Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Cafe Libanais- Not just a pretty face..?


Cafe Libanais


I'd been meaning to check out Cafe Libanais for a while. Located in the Middle Eastern-dense area of Marylebone, it is brighter and more contemporary than the generally traditional shisha bars and kebab restaurants of the area.

I first started to drop in on Cafe Libanais as a cheap source of orange blossom and rose water- paying about £1.50 for a glass bottle of each. Being an artist and easily swayed by the aesthetic, I was instantly drawn to its bright, graphic decor; the chequered tables, red plastic furniture and cardboard giant grinning pop-art faces. I loved the interior correlating to the website design and the stacks of dusted Turkish Delight and sticky baklava behind the glass counters- I was flustered by the little individual cubes of nougat piled high at 30p a pop by the till. I was won over, instant sold to the shiny well marketed design.


So I made a date to pop in to try it out properly. I admit I felt twinges of guilt en route as I scurried past Conaught street and the surrounding area, passing numerous outlets of the sprawling Maroush Empire, Al Waha, with its glowing reputation and loyal following and the humble locals like Fatoush.

Every time I go, I am excited by the decor- the casual, contemporary and ultimately art-y glamour of the place. I have heard tales of their rose water macaroons and mint teas, lemonade made with pomegranate and orange blossom- rumours of a menu that is modern, creative, bite sized and fun. The day I wriggle onto one of the little plastic chairs and study the beautifully bright menu is a hot one, and light and sweet is exactly what I'm looking for.

There is mild disappointment when the waiter informed me they didn't have the flat bread I had ordered (moments earlier we had joked; what kind of a Middle Eastern restaurant would run out of flat bread..? Oh.) I'm pretty sure that we were also served lemonade, instead of lemonade with orange blossom and pomegranate. It was sweet and sharp and good- but the orange blossom would have made it all the better.
Having to rearrange our order after the flat bread problem, we went for a classic mix- hummus and pitta bread, and falafel, served with salad, jalapenos and tortilla.


The food arrived- the lemonade in appealingly chunky glasses, the falafel in a brown terracotta plate, all looking abundant and edible. The pitta was soft and thick and warm, the hummus generous. I couldn't claim it was hands down the-best-hummus I'd tasted (I have a penchant for the ones flavoured with roasted pepper or cumin, or topped with pine nuts) but it was enjoyable, glossy with olive oil and garnished with chickpeas and flat leafed herbs.
The falafel was also good. Large, crispy shelled and soft inside, served with a tatziki. Not at all greasy, not quite moist, but not too dry.


We finished it off with an espresso to go, carried away in a teeny card espresso cup and a beautifully designed (I wouldn't expect anything less) paper bag of orange blossom water.
Looking back, the food was certainlygood enough, an enjoyable but slightly expensive lunch time stop. I can't help but feel I was mostly paying for the experience though- the decor and the ambiance, and the cute little touches; rose water sweets on funky menus and individually wrapped nougat.

This is not the place to go for an authentic Middle Eastern experience- if you are looking for that, then look for the swarthy men huddled round shisha pipes outside dark mosaic-ed bars on Conought Street. Literally follow your nose. You will find cheaper, and you will find tastier.

But you won't find Arabic-chic meets pop-art graphics and textile bags or tin gifts. You probably won't find decor that will give you a headache and beautifully considered menus. This isn't the place to reminisce over your summer spent in Beirut- but it is the place to catch up with friends, over a few cubes of nougat (The cafes more affordable offering, at least...) and a mint tea.

Cafe Libanais- 80% pretty face... And unashamedly so.

Cafe Libanais, 65 Wigmore Street, London, W1U 1PZ
www.lecompoir.co.uk

Monday, 30 August 2010

Guest Post: Aarons' Guide to Home-made Mayonnaise

Homemade mayonnaise tastes so different from the supermarket bought version that it is almost criminal. I was scared to try it for a long time because of all sorts of horror stories about how difficult making mayonnaise was. But there really is no need to be afraid. I trawled through about a dozen mayonnaise recipes looking for tips and have come up with one that I think works well and tastes sublime. I hope you like it too.

