Sunday, 24 November 2013

Foxlow, Clerkenwell

Foxlow is billed as a new neighbourhood restaurant.  It’s on St John Street in Clerkenwell, so luckily it’s in my neighbourhood.

Space might be a bit of a premium living in EC1M, but I love the food and drink nearby.  For drinks, it’s the Zetter Townhouse for fabulous cocktails in even more fabulously over the top surroundings, or late night pisco sours at Giant Robot.  There’s the decadent lobster roll at Burger & Lobster, always excellent meatballs at the cosy Polpo, or fragrant and spicy brunch at the Modern Pantry.  I haven’t quite made it to Smithfield meat market at 4am to buy food.  It will happen at some point, maybe not when it's so cold and dark.

Foxlow is a brilliant new addition. It’s from the Hawksmoor people – there’s still steaks, with the cuts chalked up on the blackboard each day.  The other meats are divided into slow smoked or charcoal grilled on their menu, with interesting cuts on offer.  There’s also a beautiful salad bar gleaming next to the kitchen pass.

From the starters, we had the perfect five pepper squid (£7), with slivers of tiny, tiny limes and red chilli – crisp but really tender, with no rubbery-ness at all.  The pork rillettes (£6.50) were soft, rich and fatty (by nature of the dish), with little sharp pickles and sourdough.

There was more pig with the mains.  The eight hour bacon and chilli bacon rib (£16) was sticky and smoky, and a delicious new way with bacon that I haven’t tried before.  The Iberico Pluma (£16) was gently charred on the outside, blushing inside – you can serve this pork medium, and the flavour was incredible.

On the sides we had fries, with bacon salt sprinkled on top to really add to the pig overload – sweet/salty/smoky on top of the crispy fries.  We also tried the dripping potatoes with gubbeen cheese and capers.  The salad bar helped offset some of this – we had lemon carrots and fennel, for some much-needed vegetables. I confused myself through not listening, but I think you can select different things from the salad bar, but it’s not help yourself.

After starting with their take on the bloody Mary (a Smokestack Mary with gin, tomato, smoked paprika and peated scotch – not as scarily smoky as it sounds), and all the above food, we were stuffed.  If we do have room, there’s soft-serve ice-cream in different guises (I think there was an option with bourbon, maybe one with peanuts too).

It’s got a different feel to Hawksmoor – less dark gentleman’s club, decked out in paler wood and lots of burnished orange and teal leather.  They really know how to treat the meat (along with everything else), and it’s good value.  I'm very happy that it’s about 6 minutes walk from my front door.

Foxlow on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 17 November 2013

All Things Oaty - a few new ways with a humble bag of oats

Apart from the leisurely Sunday brunch (pancakes, eggs, French toast), I start every morning with a bowl of oats.  They are cheap and brilliant for you – wholegrain, full of fibre, minerals and vitamins.  Bought as they are, there’s no added sugar or salt, like most cereals.

There’s lots of different parts of the oat – you can buy the rolled oats, oatmeal, oatbran, pinhead etc.  I tend to buy the medium-ish oats – I think they give the best texture (jumbo rolled oats are a bit big, with the finer not enough bite to them). It’s worth spending a little more – a big bag of my favourite kind (above) is still only around £2, but makes a big difference compared to the cheapest oats.

My oat-fuelled mornings began with porridge. I know the traditional Scottish way is with salt added, cooked slowly in a thick pan, stirred clockwise with a wooden spurtle (it’s folklore that anti-clockwise stirs up the devil).  I cheat – the microwaves helps with less washing up.

I’ve tried lots of different toppings and milk – I don’t drink cow’s milk, and my favourite kinds are unsweetened almond or hazelnut, or oat milk.  I like grating an apple in (skin too), before cooking, often adding a few berries or banana at the end.  Adding desiccated coconut and a splash of coconut milk at the end is delicious too.  

I still have porridge most days, but there are a few different ways to use the humble little oats in a new way.

Berry Overnight Oats
One of the quickest ways with oats is the overnight kind, soaked then eaten with no cooking required.  It leaves you with a lovely bircher muesli type consistency, and it’s great when it’s too hot for porridge, or if you are in more of a rush.

You just need a minute or two of preparation the night before.  Just take a 75g oats and add 200ml milk (I think oat or almond milk work best here) - you need less liquid than if you were making porridge.  I mix in a Tupperware box, usually adding a handful of frozen blueberries (it’s more convenient to buy a big bag of these and keep in the freezer, and less expensive too). 

I often top with a trickle of honey or maple syrup with a smattering of seeds or nuts.  A few other combinations I’ve tried that work well are blackberries with chopped dried apricot, raspberries with flaked almonds mixed in overnight, and a mixture of tart, chewy dried blueberries with the normal kind.

Healthy Seed Granola
I love posh shop-bought granola, but it’s of one of those foods masquerading as something angelic when it tastes like little bites of flapjack.

