I was invited to my friends’ for dinner and wanted to make a relatively quick and simple dessert to say thank you. So I happened upon this wonderful article in the Guardian and followed the fantastically simple Elizabeth David recipe.
Sadly, being a dessert novice, no-one told me the difficulty I would have in whisking the eggs “into soft peaks”. People subsequently said to me, “Oh yeah, that’s really hard work with just a hand-held whisk!”
To which I responded, “But I don’t even own a whisk!”
So, in case you’re as much as a novice as me, trying to use a fork will prove impossible, unless you’re built like Popeye.
The result was wondrously chocolatey, but it was more a dense, chocolate mixture than a mousse. I enjoyed it nonetheless, but I felt a little sorry for my friends who graciously accepted it…
4 medium eggs 120g chocolate (at least 70% cocoa – I used Green and Black’s because their chocolate is fabulous in my opinion) 3 tsp sugar (or to taste)
1. Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a bowl over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. When the chocolate begins to melt, turn the heat off. Separate the eggs.
2. Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks, add the sugar, and whisk briefly.
3. Mix the egg yolks quickly into the melted chocolate and then whisk in a third of the egg white. Fold the rest very gently into the mixture until just combined (be careful not to overmix), and then put into bowls and refrigerate for at least four hours until set
If you’re feeling fancy, grate some chocolate on top to make it look pretty.
Oh, and don’t forget to continuously sample the chocolate in the process.
Kerb is a fantastic organisation that brings together quality street food vendors to make cities taste better.
Last night, it was “Kerb Your Enfoodiasm” winter party time: “16 KERB traders, a beer and wine bar, Function One sound system from the Luardos taco van and a load of Enfoodiasts.”
I was so enfoodiastic that the choice was almost overwhelming.
First up, I selected a Naan Roll from traders Tava Wava. I was so hungry that I was nearly unconscious when ordering this, but I do remember a few details about the business. Essentially, one guy went to India, got inspired and wanted to bring the food back, whilst adding a bit of a British twist. Cue Beetroot Paneer Dahl and Coriander Chicken. Unable to decide, I got the combo for £6.50. The dahl was a little sweet for me, but the chicken was succulent and packed plenty of flavour. Plus fresh coriander is always amazing. Check out their Facebook for some great “making of the naan roll” photos.
My friend Mimi got a gyoza box from Rainbo. These gyoza aren’t the usual minced pork, but include chicken and coriander, and mushroom and tofu for the veggies.
Not completely full from my naan roll, I hit Bocaface for a mouthwatering pork loin and aubergine mini-roll, for a reasonable £3. The owner roasts aubergine and courgette in the oven and then adds peppers and onions, fresh thyme, rosemary and a bay leaf. Simply fantastic.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert so we headed over to the Meringue Girls for a Meringue Apple Crumble (£5). This involves sweet hot apples, covered in – you know – the crumbly bit, topped with TWO CINNAMON meringues and ONE 70% DARK CHOCOLATE meringue, covered in custard. I might get murderous if don’t get to eat this again. Do not miss out on this. It is insanely good.
In true Pheebz Eatz style, I couldn’t quite leave my gorging at that, and stopped by Poppy’s Kitchen for a chocolate ganache pastry (£2.40). Too much sweet, not enough chocolate – but I might have just made the wrong choice. They have plenty of other tasty treats and were even serving a Hot Rum Baba with a syringe of rum!
I’m usually very sceptical about street food. Too many times has a delicious-looking dish turned out to be bland and boring. What really impressed me about the Kerb traders is that they all provided flavoursome food. It was actually as good as it looked.
Kerb traders can be found at King’s Cross on Fridays and by the Gherkin on Thursdays. My next mission is to seek out Yum Bun, after reading other traders raving about them. They seem to be everyone’s favourite.
I was perusing the “fresh herbs” section of my local supermarket when I spotted a packet of lemon thyme. On closer examination, it recommended that I throw it into a risotto. So I did.
This risotto is simple, quick, delicious and cheap. Enjoy!
Preparation time: 5 mins Cooking time: 25 – 30 mins
One chicken breast, chopped
5 – 6 chestnut mushrooms, sliced (I love chestnut mushrooms for their warm, nutty flavour, but you can adapt)
One small leek, finely sliced
One clove of garlic, crushed
Parmesan shavings, ~30g
Risotto rice, 200g
Chicken stock, 500l (vegetable will do)
100ml white wine (optional)
1tbsp Lemon thyme, finally chopped
In a large pan, fry the chicken on a medium heat until it starts to seal.
Add the leek and fry until it begins to soften.
Add the garlic and the mushrooms and fry until they also begin to soften.
Add the rice and fry for ~2 minutes.
