Sunday, 30 November 2008

Some Hamisha nosh

Image from Global rhythm , book ; New Wave Kosher: Jewish Food From Near And Far

There seemed to be a hamisha, (cozy & familiar in Yiddish) , theme to last week. On Friday I had a lovely afternoon with our group of little girls at a friends house as they were preparing an old Jewish dish from Tunisia called Pikayla for their Friday night meal . "Pikayla" being my only spelling of it so far, as no one will spell it out , I feel , for fear of finding out its many wonderful secrets! It combines burnt spinach , beans and lamb in one pot. I think they may have preferred me being blindfold and led to another room , and the lid of the pot being tightly secured but I just love finding out new and different ways to cook. It really makes food seem exciting and on a cold dark winter night , to eat something different , as its so easy just to buy the same and make the same week in and week out , makes life , well just a lot more varied!

It seems several families, (only 15 I was told), have this spinach dish but are loathe to share it with anyone!! I had it once at a friends house as part of a wonderful middle eastern kosher buffet and her sister in law gave me part of the recipe but not all of it- oh the secretiveness of it all- so to this day (until fri) , I didn't have a clue how to make it , or what it was called. For several years after this party I also had a scribbled and incomplete version of Tbit recipe, but could never find the real recipe as again no one would spell it for me. Ive had it written down as Tbeet, for some years and didn't get anywhere with it on google or anyone else! Ive also never attempted to make either of them , for fear of getting it horribly wrong , especially as they may have omitted some secret part!

Many of these one pot dishes whether created in Libya , Tunisia, Israel or Iraq were created in a similar vein to Choulent , as it could be left in a low oven all night from Thursday to serve Friday night as part of the sabbath meal.

Last week I went to Sami's in Brent street , (the review linked here being the very few I found), for a mums night out. I was hoping for a yummy comforting Kosher meal, and I don't like to be down on restaurants , but disappointingly not all of it worked. The small salad starters were quite good and served on lovely small square plates and the portions plenty. Their Tabouleh was quite savoury and moreish , but it seemed to be made with cous cous rather than the bulgarwheat its more familiar for. My friend and I shared a Tbit (and I finally learnt of the correct Iraqi spelling) and a Shwarma , but both were like eating flavoured cardboard and even then it wasn't the flavours associated with either!!! Red Chinese five spice just doesn't belong on a shwarma , NOT EVER!!!! I also miss the Tahini sauce and harissa that just makes shwarma pop when served with all the salad trimmings and the very best is Sollys for that! The Tbit I'm led to believe after partaking several years ago should be a slow cooked warming spicy dish of chicken mixed with rice , all moreish and moist and deeply flavoured. There was a distinct lack of that with this as it consisted of three tomatoey dry chicken legs served separately from the flavoured rice. The nicest warming and cosy dish was chosen by another of our group , that being Memouleh - basically meaning stuffed - and we all wanted to try it, poor women!!! It consisted of meat packed with rice , wrapped in 2 pillow shaped cabbage packages and served smothered with a tomato spice sauce, heaven for me!! It just looked like you could go to sleep on it! The combination of soft cabbage and savoury rice meat filling worked really well with its differing textures and is what a wet winter night is all about. The sauce had enough spice for flavour but wasn't overpowering. It was definitely for the books and I will go to great pains now to find a good recipe. Apart from that I think that may be it would have been safer to stick to lots of grilled meats , which is their speciality.

However on the plus side were the girls who served us , as they stayed as patient as they could be with nearly 30 loud Jewish mums!!!

On my travels around I'm finding some really great dishes , but many are kept under wraps or just passed down between the generations , never to be seen outside that particular family. Ive been told I'm not allowed to experiment with the Pikayla until my friends have made it for me , and I will hold them to that, but until then I cant help but do some research and find its history, in fact I'm itching to right now. I believe that wonderful recipes and foods need to be shared and enjoyed. There is nothing more enriching and restorative than these kinds of foods. They are deep in memories of family and togetherness, its more than food , its a whole heartfelt sensory experience. To me they embody the very meaning of Hamisha : even if you haven't tasted them before, they feel recognizable!

I read in the Jewish Chronicle last week that a women Carol Savage has started the very web site , My dish, that would be a good place to find some of these hidden gems. It provides a space to share and publish recipes online. Apart from that it might take some chutzpah to make several surreptitious calls to various restaurants around to garner these recipes. Or just find a way of making best friends with some of the waiters on the night!

