Saturday, 30 October 2010

Rita's - Southall

For one reason or other SM and I found ourselves in the Southall area a Saturday evening a few weeks ago. Having only ventured down that way a couple of times before, our instinct had us stick to the high street and so into Rita's we went. I had been to Rita's once on my last visit to Southall when in the middle our big shop for shawls and bangles my friend (and fellow food lover) RK developed a sudden craving for felooda. I was blown away by how delicious felooda was. Truth be told I had never heard of it until RK ordered it and even if that particular version was terrible I would have been none the wiser. But I did remember Rita's.

Onion Bhaji and Gobi Pakora - Rita's, Southall

We started with a lamb samosa, an onion bhaji (onion fritter) and gobi pakora (deep fried pieces of cauliflower in a batter made with gram flour) served with tamarind sauce. The starters were passable. Nothing less, nothing more.

Butter Chicken - Rita's, Southall

I insisted on ordering the butter chicken. I've been obsessed with finding my idea of the perfect butter chicken and I have so far failed in my mission. I'm usually on a palak/saag paneer (spinach cooked with chunks of cheese curds) mission too but I decided to give it a rest that day. Rita's butter chicken was edible - sizeable boneless chicken breast pieces, thick creamy sauce. Better than some but still lacking something ... a depth to the dish I keep looking for.

Lamb Masala - Rita's, Southall

The lamb masala was, on the other hand, really quite good. The meat (hidden deep in the sauce in the photo) was incredibly tender and full of flavour. It had obviously been cooked in the sauce for a long time. The sauce itself was very nice. Nice flavours and not too much of a chili kick.

Puri - Rita's, Southall

Our carbs for the evening included a very sad and very flat puri. It had obviously been cooked sometime before it was served to us and it just slowly deflated as it lay somewhere waiting to be ordered. An absolute failure of a puri.

Garlic Naan - Rita's, Southall

SM is obsessed with any dish that has "garlic" as part of its name. Garlic naan was definitely a "must have".

Pea Pilau - Rita's, Southall

The pea pilau was just a step better than the puri. Pilau rice with some peas thrown in. It was too oily and though I would personally just have plain boiled rice, SM is fond of flavoured carbs so flavoured rice it was.

Rita's Restaurant
112-114 The Broadway, Southall, Middlesex UB1 1QF

Authentically Malaysian - Sedap, Old Street

I do believe I had the best Malaysian meal in London last night.

Prawn Crackers - Sedap, Old Street

The evening didn't start off all that well ... it had been pouring with rain all afternoon and I wasn't a happy bunny when we walked into Sedap at about half 7 in the evening. The tiny restaurant space was packed with people and the waiter nonchalantly waved us to the oddest positioned table in the room - pushed up against the wall right in the pathway of the bar/service area, door to the inner restaurant and door to the kitchen. It was one of those tables that was set up because they expected a crowd and there was a bit of an empty space for it in the room. I guess it was pretty evident that I wasn't happy with this arrangement because the one of the waitresses quickly offered to separate a table set for 4 for me (which had a reserved sign when we walked in). Well, I wasn't to say no.

Roti Prata with Chicken Curry - Sedap, Old Street

Sedap has a pretty decent menu with the usual favourite curries, noodle and rice dishes. I was pretty keen to try the few dishes I had seen on several food blogs so SM was more or less banned from ordering. I did make exceptions for the roti prata and the prawn cracker requests. I gave in on that those, though I rolled my eyes at the mention of prawn crackers. When the roti prata arrived I screwed up my nose but waited patiently for the waitress to be out of earshot before I let out pretty indignant, "what in the heck is that?". It looked like the a crispy cousin of Rita's failed version of a puri but I really should learn not to judge my food by its appearance. I should know ... some of the food that comes out my kitchen looks like it's been hit by a tornado. Aside from the fact it had been cooked in copious amounts of oil, there was hope upon dissection of the roti. There was good signs of flakiness ... don't think flaky pie pastry but head towards the image of a beautifully crafted croissant. The soft innards as you tear the pastry apart ... The curry was nice too with a just about enough chili heat for me. The sauce was generous enough for that one piece of roti but at £4.80 was pretty steep (you can get roti with lamb curry for £5.50 and an extra piece of roti for £2 - yes, ouch!) but I guess you do get a piece of chicken in the curry which adds to something.

Penang Char Kway Teow - Sedap, Old Street

I had been eyeing the portion of Penang Char Kway Teow that had been delivered to the table next to us and couldn't help thinking over and over again to myself, "how small is that portion?!?". To be fair portions sizes are about the same if you had the dish in a Malaysian coffee shop but hell ... this was costing me £7.25 not RM5! Yes, fine ... I'm in London and these are the prices I'm going to have to pay for a small slice of home. The dish itself was very, very good. Probably the best version of char kway teow I've had in London. By keeping the portions small the flavours were beautifully presented and that all important wok hei was definitely there. There was generosity in the ingredients too - 4 large crunchy prawns, sliced Chinese sausage, fishcake, beansprouts, chives, egg ... Even for a non-loving char kway teow person like myself (I like it but have no deep passion for it), I was very impressed.