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The key with mayonnaise is to use really really fresh free range eggs. The fresher the egg, the more likely everything is to turn out perfectly. Whisk one large egg yolk with a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Add a tablespoon of white whine vinegar and give it a good thorough whisk for a couple of minutes. This bit is important because it helps the mayonnaise to emulsify later.

Now take some olive oil and start dribbling it in drop by drop, keeping the whisking action going. A food processor or electric whisk is very handy here. This is the stage where things can go wrong. You just need to make sure that each drop of oil is thoroughly whisked in before adding the next drop.

Once you've added about two or three tablespoons of oil and the whole mixture begins to thicken then you an start adding the rest of the oil (a total of 500ml) in a thin continuous trickle. If it starts to get too thick add another tablespoon of white wine vinegar and if that fails a tablespoon of warm water.

There are a few tricks in case you don't quite the hang of it and the mixture splits and curdles- The first is to use a 50% vegetable oil and 50% olive oil at first, thus ensuring that you don't waste vast quantities of olive oil on failed attempts.

Also, don't throw out your failed curdled mayo! Just start again with another fresh batch and then as the mixture starts to thicken, gradually add in your curdled mixture drop by drop.
After the mixture has thickened the hard part is over and you can add the juice of a lemon to give it a sharper taste.

There are a thousand things you can do with it once you've triumphed;
Mix in herbs or smoked fish, put a dollop in a fish stew, mix in some crab, add crushed or chopped garlic to turn it into aioli.... endless possibilities! It'll keep in the fridge in a jam jar for about a week.

...And once you've tasted it you'll never go back to Hellman's.
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Thank you so much to Aaron for this post! I would, if he doesn't mind, like to dedicate it to my Papa, a fierce believer in the worth of home made mayonnaise, and Hellman's arch nemesis. (My house was more tuna-yoghurt than tuna-mayo. Oh yes.)

x

Lou Loves Travel: Schone Pearl



My favourite food stop during my whirlwind tour of Vienna was the humble Schone Pearl, tucked away in the outskirts of the city centre in the 2nd District. Retaining its name from its previous incarnation as a Chinese restaurant, 'The Beautiful Pearl' has the look and feel of a simple canteen, with rows of benches and an open kitchen.

The menu of the modest Beisl offers all the traditional Austrian cuisine from Weiner Schnitzel to meaty stews. Hearty food with which vegetables are a mere afterthought, in the form of a few salad options, and is generally limited to potato. Schone Pearl prides itself on its food all being organically sourced, with a menu that changes with the seasons, and daily.
Arriving fresh from the airport and faint with hunger, we ordered a sausage and potato goulash and tafelspitz mid g'roste from a sweet and smiling waiter who resembled an even more jovial and equally bandana-d Captain Pugwash. We also ordered a trout salad to satiate my vegetable cravings.



The salad arrived first and was accompanied by a bowl of beautiful chunky bread that fell somewhere between a loaf of ciabatta; white dough and a soft, glossy brown crust. The salad was substantial and uncomplicated- generous slices of undressed trout, thick wedges of soft goats cheese sculpted by a serrated knife piled onto a mound of iceberg lettuce, dressed in a creamy, tangy, mustard dressing.

The goulash was equally fresh and wholesome; a deep bowl of sausage, potato and rich, red creamy stew. There was nothing so fancy as pepper or tomato, to complicate the flavour of the meat (or the potato), though there may have been the odd rogue onion.
It was good. It was very good.

The tafelspitz turned out to be boiled beef . With much being lost in translation, ordering was out an act of faith, but the plates brought to the table proved to be markedly more palatable than the name suggests. It came served traditionally, with fried potato and a sauce of apple and grated horseradish.