Happy food hunting
Let me know if anyone finds some of the recipes above!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hi, yes still eating, cooking and making a mess of the kitchen

It seems this blog has turned into a "oncermonther", around the 25-29th mark I come on here and suddenly realise 4-5 weeks have gone by and I haven't shown any food porn!

Well I just have to change that this week somehow, have a look at my camera and come back to this space.

In the meantime have a look at this for a little Italian feasty we did a few weeks back

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The "burning" question !

I often look up the nutritional content of foods , mainly to see what the Vitamin levels are. Did you realise that Papaya has double the vitamin c content of an orange ? What I also found interesting in my searches was the nutritional information on a food types Inflammation rating (IF) documented by Monica Reinagel at Inflammation factor. It appears it is responsible for our many ills.

As if I don't worry enough about eating my raw fruits and veg, I now have this to get me oesophagus in a twist about as I may be eating the WRONG fruits and veg!! I realised I eat quite a lot of high sugar fruits ,grapes, strawberries, plums and more , but checking them on the chart , they have fairly medium IF ratings, phew , not so bad then , but not the best!

So what should I be eating more of then?

Well it seems from this list , as the IF rating is in the positives , I need to be eating more crucifers ,raw carrots , cantaloupe, errr jalapeno peppers (yer I was surprised about that one too and need to have another look into it!) and of course spinach, (which I LOVE in salads) oh and I can continue to eat me beloved strawberries too!
I will be looking at her book The Inflammation-Free Diet Plan for more ideas and how it will work in my lifestyle in the new year. Hehehe , he the mans will have a fit , as every year Im onto some other guru, (it was Gillian McKeith 2yrs back and the year before this Superfoods by Steven Pratt) or a food plan to try and kick boost me a way from noshing on crisps and ice cream!

Has anyone tried this diet plan, have they found it beneficial , or are you a newbie on the IF rating like me?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Nope dont dig the partridge!

The minute I cut into the skin and saw the teeny ball bearing which was the shot that deceased this mini bird , that was it , I had to stop eating. I really was not enjoying the nutmeg cabbage either. I did have a picture of the offending article, (he the mans I apologise for my criticising), but it just looked nasteeeee and it seems to have disapeared also , strange? Is he hiding evidence may be! Its so strange how a taste can conjure up a feeling of such dislike in the mouth and nasal passage! It had such promise in the packaging , this teeny interesting little thing, so full of tasty hope , but it was not meant to be! Anyone want the one I have left in the freezer?

I reckon he the mans is allowed a small percentage of experimental disasters, I certainly have in my time; watery cauliflower cheese , sunken cakes , over alcoholised stews, over cooked rock hard mini wall tiles biscuits and more!

My success in August , was a lovely breast of duck in sichuan spices. I was very reluctant to cook it as its not an easy dish to do , as you have to be patient and render the fat of really slowly by cooking on a low light skin side down and I was determined to make sure it was medium rare too , so quite a tall order I gave myself!!! He the mans was due home late and I just had to try. After a lot of shouting and panicking to no one in particular, it came together. You would think I was creating some intricate gourmet dish with the way I was flapping around! It was in fact very simple in the end! I wilted some pak choy and then after I then de glazed the frying pan with soy sauce , rice wine and a little sugar poured this over the dish.

Another dish Id forgotten about , but was very savoury and flavoursome , was a Bruschetta dish created by he the mans with fresh grilled sardines on toasted Bruschetta bread , served with a wonderful tomato compote made with a mixture of mini santini tomato's, capers , onions , balsamic vinegar , parsley , lemon, garlic & seasoning all shallow fried together with olive oil.

Tonight's meal is another experimentation, whilst it doesn't sound to good , it smells amazing. He the mans has coated lamb chops with ciabatta breadcrumbs , mixed herbs and garlic salt. There is also a whole butternut squash being roasted in Cinnamon, honey & olive oil and seasoning. It should in all intents and purposes be good to eat, who knows , Ill find out in 5 minutes and let you know!!!!!!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

A teeny catch up

Its been a few weeks since Ive been on and September so far has been really quiet on the food front having had my eldest start reception. Food lately has been a means to an end I'm afraid. Also having lovely end of summer bugs has also put a stop to much culinary want!!!!

Im pooped by the evening, which is one of my main blog writing times apart from Sundays , but its kids party season right now , so Im hardly in to write! I think the effects of the long summer holidays came after, a bit like when you get ill as soon as a plane takes off for holidays!

The last lovely meal out was our anniversary meal at Clos Maggiore , but there is however some random photos of bits and pieces that he the mans has been making here and there.

