Thursday, 25 July 2013

Homeslice, Covent Garden

As I post this, I’m cramming everything in the suitcase ready for my Italian trip with Emma.  We are flying off to Milan this evening for 4 days, followed by a week in Lake Como.  I absolutely love Italian food (I do seem to say this about most food nations, but I really do mean it this time).

So in the spirit of all things Italian, here is a quick post about pizza at Homeslice, from Saturday night.  It’s a new addition to Neal’s Yard, following on from their mobile wood fired oven in the court yard of London Fields Brewery.  The pizzas come in 20”, but you can get some by the slice too – there are more traditional toppings, along with more left-field offerings such as bone marrow, or oxtail and horseradish cream when we were there.

We chose a 20”, split half and half with the salami dolce (crispy, slightly sweet salami, tomato, Mozzarella and fresh rocket), and the garlicky mushroom, ricotta and pumpkin seed.  Both were lovely combinations with the smoky blackening of the wood fired oven, but a little sloppy to pick up.  The giant pizza was plenty for 3, and bit of a bargain at £20 – the slices are £4, which is the same price as a glass of prosecco, which they sensibly have on tap. So, a quick and cheap place to pop in for pizza. 

I may have had enough of pizza and prosecco when I come back to England (if that is actually possible - I’m doubtful), but will return with some Italian tales and photos.

Homeslice on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Grain Store, King's Cross

I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch.  I like all kinds of meat and fish, and sometimes they are just needed for a particular dish craving of mine.  But I eat as a vegetarian much of the week – it’s easiest when busy (not worrying about things going off), and less expensive (I would prefer to eat much less meat and fish, but much better quality).

I think a lot of carnivores feel a bit short-changed if they have a vegetarian plate in front of them, but I think it’s a real shame for to not pay a little more love and attention to vegetables – for health and environmental reasons, and just making the most of the fabulous ingredients from the earth.

I was therefore looking forward to Grain Store, the new King's Cross restaurant from Bruno Loubet (already at his restaurant in The Zetter Hotel in Clerkenwell), where he is giving humble vegetables an equal billing.  There are vegan and vegetarian dishes, but also those with meat and fish – it’s nice to see it listed last, rather than first on the menu.

It’s a beautiful bright and airy room, with an open kitchen that seemed rather serene.  We started with fantastic onion bread with crème fraiche butter, and a soft, salty focaccia with dukka.

I had the light and summery chilled clear lobster ‘Bloody Mary’, with the broth poured from a cocktail shaker over the sweet lobster and tomato.  We also had the sprouting beans and seeds with miso aubergine puree, salty crispy chicken skin and crunchy potato wafer, and the special of lobster and fennel.

From the mains, we had the corn and quinoa tomales (sweetly tucked back in the corn husk) with a punchy salsa and tender pork belly, and a mushroom risotto special rich with truffle.  I went for the young leaves, runner beans and pistachio salad with juicy chermoula grilled quail, fragrant with cumin and coriander seed (I think).

Our puddings included an apricot tart, and a white chocolate rice crispy with a cloud of chocolate mousse, both with an intensely almondy ice-cream.  The other ice-creams were perfect too – a creamy peanut butter, and a tangy yoghurt and cardamom (I love cardamon in sweet things).

I thought the food was fresh, innovative and delicious – it’s also reasonably priced (most starters around £6, awith the mains around the £15 mark).  The service was also great – the pastry chef even came over from his little pudding station in the corner to give us a taste of the lime and mint sorbet.

The drinks are by Tony Conigliaro (also at my favourite bars – 69 Colebrooke Row, and The Zetter Townhouse), so unsurprisingly excellent (I had the Tuberose Collins, perfect for the 30 degree heat outside on Tuesday).  There is a separate bar you can sit at, and they also do a great sounding brunch (inc honey and pistachio roasted apricots, pancakes, seeded scones, and spinach Welsh rarebit among other things), so lots of reasons to come back (especially to get some of your all important 5 a day).  It's definitely one of my new favourite places in London.

Grain Store on Urbanspoon

Monday, 15 July 2013

Frozen Yoghurt for a very hot London

Ice-cream is one of the only things that really cuts it in this sweltering weather in a rather muggy, sticky London.  I think the Italians do it best with their gelati (with Gelupo definitely the best in the city), with beautiful flavours of nutty green pistachio to properly bitter dark chocolate. 

I would love an ice-cream maker, but sadly the little Clerkenwell kitchen just doesn’t have enough room (I already have enough non-essential kitchen gadgets, and trying to figure out where to store impending food processor).  I have therefore had to experiment with the old fashioned way – it worked well previously with the coconut kind, but this weekend I wanted to try frozen yoghurt.  I love the tang of yoghurt, but have always found the texture of the stuff from machines in frozen yoghurt places (loads have now cropped up) a little weirdly soft.

I just took a tub of low-fat Greek yoghurt, and for the first batch mixed with a little sugar, lemon zest, chopped strawberries and finely chopped mint for a fragrant summer freshness.  The second involved mashed banana, a swirl of honey and a few pinches of cinnamon and allspice.

Just mix the ingredients together, put in Tupperware boxes and freeze until frozen, giving a couple of mixes every hour or two in-between to break up the ice-crystals and leave a little smoother.  Take out the freezer ten minutes or so before eating, as it will be a little rock-hard. 

It’s healthier than ice-cream (even though that’s not quite the point of ice-cream I guess), and tastier at cooling you down than sticking your head in the freezer.

