Tuesday, 29 March 2011

We Are Moving ....

We are are finally moving. Phew. So no internet for an age until BT get their sorry butts round to connect us.
So in the mean time have a beer on us. A small one. 

Monday, 28 March 2011

Cook The Books : Rasa Malaysia - Beef Rendang

I brought this book many years ago in a small bookstore somewhere in Singapore. I know I don’t cook out of it as much as I should, but it’s one of the best cookbooks I own.
The wonderful Betty Saw seems to be the Delia Smith of the Malay/Singapore world, and has written about as many books as Delia herself. Whether she has a lucrative supermarket deal is anyones guess.
The chapters of the book are the States of Malaysia and Borneo, which makes cooking really interesting. But you therefore have so many choices for the same dish. I’m amazed there are so many different versions of the mighty laksa.
My favourite Malaysian dish is Rendang Daging or Beef Rendang. By far the best recipe I have found not only from the book, but on the interweb as well, is the recipe from Pahang. This state has the delights of the Cameron Highlands, plus the bizarre city of Kuanton and my favourite town of Cherating. All these places are within its borders.
If you are only going to cook one recipe from Malaysia, then it should be this one.

600g Beef, cut into 2 ½ cm cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black peppercorns
1 ¼ litre of coconut milk
1 piece of dried sour fruit (asam gelugur)
2 Lemon grass stalks, lightly bruised
2 turmeric leaves
Salt to taste

Ground Ingredients
15 Dried chillis – soaked
15 birds eye chillis
2½ cms piece of galangal
2½ cms piece of Turmeric
2½ cms piece of Ginger
15 Thai shallots, peeled
5 garlic cloves

  1. Season the beef with the salt and ground black pepper. Leave for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a pan and add a tad of oil. Add the ground ingredients and fry until it becomes fragrant. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
  3. Add the meat, sour fruit, lemon grass and the turmeric leaves. Simmer for about an hour and a half or until the meat is tender and the gravy thick and oily.
  4. If the meat is tender but the gravy is still a tad too loose, then remove the meat and boil the sauce hard until the gravy is nice and thick.
  5. Remove the lemon grass and turmeric leaves. Season with the salt and serve with rice.

It’s that easy. It’s thick, coconuty, spicy and totally bloody unxious. I’d advise you all to give this a try. You can of course reduce the amount of chillis but the coconut milk will reduce the kick of them. But each to his own. Enjoy.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Brunch Heaven @ La Fromagerie

Many years ago when we discovered the quaint villagey area of Marylebone and the fantastic La Fromagerie. At the time we were living in food hell. Ie. Brentford. Which if you have never visited, it takes an age to get to and from. It’s in the arse end of London and somehow we were there for far too long.
Once in a while we would end up in heaven. Wandering those peaceful streets of Marylebone, looking in those oh so pretty shops, and the oh so prettier people. How we dreamed of living here, rather than in Brentford.
So on some Sundays we would make a beeline for La Fromagerie for brunch. We were always impatient and hated queuing but it was the done thing, and so we queued as true Englishmen do, although one of us is not. We would wait till it was our turn to sit on that long wooden bench with those oh so pretty people.

The selection of salads on show were heaven on earth. The cheese boards from the cheese room used to drive us wild with happiness. All this washed down with a bottle of crisp white wine was a perfect way to spend a Sunday in London. There was none better.
I really cannot remember the last time we made it out this way on a Sunday, but this given Sunday we had planned it so. Maybe to bring back those magical memories of a long gone yesteryear.
Not much has changed in the shop cum restaurant, only that the organic shop had closed next door and they had opened it up into more seating. Damn that was so needed in my view.
I have read so many bad reports about the place of late, which mainly all came down to the service that was being given. Yes the service was never great, it was mainly rushed and busy, but it was always with a smile.
Our trip this time saw us seated in the new (slightly gloomy) area on a smaller long bench, which after a while we had two Asian ladies sit next to us. You could tell they were not happy about sitting next to anyone, or just us, and I think they wanted to move but were too polite to ask.
The salads that were laid out for you to choose from have disappeared, and replaced with a more standard menu. A shame as I always loved looking at what I could have, not reading what I can.
The menu is light and ideal brunch material. There are several cheese boards, all selected from the cheese shop adjacent. Heaven. But this time I was not in the mood for a slice of cheesy heaven, but after seeing lentils and canard on the menu I was sold. Lina was undecided between a beetroot salad and baked Tunworth cheese wrapped in pastry. Well the thought of melted cheese kinda swung it for her.

I’m glad she did, as it was unxious. Melted cheese in a lovely pastry was, well what can I say. Delicious.
My lentils were still al dente and the duck leg had so much flavour. Yum. I even gnawed all the meat off the bone, which was met with disapproving looks off our lovely neighbours.