Nasi Lemak - Sedap, Old Street

The Nasi Lemak (£7.60) was also another winner. It was the same chicken curry that came with the roti prata but with a larger piece of chicken and whole lot less sauce - a bit more would have been nice since all the other condiments were pretty dry. The rice was rich with coconut flavours and the deep fried mackeral with the sambal sauce was so, so good! I say that all the traditional recipes that call for ikan bilis should be torn up and thrown into the fire and be replaced by this. Crispy yet tender, and substantial compared to those puny weenie lil deep fried anchovies.

Malaysian Blachan Chicken - Sedap, Old Street

If it couldn't get any better, it did! Another win for the night was Malaysian Blachan Chicken (£6.00). Served pipping hot with a side of sweet chili sauce lightened with white vinegar and swirled little cucumber slices to freshen up what can sometimes be an overly sweet sauce. The chicken thigh pieces (yay!) were juicy and the batter was incredibly crunchy.

I still can't believe it took me so long to discover this place. It's been on my radar for some time now but I've found so many Malaysian restaurants in London so disappointing (my first thoughts go to Kopi Tiam on Charing Cross Road that proved so bad I haven't had the heart to write up a review on it) and a few that are passble (Rasa Sayang sits high on this list). But hey, I'm proud of Malaysian food and if a bit of my country is going to represented abroad, it better be bloody darn delicious!

102 Old Street, London, EC1V 9AY
Sedap on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

I'm Lovin' It - McDonald's

Everyone needs a McDonald's pit stop every now and then. I think you can tell this stop was overdue ... all this food, including an orange juice and a LARGE Mars milkshake, for two people. Yes, 2!

Q with Bacon - McDonald's
This was a seasonal special. I can't actually remember what it was called but it was probably along the line of 'Q' with bacon.

Q with Bacon - McDonald's
'Q' innards - grilled beef patty, Swiss cheese, bacon (hiding in there somewhere), tomato, lettuce, some sort of creamy dressing on a toasted ciabatta style bread

Filet-O-Fish - McDonald's
Filet-O-Fish - My childhood favourite that I haven't had in years! To be honest I'm not even sure if this was my favourite McDonald's burger as a child. It was just something that was ordered for me that I just ate. It's good though. Sinking my teeth into the pillow-y softness of the bun felt like I was transported back in time :)

Filet-O-Fish - McDonald's
Filet-O-Fish innards - deep fried breaded white fish fillet, tartare sauce and a cheese slice (this rubbery yellow slice of stuff is definitely not cheese but some miracle whipped up in a boiling vat in a factory - you would know all about it if you watched the very informative 3 part programme - E Numbers: An Edible Adventure on BBC2) sandwiched between a pillow soft steamed bun.

Chicken McNuggets - McDonald's
9 pieces of chicken McNuggets

Double Cheeseburger - McDonald's
A side order of a double cheeseburger. I haven't eaten one of these in years (not that I eat McDonald's all that often anyway) but I had forgotten how much I like these burgers. It's something about that double meat pattie and rubbery cheese layer. Emmm mmmm...!

Finished - McDonald's

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Great Thai Cafe - Fitzrovia, London

SM and I stumbled upon this great little Thai cafe in Fitzrovia (which according to Wikipedia is the area situated between Marylebone and Bloomsbury and north of Soho) about a week back and I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I've loved it so much that I've been back twice since. On my 2nd visit I actually planned a meeting I had in the area to finish at lunchtime so I could grab something from my new favourite Thai cafe. It's nothing fancy. If you blink you might even miss it. But the prices are reasonable, service very efficient and the food is pretty darn good. My knowledge of Thai food isn't excellent - my one and only visit to Thailand was when I was about 12 to the painfully touristy Phuket but I do know what I like and I liked the food at The Great Thai Cafe.

Thai Green Curry with Garlic Fried Rice - The Great Thai Cafe

SM went down the usual route and got a chicken Thai green curry (less spicy, please) (£4.95) and garlic fried rice (£2.50). The chef definitely did her (yup, she emerged from the kitchen downstairs halfway through our meal to greet a regular customer) best to tone done the spice level as requested but all the flavours were there - slight tingle of heat, fragrance of the lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander, fish sauce and creamy from the coconut milk.

Thai Boat Noodle Soup with Pork - The Great Thai Cafe, Fitzrovia

I went with the Thai boat noodle soup with sliced pork and pork balls (£6.50). Beef is probably a lot more traditional but I never say no to my favourite pork balls. The soup was heartwarming with the flavours of star anise, cinnamon, soy and fish sauces really coming through. To top it all off a teaspoonful of crispy minced garlic. Happiness in a bowl.

