Sunday, 26 February 2012

What We Ate Last Night : Lamb Fillets

I have been lucky enough to be sent a wonderful box of lamb and vegetables from Silver Fern Farms this week to try out.
The Kiwi based Silver Fern are a new supplier to a certain supermarket, who shall remain nameless of around 95% fat free New Zealand lamb. Fat free you say.
They are pre packaging portions of Loin fillets, rump, racks and leg roasts in individual portions that can be easily chilled in the fridge and used as and when.
To be honest I’ve never been a fan of New Zealand lamb, as I’m sure the best quality lamb is never shipped over here, plus this being fat free I was pretty skeptical. But I agreed as I was intrigued and wanted to give it a fair shot.
So in the week a wonderful box of 2 packs of loin fillets, a bunch of spring vegetables, fruit yoghurts, butter and ice coffees arrived on our doorstep. Awesome package all nestled on a bed of hay. Looked like a really country hamper.
Cannot comment on the yoghurts as they went pretty quickly for someone else’s lunch the following day. But I’ve been well informed they were very good. Same really with the iced coffee, but I’ve never been a fan of, unless it is in Hanoi with lots of condensed milk in it.

I never really buy the fillet, as I’m a rump man myself. I love the fatty parts, as it’s where the flavour is.
In each pack were two fillets, and I was became very curious and wondered if they would cook the same as a fillet of beef. Guess what. They did.
After 10 minutes lingering on a plate of olive oil and black pepper, then seasoned with salt at the last moment, they were put onto a hot griddle pan and cooked away for a few minutes on each side until they were done rare. Just how I like them.
Maybe they could be cooked to medium rare, but any more and you may as well bin them, just like beef.
As I am fast becoming addicted to bulgur, I thought I would use that instead of the medley of vegetables we were sent. Well it was kind of mild and I so want Spring to come as soon as possible.
So I soaked the bulgur in a bowl of boiled water for 10 minutes or so, and then dressed it as I normally do my couscous.

Mixing in plenty of olive oil, chopped tomatoes, parsley, mint, cumin powder, paprika, crumbled feta cheese, some small cucumbers, salt and pepper.
I think this was the quickest meal I’ve had this week and there was enough to last for lunch the next day. Brilliant.
To be honest there is a reason I go for the fattier parts of meat. Fat equals flavour. But this surprisingly had a subtle lambyness about it that with the nutty bulgur worked very well, as nothing over powered each other. A good combo.

The lamb was very soft and melted in my mouth, pretty surprised. It actually tasted better the next day, and we had a few slices left over that went into a noodle soup the day after and again tasted a little stronger.
We have the 2nd pack in the freezer and I’m wondering what else I could do with it, apart from griddle it. Maybe a lamb Wellington could be in order. Defiantly have to pull my finger out for that. But I’ll let you know.
I’m not sure if I would buy these packets, but as I do the above but with bavette steak in the summer for lunches this could be a very good alternative.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Foto Friday # 91

The row of restaurants that line the small patch of beach on Gili Meno, in between the islands of Bali and Lombok.
How I want to be there now eating fresh fish and lazing in the sun. My own piece of heaven.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Coco Noodle Bar in Ealing

As I’m nearly done with my job in Ealing. Finally after 18 months I can now try and get my life back on track and join the real world, and hopefully put some life back into to this weary body.
Having lived in Ealing Common and Brentford for around 5 years, oh so many years ago, I know the eating options in and around Ealing Broadway and South Ealing are pretty poor.
There are exceptions of course, like the great Sushi Hiro, now alas gone. Boo hoo. The brilliant Santa Maria Pizzeria, which sadly I have tried all too little, and of course one cannot mention Ealing and not say the word Nandos. As that branch next to Ealing Common tube station was the first one in the UK, and still for me it is the best.
As my soul has been zapped over these 18 months my spirit has dwindled and my passion for cooking has been here and there, but steadily on a low. I’ve tried to cook everyday but to be honest I just cannot be arsed most days. Which is not good as I used to love being in the kitchen and cooking away all day. For the last few months I’ve put my head down and tried my best to regain those skills I once had.
So when I do not bring my lunch to work, I am forced to either eat Singapore fried rice at the Kam Tsin Village, the Chinese take away opposite. Believe me, I’ve tried a lot of other people dishes form there and the Singapore fried rice is the best.
Then there is Guru, but the standard and portion size has gone down hill a lot from late last year, and I haven’t been back since. Plus he never has any change for the £3,49p lunch deal. He owes me so many 1p’s.
Oscars is fine if you have the patience and get in there before the students from the college opposite. If you see a queue you may as well just walk to the Broadway and forget about it. It’s a lost cause. The sarnies are good, but they are so bloody slow.
I remember trying Coco Noodles many years ago and not being too in awe of their noodle dishes, but my main stay for lunch these days is simple fried rice. See Kam Tsin Village above.
So sometimes I go for a wander up to the Broadway for a bit of shopping but mainly to get my arse out of the office for an hour or so.
Coco Noodle Bar will win no prizes for its culinary delights, but it does provide some good things form its large pan Chinese cum Asian menu.
I normally do not like restaurants like this, take Banana Tree as an example, but I have found that these places seem not to fuck up on fried rice dishes. Thankfully. The best of the bunch is the Thai Fried Rice. No idea why the name. It contains lots of little morsels of meat and prawns and has a good supply of hot chilli’s.
So if you are ever in Ealing, no idea why, but if you are Coco Noodle Bar will provide some good nourishment.