At the beginning of Sept , we spent a few days with our friends in Yorkshire, my gal pal of the lovely blog Mee Crafty.

We had a lovely afternoon in our hotel grounds , The Solberge Hall, drinking coffee and eating cake and the kids enjoyed running around the walled kitchen gardens. They had some great courgette specimens on show!

I had a need for a major choc fix and ordered this little pretty creation , although it looked good, it was a bit sickly sweet after a few mouthfuls!!!

He the mans at the end of August had a thing about potted shrimp and loads of little pots of butter kept on turning up in the fridge! I'm not hugely enamoured with them though. I don't know what it is , possibly all that melted re-congealed butter may be and I think Ive decided Im really not a fan of nutmeg !!!! I know Im not really selling them am I.

Tonight is he the mans first foray into the cooking of partridge roasted with a Parma ham wrap and served with sauted cabbage with garlic butter and nutmeg . I will report back on my findings soon!!! So far I'm not so sure on the smell around here and there seems to be no sign of a gravy, to me that's tantamount to food suicide, (I just dont enjoy dry meat )! Instead of game chips hes done a game fried bread to lay it all on. I cant say I'm excited! I shouldn't be so ungrateful , but sometimes the experiments don't work!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

J'adore Clos Maggiore

ohhhh what a lovely weekend we had for our anniversary a couple of weekends back. A wonderfully smart evening at Clos Maggiore followed by a night at One Aldwych In Covent Garden. I was allowed to leave the nest much earlier than he the mans and headed up to Covent Garden on the overground and underground, (which I like as I get to read for a solid 40minutes with no interruptions), for a wander around mid afternoon. It was bliss: sun , shopping and no kiddlies hands!! Don't get me wrong I love my girlie's and missed them , but Im with them morning , noon and night , sometimes with no adult contact for days except the shopkeeper up the road! This has been one long long long summer break , at nearly 8 weeks!!! There is however nothing like freedom!!!

I felt very glamorous in my new dress for the evening and quite relaxed and calm after my afternoon alone , as I checked in to the hotel around 3:30 and had some time to read a magazine laying on the bed and watched some TV, (can you believe it was supernanny, see even without them I'm still thinking of them!). He the mans then joined me for a drink up the road at The Waldorf in the Homage bar at a little table on the street noshing some little snacks & people watching all the giggly girly groups leaving the theatre after an early showing of Dirty Dancing ! . We then headed back for a swim in our own hotels indoor pool and a sit in the sauna , ahhhhhhhhhhh heavenly!

I have to say that Clos was one of the most elegant and romantic restaurants I have ever eaten in. Ive never felt the need to return anywere Ive eaten before , but this place has to be tried again for sure. It has a wonderful cosy , quirky and stylish atmosphere , with its cut hedge walls and arches, (I kid you not) . Its back conservatory were we sat is filled with blossom trees and makes you feel like your sitting in a little wonderland!

Image care of sqauremeal

We unfortunately had to wait nearly half an hour for our table , which was a little bit of shame , but the upside was being offered a lovely glass of pink champagne on the house and my favourite; some tapenade with bread sticks, all served in these lovely little teeny copper pans! All partaken in a lovely little dark and cosy sitting area at the front of the restaurant. The staff were very apologetic and kept on making sure we were OK and that we didn't have long to wait.

Eventually we were shown to a lovely table as requested at the back in the conservatory. We chose the lavish six course Tasting menu as it seemed to have a lovely selection and we thought well, it is for a special occasion . Its also a great way to try a variety of the restaurant dishes in miniature!

Id never had pigeon before but as the 1st starter it was melt in the mouth and a wonderful combination, all sweet , savoury and salty. The teeny fried egg was a cute touch and matched the quirkiness of the place perfectly!

The second starter of scallops was also very delicious and savoury , with a ridiculously healthy fluo green watercress puree.

He the mans wasn't so keen on the taste and texture of the lobster dish as small squares of black , green and white pasta sat in the bisque base which had a slightly smokey flavour to it. I would have liked some more bisque in mine , sans the pasta, as it was so velvety and moreish! The nice touch is that it is poured into your bowl at the table from one of those little copper pans.

At this point he the mans was getting a bit touchy about me snapping away and not just enjoying , so alas I have no picture of the duck dish. It was however very delicious. The duck was perfectly cooked , the deep dark unctuous sauce not to sweet and the treacle marinated skin a lovely touch . I loved the little grapefruit cake on the side , he the mans detests the stuff so I had a little extra! It helped balance the sweetness of the meat and sauce with its sour acidic taste. This is one of my favourite types of evening dishes.