I love La Fromagerie, nothing has really changed, it has more grown and changed with the times. To me this is still one of the best places to brunch in London. Light and casual. It’s a shame that some not so friendly people staff their other branch in Islington.
But the best thing is being able to pop next door and buy a couple of Crottin de Chavignol for a salad the following day. Heaven I tell you, bloody heaven.

La Fromagerie on Urbanspoon

Friday, 18 March 2011

Foto Friday # 42

These had to be some of the best empanadas we have ever had in Argentina. The restaurant attached looked pretty naff, but they produced Saltas finest empanadas. Definitely in my top 5 of best Empanadas in the World.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sardines on Toast

When is a sardine not a sardine? When it is a pilchard. A sardine is a young pilchard. Apparently once a sardine reaches one year it becomes a pilchard. But who really wants to eat pilchards. So uncool.
Many years a go, pilchard sales were at a record low, so some bright spark did the spin of all spins. Even Blair’s Government would have been proud of this. They Renamed and rebranded an unpopular fish to become something that before was so untrendy and only fit for cat food into a very cool and trendy fish, that it now graces the menus of all the best restaurants in the land. So was born the Cornish Sardine. So cool.
So how best to eat this super cool fish. Simply is how.
For a quick and easy mid week supper, what can beat pan fried sardines on lightly toasted sourdough bread. I’ll tell you what. Nothing.

Filleting sardines is a bit of fiddly job, but with patience it is easily done, or some fishmongers do sell them already filleted. Which does make life a tad easier.
Putting those little seasoned fillets skin side down into a hot pan and watch them as they cook, the smell is amazing and so fishy. The belly begins to rumble and yearn for this treat long before they are ready. Then flipping them over to cook the pink flesh on the other side, you know that in a short while you will be munching on a delight.
A scattering of chopped parsley only brings out the best in these little oily fishes. Heaven pure heaven as you bite into this open sandwich and chow down on that delightful fish. It’s amazing that it is so unpopular compared with other fishes, but boy is it good for you and tastes fantastic.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Foto Friday # 41

A great winery outside Mendoza in Argentina. Not only do they make great wine, they also serve excellent food in the restaurant as well. 

Monday, 7 March 2011

Shopping and the Brass Rail and Bodean’s

I hate shopping. I really do, especially when it involves shopping for clothes. I hate having to buy new clothes, especially when the clothes I want are way out of my price range. Damn those Italian shoes. Then again, wasn’t that why credit cards were invented?
I need energy to go shopping. So I always plan where can I get some well needed nourishment for the hellish day ahead.
I’d spent most of Saturday mapping out our new locale of Nappy Valley, or Stoke Newington as some people also know it by.
The thing I love is once you hit Stoke Newington High Street and then onto Kingsland Road, is the amount of small bakeries that sell salt beef. It’s glorious. Praise the lord for my murky Jewish heritage.
There is nothing I love more than a salt beef sandwich. It’s heaven, pure bloody heaven. I’m not a bagel man, even after my 18 months in Israel I never got a taste for them. Just not my thing. Remember I am a new Jew, so can be forgiven for many a hidden sin. But I am going to enjoy living in Stokie, even if it has a far higher percentage of young families than any other place on the planet. I am going to have to learn how to be patient. Big time.
As I hate shopping, a department store gives me everything I need. A one stop shop with everything inside one building. A genius who came up with that that idea.
Now as I still had the delightful taste and memories of my salt beef day the day before, I had been trying to find an excuse to re-visit the Brass Rail on the ground floor of Selfridges for an age now. Now I had one. Excellent, well apart from the thought of the shopping.

I hadn’t eaten here in at least 3 years, as whenever we come to Selfridges the queues were just too long for us to bother queuing up for. But this time there was only some chatty guy in front of me who wouldn’t stop yabbering on to anyone who made eye contact with him. Thankfully before he had time to turn to me and start trying to get me into conversation about whatever, he found himself front of Saj, who apparently according to their conversation had worked there for over 30 years. Damn, that’s a long time to be carving meat into sandwiches. I wonder if he just wants to say fuck it some days and look for another job.

