Monthly Archives: September 2012

An ode to Borough market

Borough market is a must see London destination.  It took me 21 years before I discovered the place, I’m not sure I really discovered it so much as was introduced to it by an old friend.  It is a place to look, to smell, to taste, walking around you get to drink in the atmosphere, enjoy the buzz.  My favourite day to go is Thursday as the tourist throngs are not quite as intense.  Saturday’s see the market fit to bursting with eager shoppers, tourists and food voyeurs most of whom have camera’s dangling from their necks or at least iphones in their hands.  And today, I was one of them.

There are stalls I always make a beeline for, one of which is the Caerphilly cheese stall.  Caerphilly gets its name from a small town in Wales where the cheese originated.  It is similar to Wensleydale, it has a crumbly, slightly chalky texture and a lovely salty tang.  So, after buying a big chunk, which I am currently scoffing with some juicy fresh figs, I was off to find my ultimate stall.

Burnt sugar is not always a bad thing and is definitely not when talking about the company that manufactures some damn fine fudge.  I can’t remember exactly when I fell for this fudge but it transported me back to my primary school days when one of the Mum’s always made fudge for the school cake sales and you could nab yourself a big bag of the crumbly goodness for a mere 20p.  To me, English fudge should be crumbly and granular, this is not a concept other countries seem to understand, Australia, my divine home from home does not ‘get’ fudge.  Their attempts are always strangely smooth and chewy.  Back to Burnt sugar; they make proper, chunky, funky fudge with flavours veering from chilli to chocolate, to my favourite, sea salt fudge.  The nice man at the stall even gave me a sticker when he was handing them out to all the children, I know Little Chef is short but she’s not that short!  I left Burnt sugar laden down with a hand selected pick and mix bag and a whole delightful bag of sea salt fudge.  Both of which are part devoured already.

Brindisa is a Spanish food mecca.  A wonderland of chorizo, Ortiz anchovies and padron peppers.  You can get a super posh and super yummy chorizo hotdog to enjoy as you walk.  I go there for hot fresh chorizo for Bil (Brother in law) and for Padron peppers, a small green capsicum which has tender flesh but packs a punch occasionally, roughly one in ten will be really bloody hot.  It makes for a fun pre dinner game, especially if played with those who are too wimpy to handle chilli.

So, my wonderful day in London comprised sunshine, breakfast with my lovely Miss A, followed by a food fantasy at Borough market and now I am about to make Padron peppers with lots of sea salt and olive oil and then paella with lots of wine to wash it down and then, if I have time, some little fig cupcakes.  Right. Little Chef better crack on…

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Death by burrito – A little corny

The restaurant scene is changing, has changed.  Right now, it is all about squeezing a restaurant in…squeeze it into a pop up, squeeze it into your mates warehouse for a one night supper club, squeeze it into a car park (guerilla dining style) or squeeze it into an already established trendy bar, which is what Death by Burrito did at Catch Bar, Shoreditch.

Shay Ola of the Rebel Dining Society fame has teamed up with mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana to create Death by Burrito.  It is a simple concept that dreams big.  Six cocktails feature on the list which is wholly based around tequila.  Not to everyone’s liking but you’re sure to be able to find a cocktail you like, if you open your mind a little.  I opted for the You da ho-chata, a heady concoction comprising, tequila, cinnamon, cardamom and smoke, it was smooth and punchy and left me feeling marginally intoxicated, what more could you want from a cocktail?  Still not sure how you get smoke in a drink…  So, there I was, nestled in a booth, cocktail in hand and menu in front of me.  I was ready.

It is much easier to order when you can’t eat half of the menu, luckily in a Mexican restaurant, there are quite a few choices for the gluten free among us, it being the land of corn and all.  And so I settled on the Scallop ceviche to start and the grilled duck breast and chimichurri taco for something more substantial.  Now, this is a simple kind of enterprise, food is served all at once, with an emphasis on sharing and comes on paper dishes.  The scallop ceviche was nice.  I know, I know, nice is not a good word, it lies slap bang in the very mediocre descriptor category.  Nice is an appropriate descriptor for an afternoon drinking tea with your Gran, nice is an appropriate descriptor for the new socks you got at christmas, nice is not  a great word to be forced into using when describing a new dish, in a new restaurant.  But it was nice, pleasant, nothing to write home about. I expect ceviche to taste fresh and zingy and full of life and to be honest, if there was a sound I could use to describe it, it would be, ‘meugh’.  There was nothing wrong with it, there was just nothing particularly right with it either, it was, and I hate to say it, so I’ll say it quietly, a little boring.  

Ok, moving swiftly on.  The taco was tasty, definitely more exciting than my starter but still not knock your socks off delicious.  And at £12 a pop, you kind of expect some bang for your buck.  Grilled duck breast was tender and flavoursome but the chimichurri sauce was again, lacking guts.  I really think a little more attention to detail in terms of livening up the flavours and adding a little seasoning would have gone a long way in elevating it from lovely dining experience to love to eat it every day experience.  I tried some of my friends Smoked beef and sweet potato burrito, the meat was juicy and was the winner in the flavour stakes/steaks.  However, said friend was a little miffed that the burrito was constructed more in the traditional Mexican way without rice, whereas the American tex mex incarnation is usually chockers with rice.

The corn chips were the hero of the night for me.  They were very thin, crisp and light but not the blue corn, as advertised.  This is a good concept place and will probably become wildly popular within its demographic.  Young hungry hispters will no doubt come and hang out in the dimly lit booths whilst there is still a buzz about the place and until the next ‘must go’ restaurant opens.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a really nice (there’s that word again) time there but I won’t be rushing back. However, it will definitely get a second visit from Little Chef; eventually.