My one piece of advice for travellers wanting to experience Viennese cuisine would be to shun any of the fancier restaurants run by the big name chefs as sited in many of the city guidebooks (Ossheriester, Time Out, I'm looking at you) and stick to what Vienna does best- coffee, cake and good, wholesome traditional meat based dishes.

If you're looking for traditional and simple Viennese food, cooking with fresh organic ingredients, then this atmospheric and low-fi biesl may appeal to you too. Writing this, I really miss this place!

Schone Pearl, Gro├če Pfarrgasse 2, 1020 Vienna
www.schoene-perle.at



Porridge of the Week #14

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Porridge of the Week #14
Birchermueseli


Category: Healthy

Fill a bowl with porridge oats. Cover with enough milk or apple juice (I would use apple juice) to moisten and cover, chilled, for at least an hour, or overnight. When it is ready, grate an apple into the porridge oats mix. Add a scattering of raisins and mixed seeds (make sure you only do this before serving, and not before you leave it to soak- swollen raisins and soft seeds are grim!). Stir in a fruit yoghurt- enough to make it thick and creamy.
Serve into bowls and top the cold mix with mixed fruit. You could either go for local seasonal berries such as blueberries and blackberries, or create a tropical version with mango, pineapple, etc. Chopped apple, pear and banana is also good.
Finally, top with a few roasted almonds or chopped hazelnuts.

This porridge was inspired by my recent trip to Vienna, where birchermueseli frequents most breakfast menus. After doing the rodgrod med flode, I wanted to do another International Porridge. Expect some future P.O.T.Ws from other distant climes!
This isn't a traditional porridge in that it is served cold, but its great for if you aren't really in a porridge mood (Sometimes, occasionally, it happens...) or can be really elegant to serve to guests!

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Saturday, 28 August 2010

Dinner: Polenta Pizza

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The other day, I was alerted to Otto, a Notting Hill restaurant selling pizza made with polenta bases. This I am very curious about. Still feeling inspired from my trip to Italy, and full of enthusiasm for my recent discovery of polenta itself, I was moved to attempt to make a polenta pizza of my own.

Here it is, topped with grilled vegetables, plum tomatoes, spinach rosemary, basil and mushroom. I mixed some rosemary into the polenta mix whilst I was making the base, but I think next time I will put in a bit more, and some Parmesan too, to give it a bit more flavour.

The nice thing about using a polenta base is it's a lot lighter than a traditional dough base, and goes all crispy round the edges. You don't need the tomato sauce either, which I could never get to taste right, and can make them a bit rich.

I'm definately going to do this again soon. Next time, I think I'll do Gorgonzola, spinach and toasted walnuts. Any suggestions for something else I could try..? Can I bring myself to move away from the polenta/girolles mushroom combination..?

x

Friday, 27 August 2010

How to Make... Granola

Granola, crunchy... whatever you want to call it. Is granola an American-ism for crunchy? Is crunchy even a word? Is granola used to describe the hard crunchy cereal in England and used to describe anything that resembles muesli in the US? Its a mystery. Please let me know if you have the answers!

This is so stupidly easy I feel a bit ashamed even putting it up. But its an absolute must for breakfast fanatics (Oh, I know you're out there...) and it makes your kitchen smell gorgeous for a little bit.

It's also really nice to have a granola made from scratch. It may be sugary, but at least there isn't added sugar or any of the other bizarre and unnecessary things you find written in the un-ending small-print on the side of cereal boxes.

In a bowl, mix together oats with a handful of raisins, hazelnuts, almonds, cranberries and pecans. I also add in a good handful of mixed seeds for texture. I put mixed seeds in everything.

You can also be creative- put in whatever you want. Dried prunes, apricots, Brazil nuts... Even mix in some cereal that you have a particular penchant for.

Spoon in enough maple syrup to hold it all together. Stir through until its all bound in a flaky, sticky ball.

