Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Copenhagen trip, Feb 2013

I have just got back from a very chilly, but fantastic few days in Copenhagen with my lovely friend Emma.  It’s the first time I have been, and would recommend for a few days exploring with great museums, galleries, shops and lots of pastries.  The city was full of bakeries, cafes and restaurants, and although it’s an expensive place, we found some excellent affordable options - all very chic in the minimal Scandinavian way.

Hot dogs are popular, with stalls dotted around the centre, selling some very good versions of the often grim fast food stalwart – we went to Den Økologiske Pølsemand (translated as the organic hotdog man, or Døp for short), next to the Round Tower in the city centre.  The organic sausages come in toasted sourdough buns, with onion, mustard, ketchup and lots of gherkins (around £4).  It’s the best hotdog I’ve had, and definitely worth searching out (great view from the top of the tower too).

One of the best areas we discovered for eating and drinking was the trendy meatpacking area in Vesterbro .  We came across the buzzy Mother, which serves organic sourdough pizzas (most around the £12-13 mark).  We shared one with salami and mascarpone , and the other with prosciutto, rocket and pesto – both with nicely charred,  chewy bases and fresh tomato.

We didn’t come across lots of restaurants serving traditional Danish food, but thought we needed to try smørrebrød(open sandwiches on rye bread).  We went to the Royal Smushi Café (just near the central Strøget shopping street) to try their take of bite-sized sandwiches with the attention to detail of sushi – hence their term ‘smushi’.   The smoked salmon and egg custard smushi was an expensive bite (£6ish for one), but the place has a fabulously over the top interior, and the rich, caramel pecan and oat tart was good.

Copenhagen’s most famous restaurant is Noma, voted best in the world.  It is definitely out of our price range and also unsurprisingly very booked up with waiting lists, but I had read an article which had tips from the Noma chefs on where they eat on their days off – much more accessible.  Brunch is big in Copenhagen, and we headed to Bodega, one of the chefs’ brunch recommendations, on the edge of the famous Assistens cemetery in the Nørrebro district.  

This was the best value place we went, with really delicious food – soft scrambled eggs with crispy bacon and warm rye bread, and light, fluffy pancakes with home-made syrup and rhubarb and strawberry compote.  Our favourite place, and if we were there longer we would also have returned for drinks in the evening (they open til 5am with a DJ at the weekend).

Another of the places in this article was the rather un-Danish La Galette (on Larsbjørnsstræde), run by two Frenchmen and serving Galettes with proper Breton buckwheat.  The galettes were crispy around the edge, with tasty fillings including spinach, cheese, egg and bacon (around £11).  Sweet crepes were also very good, topped with caramelised apples and chocolate, almonds and chantilly.

There are fabulous bakeries all over the city, with buttery pastries and lots of interesting breads.  A branch of the chain Lagkagehuset was near where we stayed and became our breakfast spot.  Soupy, rich hot chocolate and delicious Snegl (snail cinnamon pastry with a blob of icing on the top) set us up for the day.  I’d normally be put off by anything that’s a chain, but these seemed consistently excellent.  There was even a branch at the airport for our farewell pastry.

We left Copenhagen feeling very full and content.  But decided it was probably best for our waistlines that we didn’t live there.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Islington Farmers' Market, Angel

The recent horsey scandal has definitely made us question the supermarkets a little more.  Supermarkets are such an institution now, and each a strong brand in themselves.  With us now vigilantly checking for any pony in our burgers and thinking a little more about exactly where and what our food has come from, it’s a great opportunity to spend a little more time and effort finding great independent and local food instead.

I’ll admit that I tend to just visit the supermarket out of habit more than anything else, but today decided to buy most of my shopping list at the Islington Farmers’ Market just up the road on Chapel Market (near Angel tube).  At the end of the usual Chapel Market, it’s open on Sundays, and has a fabulous array of fruit and veg (much of it organic), great breads and cheeses, properly sourced free-range meat and a few stalls for food to take away, like the tasty Big Apple Hotdogs.  

I should go every week as it’s a much better way to pick up my vegetables – it’s seasonal, often cheaper and very handy if, like me, you cook for one much of the time (to save half a big packet of something festering in the fridge).  There are also interesting things you can’t usually get at the supermarket – today’s haul included purple carrots and cavolo nero.

I used some of the cavolo nero for a quick lunch with the lovely sourdough loaf I picked up. Translated as black cabbage with its dark leafiness, and also known as Tuscan kale, it works well in stews and soups, including the classic Italian beany soup ribollita.  I roughly chopped, then sautéed in a glug of olive oil with sliced garlic and plenty of sea salt, black pepper and dried chilli, before topping the toasted sourdough and finishing with a wobbly poached egg.  