I don’t remember how much they used to be but £8 for a sarnie is a tad too much, but I had been thinking about this for a day now, and the thought of being forced to eat at Square Pie that I decided to go for it.
So I ordered a regular salt beef with American mustard and a pickle. You pay through the nose, all in all it came to £8.70p, but Saj does pile on that salt beef.
I sat well away from the chatty guy who was engaged in a one sided conversation with some old lady who made the bad mistake on sitting on that empty table. She looked like she was ready to bolt, but was far too polite to do so.
The salt beef although quite tasty was somehow a bit of a let down. The meat was kind of dry and not what I was expecting.
I’d spent £3.50p on a salt beef roll the day before and it was miles better than this poor and pretty expensive version. But you are in Selfridges, so I guess it all goes down to location, location, location.
After leaving a rather disappointing sarnie, I ventured upstairs to do some clothes shopping. In record breaking time I found everything I wanted, but as it all came to well over a £1,000 I declined to open my wallet and get out that small piece of plastic. Plus it would have looked embarrassing with all the moths flying out as I went to pay. Damn those Italian handmade leather shoes. So I high tailed it out of there and off to a few more shops down the most hideous street on the planet. In the end I saw lots of stuff I should of brought, but just couldn’t prise that wallet open. The crappy thing about this shopping disaster was that I have to return and do it all over again, but I will do it next time with my own personal shopping and designer assistant.
As I said shopping or even window shopping is hard work. After another hour or so of aimlessly wandering around with my hands tightly clenched over that piece of leather, I ended up outside Bodean’s in Soho.
I love Bar-B-Q. I look upon those grill masters as what they are. Masters of the grill. Grilling or bar-b-q’ing is an art form, plus it is an obsession to some. Look at Barbecue Bible to see what I mean.
I love Bodean’s, although nowadays I won’t go downstairs as the last time me and Lina were there, we had a blazing row over a bowl of chips. They were mine, I ate them. She had none. We argued. Simple. But what started out as a fun night in Lowlander drinking Kwak’s, ended up as a heated row and us not speaking to each other for days, and all over me eating my own chips and not offering her any. Like Joey says “You want chips, order some chips, just don’t eat mine.”  Nuff said.
So for at least 4 years, maybe more we haven’t delved downstairs into the scene of that heated argument, such bad memories. I wonder if that argument has been passed onto to waitresses over the years. So since then we’ve only eaten upstairs in the deli. Lina doesn’t like it, as she thinks it’s cheap and naff. I like it, I actually prefer it, it’s more relaxed, more lively and gives me a chance to people watch. My fave pastime.
So this given Sunday afternoon I strolled into Bodean’s for some bar-b-q nourishment to wipe away the memory of my tightness at not buying anything all day. What a tight arse.
I normally always have ½ a slab of those baby back ribs with the coleslaw and fries. Sometimes I treat myself to a tub of bar-b-q beans. But this time I just wanted a sandwich, as the salt beef had slightly done its job. Now I needed something else to finish it off.
Looking down the list of their sandwiches, I was at a loss. Now do I go for the Boston Butt, the slow smoked cooked pork shoulder. Or the Pulled Pork, or even the Pastrami on Rye or a Turkey BLT. But no, I had to have the Soho Special. The Best Sandwich in London as voted by Capital Radio. It’s pulled pork and Burnt Ends mixed with a Bar-B-Q sauce in a toasted roll. Sounded too good to be true.
To be honest it isn’t the best sandwich in London I’ve ever had. But it was not the worst. The burnt ends and pulled pork were favourable enough, but the sauce was a little too thin. But it was ok for what I wanted.

I’ve noticed something about Bodean’s. The times I’ve eaten there since returning last March, that the quality of the food has slipped from what I remember it from before Colombia. Maybe this is due to their sudden expansion all over London, stretching themselves too thin. Or maybe I am just getting more and more picky in my old age. God I hope it isn’t the later, as soon I won’t be enjoying my fave crappy foods.
But Bodean’s I will always return to like a duck to water, as I love Bar-B-Q.

Brass Rail - Salt Beef Bar - Selfridges & Co on Urbanspoon
Bodean's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Brunch @ Café Provencal

We or maybe it was just me, who was keener on living around Herne Hill that we came back for a second visit for some more flat hunting.
It’s just unfortunate again that the estate agents kept showing us flats that were available to move into the following week, even though we kept telling them that we cannot move until the end of March. Useless bastards.
Whilst we were waiting in between what turned out to be a wasted day visiting flats that wouldn’t be available at the end of March. We decided to have a quick bite in Café Provencal, a small friendly joint underneath the railway bridge.
I liked this small café, the staff are nice and friendly, it’s a bit quirky, which I always like in small places. They exhibit plenty of art and photographs, I imagine done by the local people of Herne Hill. It’s nice that there are places where people can exhibit their art and also try and get it sold as well.

We both ordered the full English breakfast as looking at flats is pretty damn exhausting, and we had two more to see that afternoon.
The food was pretty good, even though the tatties were a tad charred, though not overcooked, the rest of the brekkie was fine though, and gave us a well-needed energy booster. Nice eggs, nice sausage and good bacon.
It wasn’t the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten and it wasn’t the worst, but it was perfect for that particular moment in time.

The place seemed pretty popular as loads of people were coming in and making reservations for that night. We also kept seeing loads of young families coming in and we kept wondering where they kept putting them. It turns out there is a separate kiddies area for families. Phew, I was dreading having a screaming kid and his hyper active older brother ruining my Saturday brunch time meal. Got to love a place like this, that knows that no one wants to eat near kids.