Line a tray with parchment paper and spoon the mixture on, spreading it out evenly. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at about 170. When it comes out it should be golden brown and soft, probably deeper in colour around the edges. As you leave it to cool it will harden up. Break up the mix into granola-esque lumps. In an air tight container, it should store for about two weeks.

I would recommend it scattered over muesli, with Greek yoghurt and blueberries. To make it extra wonderful, you could caramelise whole pecans separately or bake in Golden Syrup, before stirring in at the end. There really is nothing better in the world than breakfast.

I have it on good authority from in-house taste tester that this is a success! It is lovely- and worth making in bulk.
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Dinner: Cod with Chickpeas and Chorizo

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This was made as a light supper one evening before a little post dinner walk. It turned out to be utterly gorgeous. Due to the lightness of the fish and the salty richness of the sausage, Cod and chorizo is one of those all time classic combinations. This meal has been fast tracked into my all time favourites, and, like most cod recipes, its very simple and quick.

The scallops were done as a little starter. Mostly just because I cannot get enough of them. This time, they're dressed with soy, coriander and ginger.

Recipe:

Cook a medium sliced onion until soft. Add 100g of smoked chorizo peeled and cut into 1cm cubes, turn up heat and cook a little more. Then add two chopped cloves of garlic, a pinch of crushed chilli flakes, a handful of coriander leaves, a tin of chickpeas and 2 ripe medium tomatoes (cubed, with the seeds removed). Add 150ml white wine and cook for ten minutes till warmed through. Add two big handfuls baby spinach leaves and simmer until wilted. Season and put to one side.

Fry four cod fillets skin side down in a little oil until just done. You could use any type of white fish but why would you when cod is so thick and meaty and amazing?

Pile the chickpea mix onto a plate, and top with the cod.

Bueno!
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Lou Loves Travel: Italy

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I never got into Italian food until recently. A few friends of mine have sung its praises and I've slowly become more aware of it. The other night, a post dinner walk led me to the doors of River Cafe. I recently bought a beautiful hardback copy of the River Cafe cookbook from a charity shop, and after experiencing my first taste of Polenta (yeah, I know!) I have embarked on a passionate love affair with the versatile cornflour meal.

Considering this blossoming curiosity, it was only a matter of time before I found myself in Italy. This time ended up being sooner rather than later. Last week Lou Loves Food embarked on a brief Epicurean tour of Tuscany, picking up tastes in Florence, Pisa and Lucca. (It was a trip my thighs will never forgive me for.)

We hid from the rain in Lucca, taking comfort in Chianti and brushetta with plates of fresh chopped tomatoes, and we drank Spritz (Prosecco and Campari with soda) under the beating sun in the courtyard bars overshadowed by the Duomo in Florence.

I drank more Prosecco than I care to admit to, already having a weakness for it thanks to London's penchant for the more elegant and creative cocktail menus. I discovered a new favourite ice cream flavour from their innumerable Gellatoria's- where the ice creams are whipped into towering peaks, studded with hazelnuts, strawberries or crumbled biscotti.
My new flavour du jour is pine nut- a creamy, nutty ice cream laced with whole pine nuts.


And pine nuts seem to wriggle their way into all dishes- from the pasta and antipasti to their extensive and inescapable selection of cakes that line the glass counters of every bar. I was seduced, more than once, by the Tuscan speciality- Torta con i Bisheri- shapeless biscuits with raisins and chocolates and Prisaria, crumbling and stuffed with almond paste, dusted with mounds of icing.



In Pisa, I experienced my first ever edible gnocchi. I had only eaten it once or twice before, and in fairness, it had come out of a packet and been prepared by me. I had been disappointed; the results were lumpy, stodgy and tastes more of starch and carbs than anything else. The gnocchi I ordered in a pasta place down a Pisan side road was soft and melting and coated in melting Gorgonzola.