I also have no picture of the cheese plate , but we had a small taste of about three -four soft and hard cheeses from around europe including ; a hard cheese comte from France, a soft cheese
Robiola Pineta from Italy and Isle of Mull Cheddar , all with a lovely small block of quince jelly which Id love to find to have at home. This was served with the most enormous basket of lovely whole wheat , seedy and black and brown biscuits and breads, but we were so so full by then , only the cheese could be eaten!!

Unfortunately , due to the late dinner start we had to rush the dessert of mini opera cake and espresso ice cream , which was a shame as it was gorgeous, melt in the mouth and decadent. Guess what I had on mine?????

Yep I finally got my birthday plate with candle !!!

This is what he the mans one looked like before being devoured.

The Happy Birthday was a bit of an oversight by the restaurant , as it was our anniversary , nevertheless we thought it quite funny due to the boxwood birthday omission and didn't say anything, as the staff there were so attentive, thoughtful and efficient . We were literally running out of the restaurant at this point , to a shocked maitre de face , I think he thought we were upset with the meal ! My sister and her mans were also in central London for the evening for their anniversary dinner at Apsley , a gorgeous modern Italian restaurant at The Lanesborough ( I see another contender for a review )and had planned to meet us for drinks at our Hotel at 11ish. It was now heading for 11:45 , and a bit like Cinders the night was nearly over.

We finished the night off with drinks , (mine was a watermelon and lychee virgin cocktail which was very fresh and aromatic ) and nibbles in the lounge at One Aldwych.

The next morning , we didn't fancy breakfast at the hotel , as it seemed all a bit to formal and serious , so we made the most of being alone and drove over to Clerkenwell , initially the idea was too try a brunch at The Zetter hotel, but when we got there we just didn't fancy the rather overpriced and fussy menu and noticed everyone walking to The Modern Pantry behind the hotel .

What a lovely surprise find ; cool relaxing decor of grey panelled walls , white and copper elements , friendly staff and a very well priced comforting menu (empty Zetter take note!). A winner all round and a very civilised end to a wonderful weekend reading newspapers and reminiscing about pre kiddy life!

It HAS to be done again next year , sighhhhhhhhhh!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Boxwood cafe Birthday

Ive been wanting to come here since I visited taste Of London 3 yrs ago and had tried to get that famed melon soup recipe off of Stuart Gillies!

After all that I didn't even have it for my starter!!!!!! If Id had the tasting menu , I would have got to have it alongside my chosen starter and nosing at the tables aside from us , it looked like a good idea to have such variety.

Image care of Berkley Hotel Website, see link below

Its attached to the Wonderful Berkley Hotel , which has the famed Blue Bar inside its classic , quirky yet contemporary decor and on the opposite side of Boxwood is also the famed Petrus , head chef Marcus Wareing.

I thought the atmosphere quite low key and relaxed with soft jazz music playing , despite this muted atmosphere , it seemed like every chic Hen do had decided to come for the evening (reems and reems of all female tables). It isn't what I would say is a funky happening place , but it was still quite lovely. We unfortunately weren't in our loveliest of moods , having dealt with a meltdown from Cupcake an hour before at home! More of that on Gifted Hand!

At an opened door we were greeted by a Maitre de , (he the mans pointed out that he felt all of Gordon Ramsey's Maitre de's look like someone from the Mafia, think Godfather!!), in what seemed like a very green interior .The main theme is dark woods and dark mint green leather with silver walled tiles. Some of the lighting looks tired and battered and above some of them were ripped! I don't think we had the best table in the house and really should have said something, no matter the food was still very good!

He the mans started with a Foie gras pate, he found he couldn't finish it due its rich sweetness , so I did him the favour of cleaning the little pot out! It was a nice taste change to my Salmon Ceviche , which I was a little disappointed with, as this is one of my favourite dishes if done properly. A true South American Ceviche is teeny cubes of raw fish marinated in citrus's and sometimes spices, which gives the dish a piquancy I love and may be I'm being philistine to want these strong flavours with such good qaulity salmon , but there you go! Although beautifully served , I found the large slices a bit bland and the shredded crab a bit tasteless. It was all very very fresh though.

For my main I just had to have Lobster, I don't have it out very often due to the cost v the quality as in many places its been so rubbery and measly, but on my birthday he the mans said to go for it! It was most probably the best Lobster Id ever had ; soft , sweet , flaky and melt in the mouth. The only thing , although I love it ,was that I stank of garlic for the next 3 days, as it was smothered in it with herbs!!!