Coco Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Brunch @ Lantana

Through some weird set of events we ended up eating Brunch at Lantana a couple of times in as many weeks. I’d been meaning to eat there forever but other things got in the way. Mainly the Breakfast Club and Caravan. But finally we did it and again.
Lantana is small, and I mean small. After queuing for 30 minutes we were asked if we didn’t mind sharing a table (to eat now) or wait even longer for a table for just us to become available.
I don’t mind sharing but as the room is pretty small and everyone is closely packed together, my ribs took a beating from the guy next to me, as he seemed only to be able to use a knife and fork with his elbows stretched out.
The food at Lantana is really good and a far cry from the normal English fry up. All hail to the down under brunch set I say.
My favourite is the slow cooked Boston beans with some pork belly topped off with a poached egg. I mean how can this combo not entice even the strictest vegan into meat eating. OK slightly dumb comment but it is a bloody good dish. Unxious beans with a tender and soft piece of pork belly, and you get to mix in egg yolk as well. Heaven pure heaven.
The baked eggs are another winner, especially with the lovely feta they use. The posh version of bubble and squeak is a far cry from my Sunday night suppers as a child. I wish then we would have had black pudding, but my parents looking back on it seemed to have a dislike of it.
If I had a quibble about Lantana is that the portions are on the tad small size for the prices, but the cooking is exquisite. So cannot grumble too much. But I felt I had to.
Lantana is a great place and I’d love to try it in the week, when I hope the queues are not too large. Weekends can be a bugger. But as it is absolutely nowhere near my house, a special visit has to be made, but as the Breakfast Club and Caravan are so much closer, we always get distracted.

Lantana on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Pie n Mash @ F Cooke - Crimes against Pies

I have a fondness for pie n mash, maybe because of all the stories I used to hear from my parents, aunts and uncles when I was a child about how great it was.
When I first tried it, I thought it was the blandest meal I’d ever had. Then I learnt pretty quickly that the vinegar, white pepper and salt are all there for you to make it to your liking. And like it I did.
Every pie n mash shop I’ve ever been to, sells the dish exactly the same. There is but one recipe and change it at your peril.
The mash is always smooth but never seasoned or buttery enough. A bit like mash at school in the 70’s but without the lumps. The pies are made with a cold water pastry with a lovely minced meat filling that a tad of vinegar brings to life.
The green liquor, which I used to deplore, has become a staple on my plate these days. Something about that eel water and parsley that has a hook in me now.
I’d never been in a F Cooke Pie n Mash shop before. But I was expecting everything to be as I’ve eaten countless times before. But it wasn’t quite there.
The mash was as it is always, smooth but bland. The liquor was green and not too thin that it ran around the plate, it was pretty spot on.
The problem was the pie. The filling was good after a drop of vinegar and white pepper on it to bring the bugger to life.
It was the pastry. It was like cardboard, bloody hard and old. I not sure how long they had been stuck in that small oven on the counter waiting to be sold, but it was more than a day. The pastry was so hard, I could of done with a knife to cut it. Normally a spoon suffices but on this occasion it was rock solid. Not a happy man.
The girl behind the counter was less than interested, and seemed annoyed that people were coming into the shop and was taking her away from her texting marathon.
I was less than impressed with my first venture into an F Cooke shop if the truth be told, that I’m not sure if I want to venture into one again, but as I am a sucker for these things I probably will, but maybe not this branch on Broadway Market.

F. Cooke on Urbanspoon

Friday, 17 February 2012

Foto Friday # 90

A local enjoying breakfast in a small coffee shop in Kuching, one of my favourite foodie towns.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

China Videos - Part Five - Kaili Night Market

We were only in Kaili for 1 night coming in from Hongjiang, and heading out to Xijiang the following morning. 
Kaili has really nothing to offer except a crap bus station that gets you to just about anywhere within the state of Guizhou. So for us it was a must. 
Thankfully next to our hotel was a brilliant and varied night market, that fed us well. Just about everything was on sale here, and we ate most of it.
There really isn't that much else to do here, but we did catch some pretty interesting noodles at a small eatery across from the bus station the next morning.
Strangely after Xijiang we had to return to Kaili to try and get to Basha, but thankfully this we did all in one day. A bloody long one but we did it.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