I ate an Italian pizza in a local backstreet trattoria, where the chef totted up the bill in front of a huge pizza oven (Two bottles of water, a bottle of Prosecco and three large pizzas for around £24) whilst still covered up to the elbows in flour. It sparked a dangerous hunger in me for pizza that I suspect will haunt my dreams and my kitchen for months to come.

I tried as much pasta as was possible in such a limited time; tagliatelle with courgette and salmon, sea food spaghetti and a simple Farfalline dish with black olives and oil. And I kept my energy up, of course, with countless tiny cups of strong espresso. Yet another weakness of mine, despite my crippling caffiene intolerance.


I can now admit that I am a convert to the world of Italian cuisine. A world I have little experience in. But you just give me time...

x

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Porridge of the Week #13


Porridge of the Week #13
Raspberry and Almond


Category: Healthy
Warm the porridge through, softening it with milk. Drop in one drop of almond essence and, as it is warming, add the raspberry. Stir them in with your spurtle, crushing some of them and breaking them up as you do so. Take a large handful of plain unsalted almonds and crush by hand. Tip this into the porridge and mix. Plate up and serve with a a few extra raspberries and a whole almond.


I really struggled with this porridge- healthy or flavoured?? Raspberries are packed with fibre and anti oxidants, and it is recommended to get nuts and seeds into your diet at breakfast time, so I decided to go with healthy... But it has some good flavour, too!

x

Monday, 16 August 2010

This week I have been mostly...

Drinking Spritz, on terrace bars in Florence and Pisa, with antipasti and sunshine.



Prosecco, Campari and Soda

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Food Fact of the Day.

Tirimisu, means 'pick me up'.

... An Italian themed Fact of the Week, to coincide with my trip to Italy! Off to Vienna tomorrow, so things at Lou Loves Food are a little quiet right now. But not for long...

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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Last Supper

With Helena off to Switzerland and me off to Italy, we decided to have a Last Supper before we we are to be reunited in Vienna (Little jet setters that we are...)
It was a fairly rustic supper of warming, almost autumnal dishes, heavy with root vegetables, mushrooms and seasonal produce- but with the English climate as it currently is, I think we got away with it.


As a starter, we had pan fried polenta with girolles mushroom. This course was of particular excitement to me. I had been working on a Foraging article at Food and Travel Magazine and had been attracted to the deep yellow and ribbed girolles.

I have also been reading a lot recently about polenta (I had acquired a lovely hard back copy of River Cafe from a charity shop and have spent a lot of time looking into the cuisine for my impending Italy trip.) Amazingly, I have never had it before. And, like scallops were my discovery of 2009, polenta is definitely my discovery of 201o. I feel this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Roast butternut squash wedges with mixed roast nuts and a burnt aubergine and tahini dip, on the side.

This dish made us feel a little bit like we were in a wood cabin in the forest in Europe... Roast pheasant with a fennel puree.

My favourite!! I will follow this with a recipe as it's so simple and lovely and easy to do. Coffee cup cheesecake with a home made cherry brandy compote. Delightful, I think is the best word for this.

x

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Salted Caramel at Artisan du Chocolat

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Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart
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I love salt in my chocolate, its my favourite way to do it. Salted caramel in particular just does something to me that I cannot describe.

So after taking a friend to try the salted caramel range at L'Artisan du Chocolat, it was almost inevitable that our attention would turn to their cafe menu, which features chocolate cocktails, 'tapas' and a range of palpitation inducing puddings- including the Chocolate and salted caramel tart.

I was born to eat this pudding. This pudding was made to be in my life.

Imagine getting a box of the L'Artisan du Chocolat original salted caramels and melting them into a little pastry case so the chocolate shell and caramel centre ooze together into a rich, oily goo. This is the Artisan Tart.
There are a many many ways I could describe this dessert, but none of them are suitable for polite conversation. I would do terrible things to this dessert, and this dessert does terrible terrible things to me.