He the mans had a lovely Halibut on a buttery sauce with new potatos , but I didnt even try it , as by this time , I think I was all fished out!!

For dessert although quite cheesy , we had a Valrhona chocolate fondue with fresh marshmallows, Biscotti and strawberries. I was channeling the 10yr old in me , as the table next to us had been served with a Birthday plate version of his fondue for the husband and I didnt get any such a thing , (he the mans take note for next year!!!).

Id say It was a lovely meal but I wouldn't rush back there as it didn't set the world alight. I found the menu to be mainly good classic dishes, but may be I'm in the mood these days for something a bit crazy and different, like L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon (as I'm so spoilt at home with he the mans own great food, so its all his fault for raising the bar!!!!). It was however very fresh , beautifully served , amazingly cooked and the service was efficient , may be a little too efficient !

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Goujons , kebabs and taking a wordy break

Ive had to take a break from doing both blogs in tandem and this one took the back seat for a couple of weeks. I have continued to take photos and make notes of what I wanted to write about, but I didn't quite realise what an undertaking it would be to actually do. He the mans is also getting rather fed up with hearing the tap tap tap of the keys every night! I also needed to get some relaxation away from the pc screen and of course catch up on my sky+ recordings!!!

I may have to set one evening a week to post on here and stick to it ,somehow!!!

A couple of weeks back he the mans made an old fave for me and my littluns fish goujons. We normally have it with salsa Verde , but this time he made a traditional tar tare sauce (well a cheats one!). His special ingredients for the batter being panko breadcrumbs and ciabatta breadcrumbs. It gives them an amazing crunch and the leftovers were heated up in the oven the next day for my girls and they love them.

You will need

sunflower oil for frying
2 fillets cod/haddock
panko breadcrumbs (or try Atari Ya supermarkets)
ciabatta breadcrumbs (sometimes sold in Waitrose - although not seen them on Ocado)
1 whipped egg
check seasoning , some ready made breadcrumbs are seasoned already
Cut fish into long small pieces , coat in egg , roll in the breadcrumbs and fry until golden.

Tar tare sauce :
lemon juice
chop all ingredients finely and mix with the mayo.

Onto the Salmon kebabs for the girls, cupcake loved them , however pickle wasnt so keen , but its always worth another try!

You will need
2 fillets of salmon cubed
yellow pepper
baby corn

I did these in a chinese marinade with light and dark soy sauce, mirin, agave syrup and sesame oil and a little groundnut oil for frying. Make up the kebabs 1st and sit them in a wide shallow dish with the marinade for a couple of hours. Then griddle until done. I served them with an uncle bens special fried rice. I would normally do fresh , but this is a great time saver when I only have a little time at home before their dinner

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The Stables at The Grove

On Saturday night we went to the restaurant called The Stables at The Grove. This is one of three restaurants at the Grove, the others being fine dining at Collette's and a luxurious buffet called the Glasshouse (not to be confused with the Michellan star Restaurant of the same name in Kew). Mostly all the hotel is contemporary and quirky, the Stables has a different feel. A little like your sitting in the dining room of a home in the Hampton's : All stone flagging , exposed beams, clapperboard and herbs in pots. Much more laid back and relaxed than the other 2 restaurants , yet still quite smart.

I love this hotel and always enjoy a meal here. Its tucked away in the forests of Hertfordshire near Watford and you wouldn't even know it exists far from its entrance gates on the A41. It was once a large old country home to the Earl of Clarendon , now a well thought through contemporary funky haven. I love its unusual and eclectic mix of antique, quirky Avant garde and modern classic furniture and artefact's. I was lucky to work with the main designer Mary Fox Linton a few years ago. They design the most sumptuous furniture, taking classic styles and making them very much of now.

Onto the food. Unfortunately despite being a fresh and nicely constructed menu , I was a little let down by my meal. Its saving grace was he the mans sea trout and a dessert of Chocolate torte with a surface like a mirror of brown glass!

We both started with a crab salad, which whilst a nice fresh and crunchy start , felt as if it could do with a bit more of a dressing . This was followed by Seabass on an artichoke palm with salsa verde. It had all the elements that I love , but combined it didn't seem to gel together and wasn't very satisfying. The artichoke tasted pickled and was quite hard and dry in places. There was an interesting cold shredded fennel salad on top , whilst a lovely element alone, with a slightly vinegary citrus taste, only jarred all the flavours even more.

He the mans dish was however much more warming on the mouth , with a decadent base of bright green salty and crunchy samphire sitting in a velvety butter sauce, topped with a melt in the mouth sea trout.

The accompanying wine was a perfect salve to my disappointment and very well chosen by the waiter. A lovely pineapple, fruity Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

He the mans dessert was cheese cake with strawberries. I have to own up here to not liking cheese cake, yes I know , how could I , such a philistine ! Its just that I can only eat cheese flavours as, well....... cheese !! The uneaten frozen strawberry yogurt on the side of his plate was another story and disappeared off there very quickly.

I allowed him to share some of my torte, (us foodie women can be rather possessive about our food) , as it was sooo rich and intense there was no way I was going to finish it all. Its texture was like the most soft and creamy fudge ever tasted , sublime! And as for the hazelnut ice cream , a perfect balance to the rich chocolate , especialy with the candied crunchy hazelnuts! A great dessert, albeit in a smaller dose!

See its quite good when you like different bits , there's no arguments. It all works out!!

I would give The Stables another try , as it has a lovely atmosphere and the staff seem quite friendly and attentive. I just think I may a bit more cautious about my choices.

Monday, 14 July 2008

The dinner that was

I will firstly let it be known that I was silly and didn't photograph much at all of our lovely lovely evening. It felt a bit too immodest to stand in my kitchen (my dining table is in the middle surrounded by guests) , and snap away at my own creations in a sort of "Oh aren't I just sooo wonderful", icky self absorbed way! Suffice to say the table looked lovely with our new glasses and there was a simple black and white theme going on. All quite low key though and relaxed , but yet smart. Well as smart as you can be sitting in the middle of a kitchen that needs ripping out!!!!!!!

You could say we had a Ramsey comes Rhodes inspired night and to help with our presentation I made some notes for us to both refer to ! Its a big thing for us cooking for a new audience , so everything had to be thought through.

Here's the menu :

Starter made by moi :

Chilled melon and basil soup - care of Stuart Gillies at Boxwood Cafe (Gordon Ramsey Holdings)

I was very lucky this worked well the 2nd time ,as lets face it , you cant always re create things as well as the 1st time. We had a mini disaster when opening the melons to find they were green ones and not what we had ordered and he the mans had to go searching quite late in the day for ripe orange cantaloupes , not an easy task but he did well. Its always quite good for the foodie ego to experience a humbling mini disaster!!! I was a bit nervous about serving this , as chilled liquids can be a somewhat acquired taste , but everyone finished every drop. My dinner guest L went as far to say that if M&S sold it fresh in a tub , shed go and buy it!!! Such a lovely compliment and makes all the effort very well worth it.

Main made by he the mans mainly from Gordon Ramsey's Secrets book :

Fillet with gratin of wild mushrooms - page 73

Braised baby gem lettuce - page 126

Butter fondant potatoes - page 151 of Gary Rhodes at the table

Sadly I have no picture of the finished plate , well apart from the one you can just make out in my previous posts pictures at the bottom from the book, but it went down very well and every plate was clean!!! I was really surprised at the lettuce dish , as soggy lettuce I didn't fancy much and urged he the mans to think of something else , but he ignored me , as you can see!(well you cant actually , but you get my drift). My other dinner guest K said it was reminiscent of bok choi and she was right , it is a savoury, soft and crunchy side dish. The potatoes were a good change to roast potatoes , but much much more naughtier being cooked in butter, I must admit I try not to eat as many as I used to when eating meat also.

The steak was wonderful (I think I can say that, it being he the mans creation and not mine?) . There is nothing more comforting than steak with a creamy sauce , but whats lovely about this is a sauce that sits perfectly right on the top of the steak so that every cut you make comes with a substantial topping. We were also blessed on the night that it didn't all slide off! Oh and despite it coming out quite rare , it was still eaten , even though several said they don't normally eat steak that way.

Id' just like to say here that I'm rather proud and in admiration of he the mans ability to put together a lovely combination of dishes and flavours. A little round of applause to him.

Anyway enough of all that , his head will swell to much, back to the menu!

Dessert was a joint effort and we made a lucky old favourite of pears accompanied by some new serving ideas :

Vanilla poached pears care of Delicious magazine September issue 2004 (page 76 for anyone who collects it). They may do back issues , Im not sure how far back though.

Served with dark chocolate sorbet - page 114 of Chocolate by Linda Collister

Watermelon and raspberry sorbet - page 96 of Ice cream and Frozen desserts by Peggy Fallon ,

Topped with Caramelized Melba toast - page 211 of Gary Rhodes at the table.

The pears always do well and are a nice fresh finish to a solid main dish. Its a mix of syrup, sweet Riesling , lemon and fresh vanilla in a wonderful fragrant combo. Unfortunately my chocolate sorbet became a grainy mushy mess, despite everyone thinking it was a mousse , I knew it was wrong and was quite disappointed and very typically said so, (I'm not good at lying but they would have been none the wiser had I kept shtum!). It becomes a very strange acidic sandy like mooosh rather than an icy melt in the mouth chocolate zing if the chocolate doesn't melt properly. Its actually a very hard sorbet to make, only 1/4 has ever worked, but I'm determined this summer to get it right and record how!

The watermelon sorbet is great (it reminds me of watermelon juice served in Thailand) and the addition of the raspberry vodka makes it all the more decadent and grown up , although may be not as healthy as pure watermelon, which is meant to great for the body in the summer. Little cupcake is very upset that I wont let her have any. I keep saying it has very grown up drink in it but shes not convinced!!!

I told my guests of my error to take more pictures and they said the best picture would be the table after its all gone , so here it is :

A sign of a good meal

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Today we will mostly be ......................

Cooking cooking and cooking, (Oh and a bit of shopping this morning for wine glasses , as we haven't bought any since our wedding 9yrs ago and they've all gradually smashed).

We have some friends for dinner this evening and chef at large is busying away next to me in preparation. I wont post much about it here till tomorrow as our friends know of my blog and we don't want to spoil the surprise and give away the menu!

So last night we made this


and something else for desert with this

and this morning he the mans is doing things with this

a sneaky at the recipe

Later today I will be making the melon soup again for the starter and hoping its as nice as our tester version couple of weeks ago!!

Watch this space for the final outcome!! (dh needs some courage also , hes nervous!!)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

One of a few local great places

Its shame there aren't more,but the restaurant we went to on Saturday , Sargasso Sea, has a good following and has lasted where others have not , I recall a crab place round the corner thats now a chinese! I think its been going over 8 yrs which is some feat in any area and shows what great lengths the owners go to to make sure its a well rounded experience.

Its great if you want seafood , or just a lovely piece of fresh fish. The latest refurbishment of this mini contemporary restaurant, (all padded cream and plum suedette walls and Wenge type woods), makes it feel like your in the West end and not Palmer's green. I don't know what it is but going out locally never feels like a proper night out , but here it does . I think what makes it an evening is that you can wait for people in a smart little bar area at the front with tables and bar stalls and even sit outside with the road unseen at the front on a small terrace with umbrellas that reminds me of holidays in the med. There's something nice about an aperitif before partaking in a meal , its all very civilised!

We all opted for fresh fish, 2 of our party being kosher. It just didn't feel right somehow eating some huge crustacean, even though they don't mind and I'm the liberal sort of Jew ,it just sometimes feels a bit funny it in front of others who are more strict.

I started with a melt in the mouth tuna carpaccio , which wasn't on the menu , but on the online one and the chef kindly agreed to make it for me with the additional guacamole. The others chose an amazing Pernod marinated Alaskan black cod, which was really savoury and sweet with a fruit salsa, a great combination but not easy to replicate at home I imagine.

We all then went for versions of grilled Terbot and Dover sole in various sauces : meuniere or fennel and cucumber salsa. All very beautifully cooked and tasty.

It was a last minute thing later in the week to go and I'm surprised we got a table for Saturday night for four people , although it was for 9:15 . I am always a bit apprehensive about some of the local places and went thinking this will be an OK ish evening, but I'm glad we went . It worked out lovely , ( I got a chance to dress up and out of my mum clothes) and we had a very enjoyable evening with charming surroundings , (we had a private little room like area to ourselves), friendly thoughtful staff and great food .It also makes such a refreshing change to have good service after my experience a few weeks back too. I recommend it to all who come this way.

Alas I have no pictures for this and the website while clever doesn't show you what it really looks like.

Oh and he the mans also made a great Stifado (a rich , meaty and spicey sweet greek stew) and parsley & lemon potato's at the weekend and I need to post the recipe, as it was the scrummiest . Although hes not been home to tell me were he got his recipe from , so it will be on here soon!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Oh how times have changed

He the mans walked over to the sofa the other night holding a rather full tumbler , suspectfully looking like his new drink of favour ; a vodka sour, (this time it was just still lemonade he says), stating " doesn't the drinking vessel you drink out of change your enjoyment of the drink". Despite agreeing with him, I couldn't help wondering were did this version of he the mans come from!! This from the guy who when walking into John Lewis many many years ago to discuss wedding lists , said, "cutlery is just cutlery" !!!! On our holiday recently ,( be aware there should be a ponceyometer inserted here at level 10), I'm sure the barman blanched at he the mans insistence many nights that his sour be served in a rocks glass and not a Martini one.