Strawberry, Mint & Lemon Frozen Yoghurt
500g yoghurt (I used low-fat Greek, but you could use normal Greek, or natural instead)
2 tbsp caster sugar
300g strawberries, chopped (can be very finely or chunkier, depending on the texture you want)
Zest of one lemon
Small bunch mint, finely chopped

Spiced Honeyed Banana Frozen Yoghurt
500g yoghurt as above
2 tbsp runny honey
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The best paprika tortilla chips & guacamole

Even if London is a little sticky, the sun at the moment is beautiful.  Today was spent on the rather scrubby grass of London Fields, surrounded by lots of barbecuing.  Most on the little foil disposable ones – I’m sure there was a lot of disappointment with blackened, yet still kind of raw food.  Summer food with barbecues and picnics is often more trouble than it’s worth, but the sun is the perfect excuse for daytime drinking with icy cold beer/G&T/prosecco etc, and that does require a good snack alongside. 

I go for something that’s made super quickly in the kitchen, but could be transported to the park.  These tortilla chips are a delicious, healthier alternative to the fried ready-made bags, and a perfect match for creamy, tangy guacamole.

Pre-heat an oven to around 150c, then just take a packet of tortilla wraps (either the white or corn type), and cut them all into wedges (easiest to do on a pile).  Mix in a bowl with around a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of smoked paprika, and season well.  Lay out onto a couple of baking trays and cook in the preheated oven for around 10 minutes, mixing them about and turning over a couple of times, until they are golden brown.  Make sure you keep an eye on them, as they can easily brown too much if not careful.

Take out of the oven and leave to cool (they will crisp up).  For my guacamole, I use 3 really ripe avocadoes, a little handful of chopped cherry tomatoes, half a very finely sliced red onion, a chopped chilli, a bunch of chopped coriander, the juice of one lime and lots of salt and pepper.  Just use a fork to mash the avocado a little and mix all the ingredients together, but don’t over-mix as it’s nice left a little chunky.

Our flat has already eaten two quantities of the above between us the last couple of evenings, so I must be doing something right with the summer time snacking.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

SUSHISAMBA, Liverpool Street

I’ve been a little bit envious of all the Shard dining pictures I’ve seen this week.  Following Oblix (from the people behind Zuma and Roka, but not Japanese – 32nd floor), Aqua and Hutong (both from the Aqua group – contemporary British on the 31st and northern Chinese on the 33nd   respectively) opened in the last week or so.  I just love such views, surveying the whole of the city and making it all a little more special.

I’m yet to sort a time to visit any of the three, but on Thursday went for lunch at Sushisamba in the Heron Tower, towering higher on the floor number scale, on their 38th and 39th levels.  It’s a combination of Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian, so features a lot of raw fish in sushi, sashimi, ceviche etc.

With the impressive view, we shared a selection – to start this included crunchy green bean tempura with a rich truffle mayonnaise, edamame with lime and blackened salty padron peppers.  The ceviche selection was fresh and tangy – one salmon, one seabass, and one with a combination of fish and octopus.

They also have a robata grill, so it’s not all raw – after we tried the smoked teriyaki chicken skewers, and my favourite, the melting, salty and sweet miso sea bass skewers (a little like black cod, but with a nice char).  We also had grilled sesame asparagus, squidgy mustard miso aubergine, the giant Peruvian corn, and a salad of quinoa with pickled red onion (made this healthy grain taste more interesting than rather too virtuous salads).

Due to the mix of Brazil, Peru and Japan, the samba sushi rolls are a little non-traditional – one even features melted mozzarella.  We had the Ezo, with seared salmon, asparagus, chive, tempura, and wasabi mayonnaise, which was a nice combination but a bit salty.

It was my second visit to one of the restaurants in the Heron Tower – last year one of my first blog posts (rather awful photos) was from Duck and Waffle on the floor above.  That’s a little more fun, but the food below was all very good, and the blend of the three countries seems to work rather well – they have a new executive chef, so it would be interesting to know if it’s changed much.

There is also a fabulous bar, which even has a little outside area – in this sunshine, it’s a pretty special rooftop place for a drink one London evening.

SUSHISAMBA London on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Banana Almond Butter Pancakes

I sometimes get a bit carried away with food shopping (to be honest, most shopping really).  There are just too many new and exciting-sounding ingredients to try.  Whole Foods is one of the worst places to go if I am trying to curb my spending, partly because they just line their shiny, perfect (and rather extortionate) fruit and vegetables up so nicely.  They have a great variety of interesting and healthy sounding nuts/seeds/sprouty things, and when I was last in there, I picked up a jar of almond butter.

You can get all kinds of nut butter as it turns out – almond, hazelnut, pistachio etc.  But none quite beat peanut butter for its moreish quality.  Almond butter just isn’t quite as good for spooning out the jar or on toast.

So I decided to use some of the almond butter in some pancakes, along with banana.  Simple to make, just mixing all the ingredients together before frying into little golden, squidgy shapes with a lovely nutty taste. They make a perfect healthy brunch with yoghurt, fresh fruit (berries or extra banana work well) and honey or maple syrup drizzled on top.  Some cinnamon or vanilla pods added to the batter would also be a delicious addition, and nuts sprinkled on top are always welcome.

 Makes around 5-6 little pancakes (1 hungry person/2 less greedy people happy to share)
1 egg
1 mashed banana
1 tablespooon almond butter (I used crunchy, but any would do, and peanut butter would also work)
50g plain flour (you could use wholemeal, spelt etc)
½ tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons yoghurt
  • Mix all the ingredients together into a batter (it will be a little lumpy because of the banana)
  • Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, and add a little butter or oil
  • Spoon dollops of the mixture into the pan, and fry until golden underneath and a little puffed up before flipping
  • Take the pancakes out the pan when the other side is golden too (you may have to cook all in a couple of batches depending how big your pan is)