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Honest burgers – Brixton – Reviewed

Burgers are cool.  They just are.  Every menu, who’s any menu, has a burger on it.  They are the food of the moment and have been for about five years now…  We have seen a huge procession of burger outlets pop up on every corner of every high street.  But are they any good?  Well, word on the street is that Honest Burgers is the best burger in London.  And on Friday we went to find out if it was true.

Walking through the clamouring energy of Brixton market puts you in the right frame of mind for Honest burgers.  Endless stalls selling wares as diverse as the shoppers themselves.  Fruit, wigs, jewellery, you name it, Brixton market has it.  Once you round the corner, Brixton village calls out to be entered.  And I know there is goodness harboured under its canopy.

If you want ‘the best burger in London’ then you have to be prepared to get in, eat, and get out because there’ll be a queue of hungry people waiting in line baying for your blood if you make them wait.  Not many places have this kind of clout but when  the likes of Jay Rayner are espousing the virtues of a place, the masses will queue indefinitely for a burger.  And queue we did, albeit momentarily.  The staff were friendly and welcoming and quickly set a table for us and even made room for our pram, which was a rather unhelpful size for the dimensions of the restaurant.  There is no need to take your time over the menu, it is refreshingly simple in it’s approach.  The approach being, you’ve come here for a burger, now choose a burger.  None of this pandering to the people rubbish, if you don’t want a burger, don’t go to a burger joint.

A giant blackboard covered one wall of the restaurant with a large map of the menu, another wall was hung with steer horns and the tiny open kitchen was somehow squeezed in amongst all of this and all of us, prams and all.  Enamel plates hold the wonderful burgers, which are laid out on a simple sheet of paper.  The menu generally seems to have 4 or 5 burgers and a special.  Bil (Brother in law) and I decided to go for the special which was a beef pattie with chipotle slaw, griddled courgettes and Monterey jack cheese.  All burgers come with a-mazing thrice cooked chips which are then tossed in rosemary salt.  I would go back just for the chips and that was before I’d even taken a bite of the burger.  There were lots of little crispy chip bits, which are my favourite, I love them so much, I was actually snatching them off my family’s plates.

And then I tried the burger.  Drum roll please…. It was very, very good.  What I liked about it is there is no messing with the meat, it simply tasted of pure, unadulterated, meaty goodness.  They have the option of a gluten free bun which was perfect for Little Chef.  The chipotle slaw was delicious but…not really a slaw, more like a chutney or relish but tasty nonetheless.  Burgers are cooked medium rare and delightfully pink.  Now, this was a very good burger.  The only thing I regret a little is that I didn’t have the signature Honest burger, I adore bacon and feel like I missed out.  But there’s always next time… This is the kind of place I would go back to again and again.  And with the burgers coming in at roughly £9 including chips, it’s light on the wallet if not on the hips!  Best burger in London?  Hmm, I’m not sure, I haven’t eaten every burger in London but it is definitely an incredibly strong contender.

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For the love of sausage

 

 

I love sausages, bangers, weiners, snags, chipolatas, saucisson, call them what you will.  I love them.  And since I have been diagnosed with Coeliac disease, I have been somewhat lacking in sausages.  But all my problems were solved when I moved back to the UK, back to the motherland, the land where sausages are better, maybe best.  In Australia, for some strange reason, they seem convinced that sausages should be made from over processed beef, strange.  Apart from my lovely friends at The Farm Shop Margaret River who are putting sausages back on the map in Australia.

 

 

So, you can imagine my absolute relief when I realised that I can pop to the supermarket and get some damn good, gluten free, ethically reared sausages.  Now I have to remind myself that I should not maybe eat them every day… Every other day seems fair though.  And my new favourite sausage is by a company called The Black Farmer.  I’ve just had a look at the website and it seems like my kind of company.  A man with a plan, who made his dreams reality (I can relate to that) and a man who appears to have integrity in abundance and looks pretty natty in a waistcoat.

 

 

As usual, Little Chef Meals couldn’t just make a simple family dinner, it was simple but with a few cheffy twists thrown in for good measure.  I made The Black Farmer sausages with grapes, onions and a dash of vinegar.  You cook it all up until it  is getting a little sticky and the grapes relent and turn into soft, tender orbs which make perfect bed fellows for the caramelised onions.  I served this atop a pile of slightly crushed baby new potatoes which I had pan fried and scattered with chives and lots of butter.  And it was all smothered in a rich cider gravy, I am a gravy fanatic after all.

So, I got to indulge in lots of my favourite things, sausages, grapes and gravy.  Now; my sister was a little dubious when I told her I was making sausages with grapes but she was eating her words and her dinner, when she realised what a lovely combination they made.  The sausages were porky, moist and packed with flavour.  They are a benchmark sausage, all sausages should aspire to be this good and we must all go forth and worship at the altar of The Black Farmer sausage.  Now, go out and buy some, before I buy them all.

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The week in pictures

As I am having a lot of food experiences at the moment and I can’t write a full blog post about them all, I will now endeavour to bring you, ‘The week in pictures’.  I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed eating and creating these dishes.

Family dinner…Pan fried salmon fillet, new potato, English pea and bean salad with lemon hollandaise.

The 8/10 burger at the Draft House, London.  Score awarded by Brother-in-law.  

More fishy from Moxons fishmonger, London. 

Which I had to gut and fillet!

I asked Daddy to buy me two fillets of Haddock and he came back with a whole Sea Bass for me to gut and fillet.  He thought I needed a challenge!

West Indian chicken curry.  Yummy!

Wise words at The Draft House, London

A rather fishy week in hindsight.  And oh so scrumptious samphire…

Fresh English produce.  

The not super successful English raspberry and creme anglaise roulade.  This recipe usually works better…

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