China Videos - Part Four - How to make Mapo Tofu in less than 2 minutes

We were only in Kaili for one night, before heading up to Xijiang. Thankfully right next to our rubbish hotel was one of the best night food markets we have ever eaten at.
We ended up eating at this place, amongst others, just because of how great the Mapo Tofu looked.
I think I missed about 10 or 15 seconds of actually cooking, but it was a pretty good dish for being cooked in less than 2 minutes.
Now who said this isn't fast food.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Great Queen Street – A Wonderful Return

There is something about the Great Queen Street Restaurant that gives me this feeling that I should only eat there in the colder months.
To me it doesn’t come across as a summer or spring eatery. It’s more suited to those darker winter cold months.
Could it be the dark interior, the dark furnishings or the fact that the menu is so winter, with big man sized pies and unxious stews and proper man cuts of steak. Or is it the oh so French wine list that screams to me of winter.
As you can tell I have only ever ate here in the winter months. I’m pretty sure I’ve never even seen a summer menu here. I wonder what it is like.
But as winter was well and truly upon us, the thought of the Great Queen Street came alive into my mind and I so had to return to see if it was as good as I remember it.
To cut a long story short. Yes it was. Nothing has changed in the year since I last ate here. The walls are still dark, the place is still packed and so damn cosy.
We sat a the bar this time, a new sensation on me, as it was jamming with groups of friends and couples staring longingly into each others eyes. The place has that affect.
Now what to order. This night we were lucky enough to see steak and chips for 2 on the menu. Were we in luck or what.
The steak in question was the Onglet, or to some the hanger steak. This offaly beefy cut, which has become one of my fave cuts from East London Steak of late. But more on that at a later date. Hopefully.
The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Anything else and it would have been like eating a pair of old school shoes.
The chips were chunky and plentiful. The béarnaise sauce was tart and a faint taste of anise. I would have preferred tad more. But I’m just a real picky so and so. I think it was making at least 3 or 4 litres of hollandaise sauce a day for so bloody long that has made me so picky on it. But it was good, it wasn’t mine, but it was good.
Maybe The Great Queen Street has been doing good ales forever, but this is the first time I have ever seen them or ordered a pint. I always go straight for a bottle of heavy red to flow with my normally heavy wintery food.
As always The Great Queen Street restaurant is an underrated gem of a place that sadly I only ever seem to visit in winter. This really must change, but to the next cold snap.

Great Queen Street on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 4 February 2012

A damn good Bandeja Paisa @ Restaurante Santafereno

I really cannot believe I have not put fingers to keyboard and bored you all to death about this wonderful place in the all new foodie heaven that is called Brixton Village.
Maybe I just didn’t want to let you know how good the food is there, so you wouldn’t go and make it more difficult for me to get a table when we do our quarterly Colombian blow out.
But let’s be realistic here though, Colombian food is not the best in the world, it is not the most refined either. On the other hand it is big, bold and full of homeliness.
There are several dishes that depending on where you live are considered to be the national dish of Colombia.
Rolos or Bogotanos, those folk from the Capital consider Ajiaco as the number one national dish. But what do they know.
Now Paisas or Antioquenos, those happy chubby folk form Medellin and the coffee zone of Colombia know that the Bandeja Paisa is the National Dish of Colombia.
As you can see I am slightly biased, well married to a Paisa, whose only contact with other Colombians are Paisas, and having visited there on numerous occasions and lived in Paisalandia for a while. Yes I’ve been brain washed. The same as little Adele got me into thinking that all that is good in this world is made by Apple.
The good thing about Colombian food is that it can be transported all over the world, unlike Mexican food, which seems to loose everything the moment it sets foot out of the motherland.
The reason for this is that a lot of food that is cooked in Colombia, whether it be in the home or in a home style restaurant, they all use a secret ingredient. Triguisar.
This powdered spice mix is prevalent in a lot of Colombian dishes, so much so that a lot of them all do taste the same.
This is why the food in Santafereno tastes so much like it does in Colombia. It certainly has that authentic taste to it. The restaurant is also full of Colombians, who like in every other Colombian restaurant, bar or café in London long for that taste of home.
As I was saying the food in Colombia is not Michelin starred quality and never will be. They are hardy mountain folk who prefer size over quality.
There is an expression in Colombia, “Bueno, Bonito y Barrato”. Literally meaning good, beautiful and cheap. Sums it all up.
The Bandeja Paisa in Restaurante Santafereno has all the likely culprits you would expect. Chorizo sausage, slow cooked beans, fried platano, steak or normally minced meat, rice, small arepas and chicharron.
It’s a plate not for the faint hearted, but somehow between the two of us we manage to eat the lot. Well mainly me really.
I love eating at Santafereno but not on a regular basis, otherwise I would end up like your typical large bellied paisa. 

Restaurante Santafereno on Urbanspoon