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Morito, Exmouth Market

After writing about quite a few new places recently, it’s nice to re-visit some of my favourite meals from a simpler, pre-blog time last year.  Morito was one of the best relaxed, easy spots – it’s a tapas bar on Exmouth Market, next to sister restaurant Moro and sharing their Spanish/Moorish influences.  I haven’t yet made it to Moro (on my ever-expanding to-do list), but I have cooked recipes from the books (favourites being the lamb marinades, fish tagines and patatas bravas).

It’s a proper tapas bar, where most of the seats of this tiny place are perched around the bar/open kitchen.  You could pop in for a drink and snack in the Spanish way, or stay a little longer and fill up on their small plates – for a weekday dinner two of us shared 7 dishes with some fantastic bread and a carafe of tempranillo.

Chicken & romesco
The patatas bravas and tortilla were great versions of the tapas classics – the patatas bravas crispy with a rich tomato sauce and punchy aioli, and the tortilla full of soft, sweet onion and pepper.  Chicken and romesco sauce (red pepper, garlic and nuts) was tender, and the roasted butternut squash had squidgy flesh and lovely sage butter and yoghurt on the top.

Chickpeas, pumpkin, coriander & tahini
You usually find chickpeas in stews or mushed into homous, but their fried version are a fantastic crispy alternative for the pulse, and came with pumpkin, coriander and nutty tahini.

Tortilla & spiced lamb, aubergine, yoghurt & pine nuts
The lamb on silky aubergine puree (presumably blackened with the flesh scooped out) was nicely spiced with cumin and cinnamon, sprinkled with pine nuts and pomegranate.  

Aubergine, walnuts, yoghurt, pomegranate & mint
There were similar flavours in the aubergine with walnuts, pomegranate, yoghurt, and mint, but here the aubergine was little browned cubes instead, and the combination worked really well.

The plates are small but I think good value – we spent £25 each on food, drink and service, which left us full and happy.  If I was feeling greedier, I would have had their Malaga raisin ice-cream again, with its nice boozy hit. 

You can’t book in the evening – we turned up quite early on a Tuesday evening so didn’t have to wait, but if it’s full they will take your number and call when they have a free spot (there are some good drinking spots on Exmouth market to wait).  Morito is one of my favourite tapas places in London (Copita, Salt Yard and Jose are also excellent) but stands out with its spicy, fragrant Moorish flavours alongside the Spanish.

Morito on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ottolenghi, Angel

I have built up a mini cookery library, but there are a few food writers that I always go back to for their writing, fabulous recipes that always work and beautiful photography.  I love all of the Ottolenghi books – Ottolenghi The Cookbook was the first, including delicious cakes, followed by Plenty, with new ways to hero humble vegetables, and the latest, Jerusalem, with recipes from the culinary melting pot of the city.  They are full of bold, vibrant flavours and interesting combinations and never disappoint.

The four Ottolenghi  branches (Angel, Notting Hill, Kensington & Belgravia) are also some of my favourite spots for food.  The windows and counters are filled with lines of exquisite jewel-like cakes and huge platters of colourful salads, which you can take away, and Angel and Notting Hill have seating at the back.  The Angel branch is the biggest, and luckily my closest – it’s my favourite spot for brunch in the area.

There is usually a queue for weekend brunch, but we turned up early and got a seat straight away.  The breakfast menu includes sweet and savoury, along with their fantastic breads and pastries.  

The Welsh Rarebit had a lovely mustard kick to the cheese topping on crunchy sourdough, with a perfectly poached egg and citrusy wilted chard with lemon. 

The French toast is made from their brioche and was wonderfully spongey, with a sweet cinnamon crust, tangy berries and crème fraiche.  We also shared a flakey, buttery pain au chocolat, along with a great latte and fresh mint tea.

The queue was out the door by the time we left – just prise yourself out of bed early one weekend to try and miss the crowds for their fantastic brunch.

Ottolenghi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Crumble recipe in The Guardian

A little late, but thought I'd share my recipe for a great wintry nutty apple, pear and maple syrup crumble that was featured in The Guardian's new Cook section last weekend - very exciting to be featured!  Here's the link to the article, and the recipe below:

Serves 4-6
30g butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
3 pears, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks

Crumble topping:
50g plain flour
50g spelt flour
75g butter
75g light brown sugar
50g chopped walnuts
50g oats

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. To make the topping, rub the butter into the flours with your fingertips or blend in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, walnuts and oats.
2 Melt the butter in a large frying pan, before adding the apples and pears. Cook for 5 minutes or so over a medium heat until they start to soften.  Add the maple syrup and cook for a couple more minutes.
3 Put the fruit into a shallow baking dish, then sprinkle with the crumble topping. Bake for 25 minutes or so until golden.