a chicken and a beef. Our order of chips was piled onto one of the plates, not a biggie since we were warned beforehand.

Beef Lomito Completo - Moo! Whitechapel, London

The sandwiches were lush. Both the chicken and beef were still juicy. The beef in particular went particularly well with the chimichurri (that famous Argentinian green sauce that goes with grilled meat), a bottle of which sat at every table. Though I'm not complaining I do wonder why the sandwiches featured ham in them. I'm all for the extra meat and I do like my ham but with all the other meaty flavours, the ham was a bit redundant.

Chicken Lomito Completo - Moo! Whitechapel, London

Tummies full, SM and I left very happy indeed to have a little wander around Brick Lane. We even had a little dosh left for a pastry (or two) and a builder's brew from the Brick Lane Bakery .

4 Cobb Street, London E1 7LB
Web -

Summer Jams

Strawberry, Raspberry & Rose and Peach & Vanilla Jams on Toasted Sourdough - Sunday Breakfast

My new obsession in the kitchen this summer is jam. Two years ago it was ice cream, last summer I was too busy stocking up on my personal levels of vodka to seriously notice anything I did in the kitchen except to fix myself a salad or two but this year my new hobby has taken over. It all started when a few friends and I headed to The Rose Lounge at Sofitel St James for my birthday tea in April and we tasted some magnificent raspberry and rose jam. Oh it was absolutely delicious and I don't say this lightly. I'm not usually a fan of floral tones in my food ... I absolutely detest lavender anywhere near my mouth and none too keen on rose tea but rose in jam I love. It's brilliantly offset by the tart and intense flavour of the berries. Sadly The Rose Lounge don't sell their jams and it's curiously difficult to find that particular flavour combination on sale anywhere.

Armed with a tiny bottle of pure rose oil I bought from Turkey especially for this recipe (I smelt fab after dabbing some on my pulse points too but it got a wee bit cloying after while) I boiled up a vat of jam. I have to admit I modified the recipe a little - using strawberries to bulk up the jam but it still tastes lovely with the strawberries giving it another berry dimension to the overall flavour. So far I've made 2 batches of my strawberry, raspberry and rose jam with slightly different results. The first batch came out very well - with a little help from this blog post by One Girl in a Kitchen where I learnt that apple peel is full of pectin, that all important ingrediant to helping jams set. The lemon, on the other hand, works well with the sugar to jell the pectin (whatever that means .... but it looks like I'm full of useful information today). I wasn't so lucky with my second batch. Not so much luck but an attempt to over complicate things on my part. Instead of just using sugar, I substituted half the sugar for argave nector. A silly move on my part since I have never manage to master the substitution ration of nector to sugar. So my second batch of jam is not as sweet as it should be, which is a no no since ... well, jam is all about being sweet, isn't it?

On the other hand both batches of my peach and vanilla jam came out very nicely. Lush soft chunks of peach encased in thick sweet vanilla scented syrup. Beautiful on toasted sourdough with lots of butter. My one batch of gooseberry and elderflower jam (yes, I'm seeing the floral tone throughout all three jams but it seems I can't get enough of it) didn't quite fare so well. I've somehow managed to avoid gooseberries these many years - never tasting it in a fool or a crumble - and didn't quite know what to expect. I know enough to avoid them raw (but I suppose a little nibble won't have done me any harm) but a little research pointed to them cooking down well with the likely seasonal partner of elderflowers. Feeling a little over confident with my jam making skills at this point I let the jam cook a little too long and in the infamous manner of Kylie Kwong, I let my jam "caramelise". It's still very much edible - it tastes fine (not that I would know any better since I've never eaten it before) but it looks a little darker than it should be ... I think.

Strawberry, Raspberry & Rose and Peach & Vanilla Jams on Toasted Sourdough - Sunday Breakfast

Jam is such a homely thing to make ... it's simple enough to make but it does take that bit of love and patience. Something of which I seem to have in abundance this summer :)

Strawberry, Raspberry and Rose Jam
1.5 kg of strawberries - hulled and cleaned
500g raspberries - cleaned
1.5kg sugar - most recipes call for granulated sugar but I quite like the set of my jam when I use caster
Lemon juice from 1.5 - 2 lemons - depending on the size
Apple peel from 3 small apples - depending on the size
3-4 drops of pure rose oil
  • Halve or quarter your strawberries if they are too big but leave them a little large. It's quite nice to have little chunks of fruit in the finished product.
  • Place all the ingredients, except the rose oil, into a large pot and mix well. The sugar will disolve as the mixture comes up to a boil. Skim off any scum as it appears.
  • When the mixture has come up to a boil, lower the heat and let it simmer until it has reached a nice thick consistency. Skim off any scum every so often and give the mixture a stir every now and then to ensure none of the jam has caught at the bottom.
  • Meanwhile, sterilise your jars. Preheat your oven to 100°C. Wash your jars hot soapy water, rinse well and on a rack over a baking tray. Place in the oven for at least 15 minutes.
  • Add the rose oil as the mixture thickens.
  • Once your jam has reached a thick-ish consistency, test the setting point by placing a drop of jam on a cool plate. After a few seconds run your finger down the middle of the drop. If the mixture remains separated, the setting point has been reached. If the liquid returns to form one puddle, leave the jam to simmer for a little while longer.
  • When the setting point has been reached, switch off the heat. Discard the peel. Remove your jars from the oven and fill with the jam. Be careful not to touch the insides of the jars with your kitchen gloves, etc as you don't want to introduce any unwanted bacteria to your clean jars.
  • Seal and store in a cool dark place. It should store well for about 6 months to a year.

Peach and Vanilla Jam
1.5 kg just ripe peaches
1kg sugar - caster or granulated
1 vanilla pod
Lemon juice from 1 - 1.5 lemons - depending on the size
Apple peel from 3 apples - depending on the size
  • Skin the peaches as you would tomatoes - making a 't' shaped slash at the bottom of the fruit. Put the fruit into a bowl and pour over boiling water. Drain after about a minute and the peach skins should slip off easily. Another reason to use ripe peaches is that their skins peel off a lot easier compared to slightly under ripe fruit.
  • Remove the stones from the fruit and slice the peaches. Each fruit should give you about 8 slices. Don't cut them too small as you want to maintain a bit chunk to your jam.
  • Place the fruit into your jam pot and add the other ingredients. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrap out the vanilla seeds before adding both the seeds and pod into the pot.
  • Mix the ingredients as it comes to a boil. When it starts to boil lower the heat and let the mixture simmer. Skim off any scum when necessary.
  • Once the jam has reached the desired consistancy, test the setting point. Switch off the heat and discard both the peel and the vanilla pod before laddling the mixture into sterilized jars.
  • Seal and store in a cool dark place.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam
1kg gooseberries
4 tbs elderflower cordial
500g sugar - caster or granulated
Apple peel from 2 apples - depending on the size
  • Top, tail and clean the gooseberries.
  • Place the fruit and other ingrediants into your jam pot and bring to a boil. Mix as it boils and skim off any scum when necessary.
  • Once the jam has reached the desired consistancy, test the setting point. Switch off the heat and discard the peel before laddling the mixture into sterilized jars.
  • Seal and store in a cool dark place.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam