Friday, 28 June 2013

Spring Onions

Spring onions are one of my useful ingredients.  Milder than their white and red relatives, they can be used raw or cooked, and are nice and cheap - I’ve usually got a bunch stashed in the fridge.  As it is now supposed to be spring/summer (apart from the rain), I thought it would be apt to pen a post to the humble spring onion. 

I use them a lot in Asian food, but they are also great in salads and anything Mexican – they are a handy background ingredient, or star of the dish.  My top 3 ways to use this ingredient are a combination of the two, from Korean pancakes, salsa and squidgy little sweet potato cakes.

1 – Spring onion & prawn Korean pancake
This is one of my favourite dishes of the past year.  I first tried it at the great little local Korean restaurant near my office, and have been having a go at making at home.  I’m pretty pleased with my version (not sure on the authenticity), and is great shared between two as a starter, or a whole one for a greedier person/main course.

4 spring onions, cut into 1 cm slices
1 red chilli, chopped
100g de-shelled, de-veined cooked prawns
1 egg
80g plain flour
120 ml water
Handful coriander, chopped

Dipping sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice vinegar
Few drops sesame oil
1 finely chopped green chill
1 tsp sesame seeds
  • Just mix all the batter ingredients together, before pouring into a medium-hot pan with 1 teaspoon flavourless oil
  • Fry for around 6 minutes on that side before flipping (it’s easiest with a plate), and cooking on the other side until golden
  • Cut in half and then cut into chunky slices, served with the dipping sauce

2 – Sweet Potato & Spring Onion Cakes
One of my most repeated recipes from Ottolenghi’s Plenty book is his sweet potato cakes.  I’ve upped the quantity of spring onions in the recipe – I use a whole bunch chopped, mixture with steamed and mashed sweet potatoes, a little chilli, soy sauce and flour.  Just shape into patties and fry.

3 – Charred corn & spring onion salsa
This salsa is crunchy, tangy and spicy. Just lightly blacken a couple of sweetcorn cobs on a grill or griddle pan, before cutting off the kernels and mixing with a bunch of finely chopped spring onions.  Mix in a little olive oil, juice of a lemon or couple of limes, a freshly chopped chilli and coriander.  This is a great salsa with tortilla chips and guacamole, or piled on top a smoky bean stew and rice.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

10 Greek Street, Soho

Saturday lunchtime was spent with the lovely E for her quarter century birthday in Soho.  This was making us feel a little too grown-up (especially as we discussed tea bags and paper thickness over lunch), but we then visited Frith Street Tattoos for her next inking, which seemed rather more age appropriate.

We celebrated the birthday milestone in 10 Greek Street over their fantastic prosecco (cheap too at £4 a glass) and a mixture of great food.  There are snacks served throughout the day, and then small and large plates at lunch and dinner. 

We shared a combination of the small plates and snacks as we couldn’t decide - they included paprika roasted almonds (£3), good charcuterie with cornichons and pickled garlic (£7), and a pile of the best padron peppers I’ve had (£5).  We also had grilled asparagus with creamy burrata and olives (£8), and courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta on little lentils mixed with mushrooms and heady with truffle (£7), both of which were fresh, vibrant combinations. 

Our favourite was the panzanella (£6), the Italian salad of soaked stale bread and tomatoes - this version was tangy with vinegar, capers and onions, with fragrant basil and more of their grassy green olives.  The bread served on the table is all made in-house, and included a delicious chilli cornbread, a brown sourdough and olive bread.

It’s a small, relaxed room with open kitchen at the back - I liked the pared back interior (especially the cutlery and menus set into the tables), and it’s a great spot for watching Soho go by.

10 Greek Street on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 June 2013

Bukowski Grill, Brixton Market

It was a bit of a milestone for my blog this week, as I collected my business cards for What Joanna Ate.  It’s always useful to have something to hand to people to remember the web address, and they have the wonderful illustration by the talented Rachael on the front.

I picked them up from Boxpark, the little pop up shipping container mall in Shoreditch and had a wander round the little bars and restaurants on the top.  I walked past the Bukowski Grill there, and then just by coincidence hopped on the tube down to Brixton, and ended up eating in their other site in Brixton Village market.

The menu is rather meaty, with lots of burgers and meats (all ethically sourced) from their charcoal grill.  After seeing lovely looking beef short ribs in my local little butcher last week, I went for their version.  The small portion (350g for £6.95) was still generous, and beautifully tender with a great smoky char.  I'm not quite sure what made the onions on the side tobacco onions, but I really liked the little crispy, battered shreds.

L had the hanger steak in toasted sourdough, with chipotle salsa and coriander, that could have been little more tender, but great bread, and also big for the £7.85.  The chips were fantastic – fluffy inside, with a golden, savoury beef dripping crunch on the outside (£1.75), and the waldorf coleslaw a nice chunky mixture with walnuts on top (£2.75).  We also shared the Cajun crayfish and prawn popcorn with sherry sauce (£4.50), which was tasty but might have been a bit juicier with bigger pieces.

The margaritas (£5 each) went perfectly – it’s a well-priced place, and once I have visited more of the little restaurants in the market (there are loads of great places, including Mama Lan for dumplings and Seven for cocktails), I’d like to see if there is anything new on their grill to try.

Bukowski Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell

There are certain things that you search for the perfect version.  But more often than not, it falls a little short and the search continues.  Almond croissants are one such thing for my Dad (as it's Father's Day and all) – they are invariably just not as good as they look.  No perfect buttery flakiness and squidgy almond centre.

When I went to the Modern Pantry for Sunday brunch a few weeks ago, they had run out of almond croissants, so we had a hazelnut one instead.  I’ve never had one before, but it made me wonder why it’s always just the almond kind.  It was seriously delicious, with a lovely centre and coated with nuts and icing sugar – Tonka bean (a little like a spicier vanilla – I want to get my hands on some for baking) is apparently the secret.

E and I didn’t just go for croissants – we went for Sunday brunch, with the savoury before.  She had soft boiled eggs with marmite soldiers (£5.50), and an extra side of bacon (£3.50 extra).  The marmite   is a great addition to the childhood favourite.

I had the sweetcorn, feta, green chilli and curry leaf waffles with rocket and bacon (£8.80 - I realised that they maybe should have come with an avocado and spring onion salsa, which would have made it great).  The waffles were really good with a nice chilli kick and not bland at all (easy to do with anything batter based).

Their brunch menu has got some really interesting items above the usual egg-based things – including a prawn and spring onion omelette with smoked chilli sambal, and rendang mince on toast.  The raspberry and ricotta pancakes with berry compote and crème fraiche looked beautiful, and I will try to recreate at home in the meantime before I next go back.  Maybe I'll pick up a croissant for my Dad then too.

Modern Pantry on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Spiced Yoghurt Flatbread

Freshly baked bread is gorgeous, but if it’s proper yeasted bread it is a bit of a lengthy task.  I’ve decided to embark upon a sourdough project soon, which will take even longer. Soda bread, which I blogged about in January, makes the process quicker, but now it is supposedly spring/summer, I wanted something a little lighter, rather than a comforting, solid loaf.

Flatbread seems the perfect answer, and they are really simple. Just a mixture of flour, yoghurt, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

I decided to make mine to go alongside Nigel Slater’s mixture of lamb mince, mushrooms, chilli, mint, pine kernels, green olives and yoghurt in the fabulous Kitchen Diaries II book.  To go with the Middle Eastern flavours I added some dried mint and cumin seed to the dough, but it would be lovely with other herbs or spices.  Last night I made some little sweet potato and spring onion patties to go in some flatbread, adding lots of fresh coriander and dried chilli to the dough.

Makes around 6 
140g plain flour
140g yoghurt (I decided to try goat’s yoghurt to see how it would work – it works well with Greek or another non low-fat yoghurt)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried mint
(or a combination of other herbs, spices or chilli)
  • Combine all the dry ingredients, before mixing in the yoghurt
  • Knead until it all comes together
  • Leave for half an hour to an hour
  • Divide into 6 and roll into 6 circles on a floured surface with floured rolling pin, around 3-5mm thick (it doesn’t matter too much, just depends how big/thin you want them)
  • Fry in a dry pre-heated dry pan or griddle until nicely browned/griddled
  • Use to wrap around something tasty 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Fabrique Bakery, Hoxton

Cardamon pods sometimes get a bit of a bad name, being the horrible things you bite into by accident in your takeaway pilau rice.  Not chewed whole, cardamon is a beautifully fragrant spice, and is great in savoury Indian dishes.

I like it just as much in sweet dishes, as it adds a fabulous heady taste that cuts through any sugariness.  Whether a coconut rice pudding laced with the ground pods and lots of vanilla, or used to flavour syrup for poaching pears, I seem to use it in a lot of desserts and baking.

Cardamon is a key flavour in Swedish baking, so I was excited to try one of the buns at Fabrique bakery in Hoxton, their first London outpost (with 7 branches in Stockholm).  It’s just next to Hoxton station, with the seating and counter open with the bread ovens behind.  They focus on stone oven baking of artisanal bread using traditional methods and great ingredients, with a delicious selection of buns, cookies, brownies and cakes.

The said cardamom bun was richly spiced, and the cinnamon equivalent was just as good.  A crunchy sugar coated chocolate and apricot cookie was a great combination and nicely buttery and crumbly, alongside excellent teas and coffees. 

It’s definitely worth experimenting more with the little green pods in the kitchen, and if you don’t fancy baking, pop into Fabrique for something rather easier.

Fabrique on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Longroom, Clerkenwell

Sometimes less choice is a good thing.  I hate deciding from a menu, and invariably worry I have ordered the wrong thing.  This is often followed by pangs of food envy, and temptation to sneak food off other plates with my fork.

The last few years have seen a spate of places cropping up that offer one or two things (think burgers, chicken, etc).  I think Burger & Lobster do it best – they serve an excellent lobster, burger or lobster for £20 each (just don’t take any vegetarians).  To get this right you just need to ensure what you execute your niche perfectly.

Just down the road from the latest Burger & Lobster Farringdon outpost is The Longroom pub.  Along with the craft beers on offer, their menu is kept nice and precise to mainly include just grilled cheese sandwiches and salt beef (in sandwich, salad or sharing platter form).

I went for the sandwich, and it came in good bread with great pickles (I love gherkins).  It was tasty and salt beef good, but the bread was a little too thick.  I think I find it hard to beat the bargain salt beef bagels on offer at the bagel shops on Brick Lane – I think my salt-beef heart just lies there.

M went for one of the grilled cheese sandwiches – she is a bit of a cheese fiend, so it’s nice to have a selection to choose from for your sandwich.  When we went, there was Provolone, Swiss Emmental or Lincolnshire poacher (along with the option of a Craft Beer Rarebit too).  The sandwich was good, but could have done with a little more cheese melting.

I love both the things they offer though and it’s not expensive, so will pop in another time (they do specials like lovely tarts that looked good), so I will be back – it’s a great pub to pop in for a drink too.

The Longroom Pub on Urbanspoon