At £5 I could not recommend it enough, but if you can't get down right now then you can always get yourself all excited by doing a bit of Internet perving at www.artisanduchocolat.com

L'artisan du Chocolat, 020 7824 8365, 81 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, W2 4UL


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Porridge of the Week #12

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Porridge of the Week #12
Cherry/ Chocolate Cherry
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Category: Healthy/Flavoured/Evening

Place a large handful of pitted cherries in a pan with enough water to cover the base and a sprinkling of sugar. Add a tiny splash of vanilla essence. Heat up, stirring regularly and breaking the cherries with the side of a spoon. Continue to stir and heat until the cherries reduce into a thick sticky compote. For the evening version drop in a few tablespoons of cherry brandy once the compote has been reduced to the right consistency. Stir in and remove from the heat.
Make the porridge with milk, stirring in another small drop of vanilla essence. Whilst it is heating through, tip in the majority of the cherry compote and stir through. At this point, for the evening version, stir in three cubes of dark chocolate. Stir in a circular motion just enough for the chocolate to melt and begin to trail.
Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl. Add the rest of the cherry compote, and if you have also added the dark chocolate, grate a small amount on top. Voila. Serve the breakfast cherry porridge with a final cherry, for the aesthetic.

One porridge for every occasion! I personally think cherries go perfectly with porridge. This porridge is warming and rich and beautiful to look at and taste. Cherry and chocolate is also a classic combination and it would be sacrilege not to combine them for this gorgeous evening variety.
Tip: For the healthy version-If you don't want any added sugar in your porridge then that's fine. Just omit it from the compote. If you're in a hurry, you can always just add the pitted cherries before you heat the porridge up.
Green and Blacks do a good sour cherry chocolate which is really nice for adding an extra tangy dimension to your pudding porridge.
x

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Brick Lane Beigal Battle

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Alongside the Truman Brewery and curry houses, moustaches and cut off denim shorts, the Brick Lane bagel shops are iconic symbols of the East End. Since I first drunkenly stumbled across the appealingly low-fi joints in the early hours of the morning I have been a dedicated and loyal follower.

Whilst taking a visitor from New York on a gastronomical tour of the East (End) we decided a bagel pit-stop was a prerequisite. Upon reaching our destination I trotted automatically to the Beigel Shop (Britain's First and Best). The other official London tour guide veered towards the famous Brick Lane Beigel Bake.

Interesting.

Somehow, I had never before considered the potential dividing loyalties of the two East End institutions. Does everyone have their loyalties, or am I the only monogamous eater in a city of baking sluts?
I was soon carried away by ideas of Montague/Capulet style turf wars; Bloods and Crips; West (East) side story dance-offs- this last one somehow not as implausible as it should be considering Shoreditch.

Time for a bagel-off.

Beigel Bake v.s The Beigel Shop


On the Left, we have The Beigel Shop. This is the team I route for, and the only place I have bought a bagel since I discovered it. Sited as Britain's first bagel shop, it dates back to 1855. The two 'classics' are the salt beef bagel, and my bagel of choice- smoked salmon and cream cheese. I have very happy memories of this bagel shop. I have introduced it to so many of my friends and even the odd boy, back in the day. Once upon a time a friend even ferried a bagel in its distinctive little brown bag all the way across London for me (and he will have a place in my heart forever...)

The smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel costs a ridiculous £1.50. Plain bagels are about 12p. (I once carried ten of them back home with me.) Additional fresh lemon and pepper is also offered and the staff ricochet from mild and courteous to a little bit terrifying. The bagels are fairly small, but beautifully, artfully misshapen and fat.
As well as bagels, the shop also sells samosas and spring rolls for about 70p and a plethora of pastries and buns- including those jam and coconut things that I haven't eaten since school but dream about so often they have become almost fetishised.

