Monday, 16 August 2010

Cooking with Dog

It's not what you think...

My experiences of cooked dog are thankfully very limited, I have seen a whole roasted dog with it's mouth stuck open at local a market in the province of Guanxi, China. Now tempting as it is, I will not go in to the country's treatment of 'moving things', after all this is supposed to be a food blog, so best to keep it that way.

Every time I cook Japanese food I fail to meet my own expectations. One could argue that those expectations are simply unreasonable? How can one possibly recreate a country's cuisine with limited knowledge of its ingredients and little understanding of how those ingredients work together? Amazon can offer a quick fix but you could buy a thousand recipe books on a subject and still be none the wiser.

So do you give up? Not yet, there is hope and that comes in the form of Cooking with dog, a show on YouTube. If like me you are fascinated with Japan and its wonderful cuisine and want to create some of its delicious offerings at home, then this show is definitely the one for you.

Please don't fear, dogs are definitely not on the menu or in any of the recipes, it's purely a demonstration of Japanese dishes that can be cooked at home.

I know what you're thinking, what's this thing with the dog?

The dog in this case is Francis the poodle, the host of the show. The concept is simple and brilliant, the chef cooks the food while the presenter carefully describes at speed every stage in a form of Japenglish.

I recommend you have a look at the following links...

A Dictionary of Japanese food by Richard Hosking

Clearspring - Do have a good look at their website, it's a huge source of information

JustBento - Everything you need to know about bento boxes

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Andalucia Calling

I got a voicemail yesterday on my mobile from the Bull and Last telling me that the Spanish wine tasting with Richard Hemming had been cancelled. It was on my first visit to the Bull and Last that I bought tickets, having been so impressed by the food there. It was a runner up in Time Out's eating & drinking awards 2009, Best Gastropub category. But what did it for me was the review in the The Times by Giles Coren.

On our visit we tried the home made charcuterie plate which consisted of delicate slices of duck prosciutto. For the main we choose the braised pigs cheek with foie gras which was cooked the perfection. Sides, we had the triple cooked chips and the scotch egg, both dishes were excellent.

The cancellation of course was a disappointment, however the Spanish theme was set to continue. Exactly this time last year I was in Andalucia for a week, it's rugged dry rocky landscape at first looks desolate but delve a little deeper then you come across some if not the best and most exciting food Spain has to offer. During the trip I was fortunate enough to visit the home of Ines Rosales, the home of Torta de Aceite. Ines Rosales is the name of the woman who started out making the these wonderful tortas and sold them by a crossroads near Seville station.

Today the tortas are still made by hand and the woman who make them make around 3 tortas every 20 seconds, in order to do this they need around 3 months of training in order to reach the required speed. The tortas are simply made from flour, baking powder, extra virgin olive oil, salt, aniseed, sugar and sesame seeds. Once the dough is made it's then hand shaped then baked at a very low temprature before being hand wrapped. Ines Rosales is still the only commercial torte de Aceite that is hand made, all other brands are made by machine.

Following on with the Spanish theme on Wednesday evening is good 'ol Jamie Oliver, love him or loath him, Oliver is back with his new series - Jamie Does.

Although I'm not that impressed by the first episode in Marrakech, I'm keeping an open mind and looking forward to the second episode, Jamie does Andalucia. I do think he's got it easy, the landscape and food is purely magical and instantly draws you in.
At the weekend C and I picked up a copy of his new book. Like all cooking books, I use them mostly for inspiration, they awaken the mind and get the juices flowing, well not literally! In the book he skims across 6 different cuisines so its by no means a comprehensive guide to the places he visits. But in true Oliver style he keeps the dishes exciting, authentic and along with great photography it does the job and C and I are both pleased with our new purchase. Friday finishes off our Spanish week with a Tapas evening with friends, raise your glass to Andalucia and let the Manzanilla flow!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sourdough Bread

I started to take interest in sourdough bread through a colleague of mine at work, he would often show me photos of his bread, the sort of bread you see in bakeries like Poilane and dare I say it, Gails. He would say to me 'Go on, have a go, I'll bring you in some of my starter' and there it all began.

Sourdough bread for those who don't know is bread made with natural yeast. The beauty of sourdough is that the yeast is already in the flour and the air we breath, all you need to do is mix flour and water together and let nature do its work.

The basis of any sourdough bread is the starter - a quantity of flour and water mixed together to make what resembles a semi-think porridge consistency. Leave this out over night and in the morning you will find it riddled with holes with a fresh yeasty smell. Throw three quarters of this away and feed it with more flour and water to make the same semi-think porridge consistancy as you had the previous day. Repeat this process for a total of 5-7 days and your starter will be ready for action.

There are lots of sourdough recipes out there on the net and in books. It's just a case of finding something that suits you. I find that trial and error is the best way, bread making is not an exact science. The temperature and humidity of your kitchen, how active your starter is and how much time you work your dough all makes a difference to the outcome. From my experience, no bread comes out exactly the same twice.

As promised my colleague gave me some of his starter from which he got from a French bakery in the south of France. Most books will tell you to keep feeding the starter every day to keep it going, if you only make bread once a week then bread making will undoubtably become an expensive hobby. So after the first prove take a piece of the dough, cling film it and keep it in the fridge, this will become the base for your next starter. Next time when you want to make bread, take the piece of dough from the fridge and mix it with flour and water just as you would with a starter and leave it out over night. If I was baking on the Saturday then I would take the starter out on Thursday evening and feeding it again on the Friday evening, but you could get away with feeding it the night before.

Here is the recipe I have been using the last few weeks, admittedly its rather simple but hey, it works!

3 tblsp of starter - This will give the bread some good acidity.
250g stoneground spelt flour
250g very strong white Canadian flour - This has a higher gluten content than our British counterpart
340ml water - removing 3 tblsp of water
10g good quality salt - e.g. Maldon or Cornish Sea Salt

Apart from the standard way of mixing the ingredients together and kneading it, there are several different ways of making the dough, take Richard Bertinet for example, he has a unique way of making dough. Find out which suits you best. The first prove usually takes me around 6 hours, although it does depend on the temperature of your kitchen. The second usually shorter, usually between 3 and 4 hours.

Here is a more comprehensive guide to making a sourdough from the Guardian website. One thing I aim to get out of this post is for you to discover the wonders of making your own sourdough bread, that is of course, if you haven't already.

Some very useful sites:

Barrica Tapas Bar, Fitzrovia

On our walk home towards Goodge Street tube, we stopped at Barrica, a not-so-new, but very cool looking tapas bar on Goodge Street. Just a stone's throw from London's other Spanish eatery institutions, Fino and Salt Yard, this place reminds me of D's and my trip to Madrid late last year.

It was a sunny afternoon, the french doors were completely open - the menu listing various sherries by the glass encouraged us inside.

We sat at the bench seats along the wall and found the long menu interesting and not too pricey (unlike many other Spanish places in London). Although the staff seemed to be all Spanish, the chef is ex-Moro and an apparently not Spanish.

The menu contains the usual tapas dishes, however, the few we tried (including the ham croquettes and the rosemary matured manchego) were executed beautifully. We topped all of this off with a couple of glasses of sherry. D had a dry salty manzanilla and I, a lovely dark olorosso.

Spanish waiters and good quality tapas, if it wasn't for the red buses roaring past I could well have been in Madrid.

Barrica Tapas Bar
62 Goodge Street
London W1T 4NE

Caravan, Exmouth Market

It was a lovely morning. After a well-earned lie in and a lovely poached egg (just look at the colour - I definitely recommend Clarence Court eggs for wonderful taste and colour!), I set off for a walk through Regent's Park to go and meet a couple of friends for a catch-up at Caravan in Exmouth Market.

I have been meaning to try Caravan for a while - it was set up by a couple of New Zealanders, one of which used to be the chef at Providores, my absolute favourite eatery in London.

Caravan describes itself as a restaurant, bar and roastery, although one of the main reasons I wanted to go there was to try their own-roasted coffee. With the standard of coffee in this town on the serious incline, I wanted to see how this place was doing things.

Caravan's location is perfect - set right on the edge of the trendy, although slightly grungy Exmouth Market, it is guaranteed a big crowd. The windows are large, allowing the sun to stream through, and the furniture is wooden and rustic looking - very cool.

The menu is perfect for someone like me who hates making decisions on large menus! The brunch menu (for weekends only) had a nice selection of friands, muffins, "healthier" bits (like poached dried fruit and porridge) and then some other interesting dishes like toasted sourdough with avocado, olive oil and chilli flakes (yum!), coconut bread, roasted tamarillo and lemon curd cream cheese and cornbread french toast with bacon, rocket and avocado.

I went for the cornbread. Despite the poor iPhone photo (and the brown-ish looking avocado), the dish was nice. The flavours blended well and reminded me of Providore's sweetcorn and blueberry fritters - which I love. The french toast aspect of the dish, I think, added unnecessary unhealthy element to the dish, but I probably would order it again.

My friends had the poached dried fruit and the baked eggs with tomato and pepper ragout and Greek yogurt, respectively, which they both said were quite good.

In terms of drinks, we each had a "freshly" squeezed orange juice which had been squeezed earlier that day (which I am not a fan of) and which was served with ice (which I am also not a fan of). Then came the flat whites.

The coffee was very dark and had a very thick consistency. D loves a more bitter coffee, but it wasn't to my liking. One of my friends, a New Zealander, also found it a bit heavy on the palette.

All in all, I found Caravan a good experience - it's a vibrant, cool place to meet up with friends and somewhere I would visit again if I was in the area.

Caravan Restaurant, Bar & Roastery
11-13 Exmouth Market
London EC1R 4QD

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Suckling Pig

Today was a glorious spring day, the sun was shining and for the first time this year the coat, gloves, woolly hat, umbrella and jumper were all left at home. Blossom has now sprung and apple trees across the land finally hope they have seen the last of Jack Frost. Along with spring comes the sun, suddenly, memories come flooding back of more exotic cuisines from warmer climates. For a moment Andalusia does not seem so far away.