He's rather partial to vodka sours lately and numerous other soury lemon liquids and even has a worrying penchant for apple cocktails too, ( I just hope his pinky finger is down at the time the glass is in hand!). Hes bought ALL the ingredients for appletinis , banana daiquiris , Caipirinha and his fave vodka sour. In fact his whole eating and drinking habits have taken a 360degree turnaround over the last 10yrs. As have mine and I don't know who has been fuelling who or were it started. Thinking back though I remember many a day spent wrecking my mums kitchen in the preparation of some concoction or another and making sure I had the right bits and pieces to do it all . I also remember as a child in my late papas house , having to have a certain spoon for my cereal and soups and god help him if it wasn't found!! eeeeeeeek in fact a certain little cupcake is frighteningly similar in that respect! So my thing with all things culinary started as a teenager in my own mums kitchen , which seems to be the way it goes for most.

So progress to now and our foodie passions also seem to include making sure that , (ponceyometer level 10 warning) , things are, cooked , served and eaten with the right dish, bowl, pot , pan and cutlery! One friend who's mentioned often on my blogs was bombarded with my Tagine passion for a whole afternoon a couple of years ago!

My latest search is the perfect dessert and ice cream dishes, some of these were quite classic , but didnt quite hit the mark ! Then there's these retro beauties from Alessi , seen at Panik for £20 each! I'm drooling at the orange one!

Then these at £53 at MBS wholesale for 10 that look very restaurant styleee, which I quite like too!

Although again , like the lack of dessert restaurants , I struggled to find many retailers with any great offer for this product type. The old buyer instinct in me always has to come out at these shopping hunts and I'm almost ready there with a product line idea for some buying team somewhere! I always want to make every experience better!

Don't get me wrong I'll slum it with the best of them and in those moments when sometimes all you want is a food pill and be done I'll eat with my fingers , out of paper , polystyrene (god forbid) or anything coming my way . Just at home in our own space we like to have fun and strive to do it with style. The only thing is that no one wants us back to there's after a dinner party here , as we tend to go on mission like the next Masterchef!!!! and now Ive said that all our future meals will probably be dire and we'll be eating humble pie not Heston's!!! and yes may some of it is posturing , but also , we just enjoy the process of it all and the enjoyment others have in eating what we serve and how we serve it.

OK so there's a little about our changes in passions of kitchen product, (the non food variety) , here's a little on the food side. Take tonight's dinner , the ubiquitous cheese platter. There was a time when only commercial plastic packaged cheddar and Philadelphia would be had and a look at my parents after dinner cheeses had me sneering at the smell (as you do until your "our age")! Tomato's would make me squirm and mushrooms , the texture alone used to send shivers down me. Now I believe at this stage he the mans would have only drunk beer, probably for fear of not appearing manly and only had cheddar in a toasty! Now hes standing here picking at the cheese platter and asking me if I want a Banana Daiquiri and if we should buy some Gavi de Gavi wine for the weekend!

Now we can be scoffing the lot and and poncing it at Neals Yard Dairy like any foodie worth their salt . Tonight's platter had : Talegio , Pecorino Toscano, keen's cheddar & Pie dAnlgoys.
Just dont go asking there for a "cheddar like Cathedral City" , he the mans made that mistake in the early noughties in the once famed but now closed Bluebird Food hall in Kings Road. To the reply of " we dont do pasteurised cheese like that here sir" in a tone created to inflate you like a pin to a balloon! Bless him , all he wanted really was a strong but sweet flavour and that at the time this was his best way to describe it! Now to that shop person Id give them one of these for being insulting in the name of food . One has to laugh at these things, food should be a joy and a giggle. There is nothing worse than staff who are snootier than you are!!

What is it that makes that change : is it maturity , influence , taste buds , or just popular culture and life ? Can you remember not wanting to eat certain things years ago and now crave them? Are you fussy about utensils and will only have tea in bone china? Or do others mistakenly see it as pickyness rather than an educated enjoyment?

I say enjoy it all anyway and while your at it pass me that Chablis Cru in a Crystal glass please and that sea bass wild not farmed and that Gruyere reserve in paper not cellophane!!!

ponceyometer 20 I think and who cares !!!!!