The Brick Lane Beigel Bake


On the right we have the mighty Brick Lane Beigel Bake, the younger yet more famous neighbour. Very similar in menu, it also supplies smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels for £1.50, though serves little of the other fare that is available at the Bagel Shop. The staff, from my experience, are more than a little cranky- but I haven't been often enough for that comment to be fair. There bagels are also happily wonky but slightly glaze and no lemon or pepper was proffered.
The Biegel Bake's biggest victory is that it 24hour. Absolute genius and almost worthy of total bagel domination in itself!

The Results

BS
= Beigel Shop
BLBB= Brick Lane Beigel Bake

We purchased our two Bagels (lemon and pepper/sheer terror) and took them to the tiny metal counter. They both looked fairly similar in size (1:1) though the BLBB has a glaze that looked suspiciously greasy. This was tested by placing them onto their little brown bags. BS left no stains where my suspicions were proved when BLBB left a greasy little rim (1:0).
The bagels were consumed. Both were equally generous with their portions of cheese and salmon (1:1) though (and now I'm being fussy) the salmon was pinker and thicker in the BS bagel. The dough is the most important factor of this equation and again the BS bagel received unanimous approval, being less chewy and softer, with a bit more bite.


The winner: Through it's general eating pleasure, the Beigel Shop won out, even in the eyes of my competitor, and our 'expert' opinion, fresh from the bagel shops of New York. Hooray for the old original wiping the Shoreditch hipster.
She did however suggest that a New York bagel pitted against a London bagel would be rather like 'a gun in a knife fight'.

Right- you know what that means... ^_~

x

Cheap Eats: Al Aya

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Al Aya


Dropping in to this little Lebanese restaurant in South Wimbledon, I found Al Aya to be a friendly local restaurant with good mint tea (integral to, and often a sign of, any good Middle Eastern eatery...) and reasonably priced dishes of homemade and traditional mezze.




The price didn't compromise the relaxed atmosphere or the quality of the food. The baked aubergine was particularly good- it wasn't too much of a pulp and all the individual flavours and textures came through. The falafel, which is the usual suspect for being particularly hit or miss also didn't disappoint. The large portions tasted hand-made and were deep fried with sesame seeds so that it was soft inside (without being flaky or dry) and crispy shelled.

The staff were gorgeous- when we enquired about mint tea we were recommended as to how we should take it; just mint, lemon and water. Without the tea and sugar it wasn't as sweet and synthetic as mint tea so often is. When we bought some baklava to take away, she rooted about to pick us out the largest pieces from the tray... Serious brownie points scored!



Al Aya, 195-197 Merton Rd, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1EE, 020 8417 0606

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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Food Fact of the Day.

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At one time, the addition of chalk to bread was officially recognised as adulteration and banned by law: today, in the name of fortification, it is mandatory in almost all. Due to labelling law, customers are unable to know what additives have been used in the production of in-store bakery loaves unless they ask.

... Ew?

Fact taken from a larger article exploring the quality of Supermarket bread by the Real Food Campaign (www.sustainweb.org.uk) and is supported by online deli Natoora (www.natoora.co.uk)

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How to make Elderflower and Cassis Ice

Made an Elderflower and Cassis Granita for a dinner party the other day and it was utterly lovely. Really light and elegant, and very beautiful to look at. Its so easy and perfect for entertaining, I thought I would share the recipe with you. It does contain alcohol though, so it is one for the adults! (Ha, I can't believe I just classed myself as one of those...)