Somtam - The Great Thai Cafe, Fitzrovia

To ensure that I got my 5 a day (or rather out of curiosity) I also ordered a portion of som tam (Thai papaya salad) (£5.50). I must have had this dish a few times over the years but it has never clocked in my brain. So I will consider this my first experience with this dish. Any good? It was bloody hot! My tongue was on fire (I forgot to ask for it to be made with less chili - those damn bird's eyes kept staring right at me!). Yes, despite the tongue numbing heat (I've become more of a chili wuss the longer I stay away from Malaysia) the other flavours were there - sweet, sour, salty. I noticed that the green papaya was bulked up with cabbage but hell, I'm not so much of a purist to mind.

The bill came up to just over £20 with 2 drinks. Pretty good I thought. And the food appeared bubbling hot and delicious about 10 minutes after ordering.

The 2nd visit was for a lunch takeaway (sorry no pics) was from their Express Lunch menu (all main dishes for £5.95 served with steamed rice). I could have ordered from the menu but I stuck with the chicken Thai red curry mainly because ready and warming in a bain marie by the counter. It was so yum ... I definitely had more than one envious colleague that day.

The third time was for dinner with SM again last night. I was feeling low and down after a disastrous yoga session and needed some comfort Asian food. And lo and behold, where was The Great Thai Cafe? One street down. Yay! We shared a portion of special fried rice with pork, beef massman curry and minced pork omelette. No photos I'm afraid. Just a few well fed, satisfied oinkers.

The Great Thai Cafe
57 Great Portland Street, W1W 7LH London

Swedish Meatballs ...

.... where else but Ikea, Sweden's greatest export to the world. I wasn't even there to buy anything. It just one of those random visits ... apparently I have been on a few of those to Ikea because on this visit I could distinctively tell the meatballs weren't quite up to scratch. Or maybe I've had them (meatballs) once too often recently. Ohh here's an interesting bit of information ... did you know the Scan Pork & Beef Swedish Meatballs (found in most major supermarkets) taste exactly the same as those served up in Ikea?

Swedish Meatballs, Fries, Side Salad and Sparkling Apple Juice - Ikea, Croydan

And since we were there anyway, it would have been a bit rude not to stop off for a hot dog and an ice cream cone on our way out. Believe it or not but SM stood in the queue for 20 minutes just for these. Reminder to self - stay away from Ikea on a Saturday!

Hot Dog with Ketchup and Mustard - Ikea, Croydan

Second reminder to self - maybe stay away from the meatballs for awhile and go withthe hotdog. It's surprisingly good.

Small Ice Cream Cone - Ikea, Croydan

Tempura Udon

Tempura Udon - Weeknight Dinner

I think I might just have found myself a winner batch of batter! Whoop whoop! A big thank you to the Japanese and their technique of using ice/cold water - I should never have doubted you. I have to say my fritters or should I say tempura was bloody fantastic. Light and crisp ... sigh ....

Prawn Tempura - Weeknight Dinner

Prawns - I could only get hold of a packet of pre-cooked teeny weeny prawns so I went with that
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup corn flour
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup cold/ice water
Oil for deep frying
  • Mix the plain and corn flours and the salt in a mixing bowl. Add in the water and mix the batter lightly. You don't want to over mix it and definitely want it a bit lumpy. Tip the prawns into the batter
  • Heat the oil in a deep pan until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns brown when dropped into it.
  • Add a tablespoonful of prawns and batter into the hot oil. Cook the batter in batches of 2-3 fritters per batch for 2-3 minutes each, or until crisp and golden. When cooking in batches, ensure you leave enough space between them to ensure they don't merge into a large fritter.
  • Carefully remove each fritter from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Serve.
I served my prawn tempura with udon and broccoli.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Sweet Temptation

Signature Hot Chocolate with Caramel and Extra Whipped Cream - Starbucks

Running with the high calorie, caramel theme of the last post Stuart got himself a Venti Caramel Signature Hot Chocolate with Cream when we popped into Starbucks for a quick coffee over the weekend. Oh, so drool worthy! He even got the caramel syrup and the cream free, courtesy of the Starbucks Card (no, I'm not promoting anything but you should know by now what a sucker I am for anything free:) As it was also probably the end of the day the girl behind the counter asked Stuart if he wanted extra "drazzle" of caramel on his drink. I shouldn't laugh but it amused us to no end that evening. The girl really was quite sweet and she even piled on the cream.

Me? I got a tall filter coffee for £1. That's 'cos I'm stingy ........ :)

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes, Crispy Bacon and Butterscotch Bananas

Buttermilk Pancakes, Crispy and Bananas in Caramel - Sunday Breakfast

A breakfast to induce a heart attack and add inches to those pudgy thighs, just what I need this Sunday morning.