On our way back from the Roastery in Clapham Common, we stumbled across this fantastic Butcher stroke Deli, Moen & Sons, a cross between the John Lewis Food Hall and Borough Market, but much much smaller. Everything looked so inviting and we must have spent at least 15 minutes just looking at the fantastic range of produce on offer. Marinated joints of pork caught our eye, they turned out to be joints from a suckling pig marinated in paprika and garlic. Just above the legs sitting on top of the counter were bunches of fresh young spinach. Without discussion three bunches of spinach and a hind leg of sucking pig were now on their way to NW11.

Roasted Hind Leg of Suckling Pig, Roasted Saffron Potatoes with Garlic, Olives and Wilted Spinach

Marinated hind leg of Suckling Pig

Serves 3 people or 4 if you do extra veg.
Season joint with salt.
Roasted leg for about one hour, 200 degrees C
Leave to rest for 10 minutes


Peel, cut then rinse potatoes for 5 minutes.
Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a pinch of saffron and a good pinch of salt then parboil.
Drain potatoes then dry over heat, add a pinch of smoked paprika and fluff up the edges of the potatoes.
Add potatoes, unpeeled cloves of garlic and olives to the roasting tray that contains the pork, season with salt, pepper and olive oil.


Wash spinach well then drain.
Cook and season spinach in a large saucepan/wok with olive oil on a high heat until it starts to wilt. Remove from heat and drain the excess water from the spinach. Serve.

The Roastery

It's been a while since C and I went south of the river due to our location in NW London. We have been rather slack and there really is no excuse I'm afraid. Today we had two reasons, Borough Market and the Roastery, a Kiwi run coffee shop near Clapham Common. Borough Market is always a pleasure to visit, awakening the senses and painfully the wallet.

After a delicious cheese sandwich from the Raclette stall we headed further south to the Roastery, which is about a fifteen minute walk from Clapham Common tube station. The sign outside read "Coffee and Brunch", but sadly my stomach told me that brunch was out of the question. The Roastery roast their own coffee and make all their own food, including the croissants and pain au chocolate. A Flat White is always a good bench mark, a good quality double shot of espresso demanding well textured milk, something you'll never ever ever get at Costa Coffee!

The coffee at the Roastery is up there with some of the best coffee I have experienced in London, though I have yet to explore the entire collection of coffee shops on the Gwilym Davies Disloyalty Card. Fruity, creamy, with balanced acidity - very good. I am not going to go in to a full review of the Roastery. There are plenty of blogs out there reviewing places, our main aim is to highlight places that we enjoy and to let you know that they exist.

The Roastery is well worth a visit, so if your in the area then do head over. A few points that may be some use, brunch finishes at 2pm (daily) and they are due to start opening until 6.30pm starting from this Monday.

The Roastery
789 Wandsworth Road

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Prince Arthur, Euston

Yes, Euston! Can you believe it? When D invited me to meet him at Euston station for our first date all those 2 years ago, I was immediately suspicious and concerned. What was around Euston? All I could think of were the various strip clubs/cross-dressing joints which adorned the road directly opposite the station exit.

Despite this, and further towards Camden Town along Eversholt Street, we came across the lovely little Prince Arthur pub. Tea-light candle lit and today with just opened daffs on each table, this is a lovely little pub which, as a woman, I feel very comfortable visiting.

Now, I'm not promising fabulous gastropub fare (for instance, like The Green or The Eagle in Farringdon), but the table service and ambiance here makes for a special visit. Tonight on an unexpected visit, D and I received excellent service from a lovely French waiter who recommended the Chilean red (which, I might add, was NOT the most expensive wine on the list), a lovely light, chocolate smooth wine which we very much enjoyed. In which other pub in London do you find such unpretentious, high-level service?

A highly recommended venue for a quiet drink with your best friend or your other half. Try to visit on a weekday evening to make sure you get a seat.

The Prince Arthur
80-82 Eversholt Street
London NW1 1BX

See Cafe

As I get stuck into my roast duck maki and Alaska maki (salmon, avocado and mayonnaise) I am wondering why this funky little Japanese fusion cafe is so quiet at lunchtimes.

The food is lovely (every time I have had lunch there, whether it be eat in or take away, it is always fresh, light and extremely tasty), the restaurant itself is light filled and very coolly decorated (think huge Japanese paper lantern handing from every spare space on the ceiling) and the location is perfect (a stone's throw from both Paddington and Edgware Road stations and quite a few new office and apartment buildings).

Unfortunately, the things which have let See down consistently from my perspective is the poor customer service (the staff seem nice enough, but have a habit of being quite vague) and the time the food takes to arrive is appalling! I know that there is only one sushi chef, but I have had to wait in excess of 15 minutes every time I have ordered takeaway and 25-30 minutes when dining in. When you are trying to grab lunch in your very limited lunch hour you just can't wait this long - despite the excellent food.

Please, See, try to improve on these few things and I can almost guarantee your business will begin to boom.

See Cafe
4D Praed Street
London W2 1JX

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Royal Mail Hotel

On a recent trip to Melbourne we headed out to the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, arguably Australia's best restaurant. Take a look at the video above, it really captures the beauty of the Victorian countryside and the cuisine at the the Royal Mail Hotel.