Put 300ml elderflower cordial and 300ml water in a saucepan. Shred a handful of mint (about 80g) finely with a knife, without crushing the leaves. Add the chopped mint to the cordial pan and stir in 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 2 tbsp sugar. Heat the mixture until warm, but not hot, and leave to infuse for two hours.
Strain through a fine sieve into a freezer-proof container with a lid. Put on the lid and freeze for two hours. Remove from the freezer and break up the mixture- which should be partially frozen by now. repeat every one to two hours until the mixture is snow like.
Spoon into a low glass or teacup (I used large shot glasses and that works fantastically). Just make sure they are glass so you can see the beauty of it when you then dribble a teaspoon of cassis into the ice. Serve immediately!
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If you want to make this dish even more impressive why not try making your own cassis?? There is a recipe for this on the great blog, The English Can Cook- www.marmitelover.blogspot.com
Oh yes we can.
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This week I have been mostly drinking...

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Cocktails. Oh. so. many. cocktails.

My current favourite? Chilli Passion - a Shoreditch House favourite.



42 below zero vodka, passionfruit juice, chilli

I had this cocktail a few weeks back, and it still haunts my dreams- and desktop background. If the warm chilli kick in the back of your throat isn't beautiful enough, the chilli-on-a-passionfruit decoration is!

'Chilli Passion', Shoreditch House, Ebor Street London, (020) 7739 5040

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

Bompas and Parr striped Clementine Jellies

Striped Clementine and Blamanche Jelly


After the success of my layered fruit Pimm's Jelly, I was more than excited to try these jellies from my ultimate food heros, Bompass and Parr. I have to say, getting this to work is probably the finest achievement of my life to date.


The artist at work.

To make these jellies you have to carefully seperate the flesh of one of the segments from the skin by peeling it out through the top of the clementine. This was kind of tricky, but once you get the first bit out, it gets easier. It was at the point I discovered my skill for hollowing clementines. I've found my calling.
You then layer the clementine jelly made with the strained flesh and blamanche jelly, letting it set a tablespoon at a time.
Make sure you pour the same quanitity into each, to get nice, equal stripes. Or don't. A few of mine ended up a bit squew-whiff (well, it was my first try...) but it actually looked pretty cute with zig zags.
I won't spell out the quantities and details here as it gets pretty wordy- you will just have the buy the Jelly with Bompas and Parr book! I reviewed it during the Food and Travel days and it's well worth it.
Once they are filled and set, you can cut two nicks into each side of the lid, then, sliding the knife into them, cut it into slices. I would advice doing this with an audience, otherwise its wasted. It's just too pretty not to share.


There is no way anyone wouldn't be impressed by these beautiful little wobbly fruits. If they aren't they do not have a soul. They also happen to taste a bit bloody lovely, so the fun doesn't end with the heaps of praise and attention you will probably be lavished with (if you're friends are worth their salt.)


If you love the look of these, then I do recommend 'Jelly with Bompas and Parr', which is now out. If you can't get your hands on it I wouldn't worry. I'm fairly certain there will be more Bompas and Parr blogs to come.

x

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Dinner Party.


I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.



But I can heave onto a plate, alongside some scallops and samphire. And so I did.
~
Last night my food companion (whose blog I hope will soon be up and running!) and I cooked dinner for a friend who is currently staying from New York. There was no thematic link between courses in terms of cuisine or palate- but there was a lot of shared dishes, music, laughter and food appreciation- which I'm sure you will can agree with, makes for a much better dinner party anyway.
The food is all sourced as independantly as possible, with a few fun little trips to the local deli, butcher etc- and even trotting across town to the Spanish foodstore in Notting Hill for the Pata Negra. Getting all the ingredients from each seperate source was such an old school and satisfying way to shop, a blog may have to follow...
But for now, here's a low down of the menu.

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Starters


Seared scallops with saffrons potatoes, asparagus and samphire and aioli.
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Main
Lamb cutlets with a roasted walnut, goats cheese and fig salad.

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The lamb was marinated in thyme and rosemary before being dressed in a beautiful looking sticky sauce of honey, red wine vinegar, cinnamon and star anise.

Salads

Grilled peaches with Bresola and Orange Blossom
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Broad beans with pata negra
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Desserts
Elderflower and creme de cassis Granita
~

x