I was really imagining us living here in Herne Hill. Unfortunately one of us wasn’t. I think it was the ineptness of the estate agents that was putting her off. We were also up against the wall here, as one of us was off to Colombia at the start of March, and we really wanted to get a place before she left, as we were either gonna end up in any old place out of pure desperation. Or we would end up in some shithole that I chose whilst she was away. Neither option was good, although the first option would be down to Lina’s fault not mine, unlike the second one which would rest on my poor shoulders for up to one year. She would never say something, but I would know, the anger would simmer for ages, nothing being said, but tensions would be there.

That’s why just before she pottered off to a warm 2 weeks in Medellin, a place came up in Stokie. She saw it, sent me a text and took it. I’ve seen it form the outside but not inside. That I get to, do when we pick the keys up and the end of this month.
So we shall see what culinary delights that Stoke Newington and Dalston have to offer me. Even though I kinda know it a little. This does mean that Mangals is now even closer to us than ever before. Rock on.

Café Provencal on Urbanspoon

Friday, 4 March 2011

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A trio of Gastros, amongst flat hunting in Herne Hill

Our main reason for wanting to move is to basically save money. Living in Highbury is fantastic, but it sure weighs down heavy on the wallet.
We had heard a wicked rumour that south of the river was a whole lot cheaper, well in some areas it does turns out that way.
We’d been looking at places in and around Brixton, which is not quite as cheap as it used to be, well apart those really dodgy areas. We’d looked at a few places in Stockwell as well. Some lovely flats, really crap area though.
We were slowly making our way towards Herne Hill which we’d been before on a few occasions for parties, drinks, throwing up at the bus stop opposite the train station etc etc.
Herne Hill may be a little out of the way, but it is a lovely area, and we saw some great flats, although all the agents neglected to tell us they were all available now now, not at the end of March as we’d told them we wanted to move in by. Wasted days yet again.
Except we found The Prince Regent, The Florence and visited yet again the Commercial. 3 great pubs all within spitting distance of each other and would make living in Herne Hill so much easier.
The Prince Regent had the look of a real local boozer of old. It has been slightly renovated, but all the old fittings are still there, which gives it a real feel to the place. I especially love the original bar fittings, something you are seeing less and less of these days. It’s a shame really, but with so many boozers closing at a furious rate, I guess this is the only way they can stay open. To be Gastrofied.
We only had a few drinks here, but looking at the chalkboard menu and the food that was leaving the kitchen to the tables around us, all looked good. Very good indeed. I just wished we’d not had that meal in Brixton Market, as I wanted to try their food. Oh well another time.
Next on the list of possible local boozers was the Florence. This pub I could see myself getting very acquainted with, mainly because of the impressive list of beer on tap including a few made by the pub itself. Impressive, most impressive.
I also like the seating around the edge of the large bar, although they are a little bit too close. I really didn’t want to know about the problems that one of the girls on the table next door was having with her boyfriend. Me personally I would forgive him, and try to be a bit more understanding to his needs. But that’s just me, I’m not a bitch like her. The things we men have to put up with.
We weren’t particularly hungry, but we needed something to soak up the beer we were drinking, so we decided to share a burger and fries. It’s a tad annoying, as you cannot order at the bar, you have to wait for one of the girls to come around to take your order. But it was nice to get table service in a pub.
We ordered the 21 day aged steak burger and a portion of fries. It had been a while since I last had a burger and I needed my fix. Although I am not an addict like some other bloggers I could mention.
The burger took longer to come than it took us to eat it. We were hungrier than we thought. There is a point when I have drunk too much and my taste buds go to shit. Thankfully I was one beer before that stage, if I’d have waited another pint then I would not have been able to taste diddly.
But I wasn’t and I could still taste a tad, just. Nah, only joking. The burger was pretty damn tasty. The meat was well seasoned and even though I couldn’t fully taste the 21 day of aged steak, but it was a damn fine burger. Shame there was not enough of the mature cheddar to go around, or maybe Lina swagged it all when I went to get some more drinks. I wouldn’t put it passed her. You have to watch her sometimes.
For some reason we both felt this pub was more suited to a night time visit rather than an afternoon jaunt. But I want to return, not only for another burger, but to drink my way through their beer list. Love it.
The third boozer we visited for a swift pint in between flat visits was the Commercial.  We’ve been before and liked it back then, and always wanted to return and sample some of their offerings. We couldn’t eat anything on this occasion, which was a shame as the pub has a nice feel to it.
There are some nice comfy sofas and chairs and I could imagine sitting in them and quaffing on a few real ales, and munching on their Sunday Roast.
If we moved down this way then I reckon I’ll be sampling their grub on a regular basis. All we need to do now is find somewhere to live around here. Now that’s the challenge.

The Florence on Urbanspoon