As an alternative, I’ve been experimenting with making my own – I use a base of oats, with just enough agave nectar and olive olive to bind together and give enough sweetness.  It’s not quite as clumpy and crunchy, but much more virtuous, and simple to make.  I always add seeds (pumpkin and sunflower are my favourite), often nuts (any kind work), and spices (usually toasty cinnamon or ginger).  You can add dried fruit, but I’d do this after the baking, as it burns really easily.

The quantity below is for two servings, but is easily scaled up, to then keep in an airtight container.  Just make sure the layer in the baking tray isn't too thick, so it browns evenly.

100g oats
100g mixture of seeds and chopped nuts
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground spice 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 170c
  • Mix all the granola ingredients together
  • Tip onto a large baking tray, and bake in the pre-heated oven
  • It will probably take around 15 minutes until golden brown, and give it a mix a couple of times while cooking, to help it brown evenly – keep a close eye to ensure it doesn’t catch

Monday, 11 November 2013

Happy 1st Blog Birthday & afternoon tea at the Dean Street Townhouse, Soho

I just realised that What Joanna Ate has reached its first birthday.  Well a little belated last Friday, on the 8th November.  83 posts later, after a lot of eating, cooking, writing and washing up, I’m left with lots of food photos, and a great record of what I have eaten over the past year.  I’ve visited some fabulous restaurants, learned how to use a digital SLR properly and tried lots of new recipes and techniques – I’m excited to see how it looks at year 2.

What better way to celebrate than with some cake?  I should have conjured up a fabulous birthday cake, but as the birthday crept up on me in the madness of everything else, you can make do with cake courtesy of the Dean Street Townhouse.

I went for afternoon tea a few weeks ago, and although some of the cakes and pastries were excellent (particularly the dainty Battenberg chequerboard and pistachio macaroon), my favourite was the humble scone.  These were a near-perfect version - warm with a tender crumb and generous scoops of clotted cream and pots of jams.  The sandwiches on the other tiers were the usual soft little crust-less rectangles, with cucumber, ham and smoked salmon fillings. We even snuck in an extra Welsh rarebit for a little more savoury.

Needless to say, I ate too many scones (slathered in jam and cream) and left in a bit of a sugar daze.  I probably needed to sit in their lovely bar for a restorative cocktail to let it pass before leaving to the rainy streets of Soho.

Their afternoon tea is good value at £17.50, compared to the fancier Ritz type places at £45+, and as it’s part of the Soho House Group, it’s typically buzzy most of the day.

Dean Street Townhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Le Coq, Islington

My favourite part of a roast dinner has always been the potatoes.  Never mashed.  Never boiled.  Always roasted, with a crispy golden outside, and a fluffy inside. 

At Le Coq, the focus is very much on the chicken.  It’s the only main course, lined up cooking on their rotisserie spits.  The chicken was perfectly cooked, with moist, flavoursome meat and crisp golden skin.

But you must not go and not order an extra side of their potatoes cooked in the rotisserie, which are therefore full of even more chicken-y flavour.  The chicken does come with a side – this week it was a tangle of soft, mellow fennel and nicely bitter cime di rapa (a type of broccoli).  They also serve it with a little jug or gravy and pot of tarragon mayonnaise, which was a lovely extra.

Along with the chicken as a main and the included side, it’s £17 for two courses or £22 for three, with two choices of starters and desserts that change weekly.  N and I both had the delicious duck salad to start, with bits of crunchy and leaves and duck skin, scattered with pomegranate.  The other option was skordalia, the Greek garlicky potato puree, with fried rings of butternut squash on top.

For the desserts there is always a tart and an ice-cream - we shared the honey, walnut and rum tart.  An alternative to the nutty, sticky pecan pie, with perfect short pastry.

It’s a relaxed room, and the service was great – they must get a little tired of explaining to everyone that walks through the door that it is chicken only.  They have kept it pared back at Le Coq, but it’s pulled off excellently.  It’s good value too – they use properly free range Sutton Hoo chickens, which makes all the difference.

(Closed Mondays, and no reservations)

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Baked apples with maple syrup, rum and hazelnuts

Baked apples are a very cosy Sunday pudding.  They remind me of Sundays when I was little, scooping the fluffy fruit out of shiny skin, with a sticky, sweet filling in the core.  The middle could be mincemeat, marzipan or spiced citrus raisins, but today I went for a mixture of dates, maple syrup and hazelnuts, with a dash of rum for a warming kick.  By all means use pecans or walnuts, and you could always try a little calvados instead of the rum.

6 bramley apples (cored), with a cut around the circumference of the apple skin (this allows it to puff up)
100g dates
Large glug dark rum (approx. 2 tbsp)
2 tbsp maple syrup
50g roughly chopped hazelnuts
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180c
  • Put the dates in a bowl, and cover with a little boiling water and a large glug of dark rum – leave for 10 minutes or so to soften
  • After soaking, scoop out the plumped, boozy dates and chop roughly, before mixing with the hazelnuts and maple syrup
  • Place the cored apples in a baking dish, then stuff the empty cores with the filling
  • Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes, until soft (use a sharp knife to test) – this will depend on the size of apple