Buttermilk Pancakes, Crispy and Bananas in Caramel - Sunday Breakfast

Serves 2 hungry people or 3 slightly less hungry people

Buttermilk Pancakes
100g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
284ml tub buttermilk
pinch of salt

Butterscotch Bananas
100g butter
100g caster sugar
100ml double cream
2 large bananas

Crispy Bacon
6 rashers streaky bacon

Buttermilk Pancakes, Crispy and Bananas in Caramel - Sunday Breakfast
  • For the pancakes, sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Mix together the eggs and buttermilk and whisk into the flour mixture until the batter is thick and smooth.
  • Heat a large frying pan on low-medium heat, preferably non-stick, and brush lightly with melted butter. Drop 2 or 3 large spoonfuls of batter into the pan to make pancakes about 10cm in diameter. When bubbles begin to appear on the surface, after about 3-4 minutes, carefully flip the pancakes over and cook on the other side until browned. Cook in batches of 2-3 pancakes in the pan until all the batter is finished.
  • Whilst you're cooking the pancakes, make the butterscotch by heating the sugar and butter in a pan on medium heat. Be careful when heating sugar - it gets really hot and burns pretty fast as soon as the sugar melts. As soon as the sugar crystals have melted into a medium brown colour, add the cream. Let the mixture boil until it turns a lovely golden butterscotch/caramel colour. Peel the bananas and slice on diagonal into half inch thick slices. Add the bananas into the sauce and stir. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside.
  • Just before you cook your last batch of pancakes, put the bacon on an oven try and put the meat under a pre-heated grill. Grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until crisp.
  • Plate up with 3-4 pancakes a person. Laddle on the butterscotch bananas and top with the bacon.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Tea and Cake ... with a Teaspoonful of Tolstoy and a Dash of Larsson

Lemon and Poppyseed Cake with a Cuppa

I don't think there's ever a bad time for a cuppa and cake. A slice? Oh go on, make it two. I actually got round to making a lemon and poppy seed cake a few weeks ago but I can't for the life of me remember where I got the recipe from. If I'm truly honest with myself, it was probably a recipe I boshed together myself and thank heavens on this occasion it turned out just right. I do remember I used oil instead of butter, which points to the dissection of a muffin recipe along the way and yogurt for moistness. Ahhh... and then there was the lemon drizzle - just in case the yogurt only did half the job. I really must go find the recipe!

The Usual, Please ...

On a more literary note, if you've been through my Flickr stream you'll notice the constant presence of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace by my lamp. I've been trying to get into the book for months and months (actually it's closer to years and years now) but that entry point just keeps alluding me. I seem to go backwards more than I go forward but I live in hope that one day I'll be determined enough to finish reading the darn thing. Until that day I faithfully dust off the covers every now and then before moving to more exciting books ..... like Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. I'm on book 3 at the moment and I can't believe how many other people I see on the tube and bus reading one of the books in the series. I actually had a full conversation with someone on the bus *shock horror .... really? In London?* about the books. It really is the little things that bring people to talk to each other :) For me it all started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in a little corner of one of the many Starbucks dotted around the city with my usual brew - skinny latte with an extra shot, please.

The Re-emergence of the Work Desk Lunch

Sushi - Lunch

Lunch at work has been eaten increasingly at my desk recently. Not that I mind much most of the time but sometimes it's nice to have a break to recharge the old batteries. On this occassion it was cheap sushi - an eel roll and three inari pouches topped with cooked grated carrot.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Wantons - Weekend Cooking

A visit to my uncle and his family always means one thing - food ... and lots of it. My last trip up I made wantons. Or should I say, we made wantons. It's always nice to have a few helpers about the kitchen :)

Wanton Filling - Weekend Cooking

We decided on a mix of pork and prawns for our wantons. Minced pork, diced prawns, water chestnuts, chives and a dollop of grated ginger.

Wanton Filling - Weekend Cooking

A good mix of all the ingrediants with a good splash of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame seed oil and white pepper. The mixture was then left to rest for an hour or so to let the flavours fuse.

Wanton Filling - Weekend Cooking

I also mixed up a batch of wanton filling minus the pork for my cousin LH who isn't at all that keen on meat.

Prawn Wantons - Weekend Cooking

The wantons all prettily wrapped up and the sides sealed shut with a paste made with a touch corn starch and a drop or two of water.

Wanton Filling - Weekend Cooking

The extra pork and prawn wantons were rolled into little balls to be cooked in a broth along with the soup wantons.

Prawn Wantons - Weekend Cooking

Deep fried to golden brown gorgeous-ness. There was a ton more wantons, some prettier than others but all just as delicious. No photos of the wantons and meatballs in the soup, I'm afraid. They were not at all photogenic.