If you are using wine, add this now and stir until the rice has absorbed it.
Add ~1/3 stock and simmer, stirring occasionally.
Once most of the stock has been absorbed, throw in the lemon thyme.
Add a bit more stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Repeat until all the stock has been absorbed and/or the risotto is the right consistency (ie. not chewy, but not soggy).
Throw in most of the Parmesan shavings, reserving a few for garnishing, and stir until melted in.
Season to taste.
Sprinkle the remaining Parmsean shavings on top and serve!
This makes a perfect quick lunch or dinner, especially as it’s easily re-heated the next day. I don’t drink wine so I can never justify buying a bottle just for cooking, but the risotto is still very tasty without it.
Tips: don’t overdo the Parmesan or the lemon thyme. Taste throughout the cooking process to see if you have the flavour balance to your liking.
If you want a crumbly mince pie with brandy cream and a small hot drink of your choice for only £1.50…
head to M&S at One New Change(EC4M 9AF)!
Yes, that’s right! Only £1.50.
I’m generally a very honest person. So when the lady at the till said, “That’ll be £1 please”, I stopped her.
“Excuse me, but are you sure you’re charging me correctly?”
“Yes, it’s £1. But if you want brandy cream, that’ll be 50p extra.”
I took the brandy cream.
Here are my spoils:
It’s not the tastiest mince pie in the world. It’s a little dry, but smother it with brandy cream and it’s just fine. Plus you get any small hot drink of your choice (excluding chai lattes). I got to enjoy a mocha – perfect for a cold winter’s evening.
This is the sign:
But this is the reality:
I’m sure there must be some kind of mistake. But take advantage – and hurry there now!
I judge whether I’ve visited a country by whether I’ve eaten there or not. I’ve driven through Belgium and run around its border with Germany and the Netherlands (see Vaalserberg), but I’ve not been to Belgium.
All I know about Belgian food is that one should expect good beer and good chocolate. And good waffles.
Thus, it was with a fairly open mind that I sat down to eat at Belgo, a small London-based chain. We were on a rare family outing to the theatre. The challenge was on to find a place that we could eat in under an hour and half and make it to the show on time. Belgo was our conveniently located place.
Our visit didn’t get off to a smooth start. My parents had a table booked for 5.30pm and I was supposed to join them at 6pm (after escaping from a statistics class eugh). But somehow, they’d got lost along the way. They’d called ahead – their table was safe. Everything should be fine.
I arrived just after 6pm and explained the situation, and how my family might possibly be waiting downstairs. The maître d’ quite rudely rebuffed me and told me that my family would probably not be getting a table as they were so late.
“But they’ve called ahead and they’ve been assured there is one. And they might be downstairs already,” I protested for the second time.
Thankfully, a polite and smiley waitress appeared, knew where my family were, saved the conversation from escalating, and guided me downstairs.
Belgo Centraal is an underground, wannabe-warehouse. It tries to mix industrial with presumably Belgian. The overall impression is eclectic and a little confusing. Not a look I’d be going for if attempting to run a restaurant.
A waitress came to take our drinks and my father pounced with the most important question of the evening: which beer is best?
To his great delight, the waitress didn’t hesitate in her recommendation. Troubadour Blond.
My father is a dedicated beer-drinker and this hit the spot. He ordered another one almost immediately.
Good beer ✓ So far, so good.
The chain is apparently keen on serving up giant bowls of mussels but no-one was in a shellfish mood, and my parents took advantage of the rotisserie chicken with a variety of different sauces and marinades.
My mum ordered Sticky Chilli and Ginger Chicken, which was fantastic. Juicy, succulent and sweet. Really Asian in flavour, and very successfully so.
I know when my father is enjoying a meal. He makes a lot of “mmm” noises and enthuses about it almost constantly. Silence, however, is a very ominous sign. The Roast Tomato and Chorizo Chicken was unexciting – dry and lacking any hint of chorizo.
Now Belgo has a policy of “Beat the Clock” – pay the price of the time shown on your food order. So I took “Pork and Leek Sausages, with Stoemp mash and jus.” The sausages were well-seasoned and tasty, but I prefer a rougher texture to the meat. And why were there only two on my plate?! That’s just mean.
However, the “Stoemp mash” stole the show. It contained carrots and courgettes, and made any mash potato I’d eaten before shrivel in my mind. This was clearly the way forward.
Last of the mains – my sister’s chargrilled rib-eye steak. I almost ordered this (due to my beef obsession) but one mouthful told me that I’d made the right choice.
Everyone has their favourite cut of steak, their favourite way of seasoning it and their preferred level of cooking. However, I like to believe that anyone with a vague interest in food would conform to the principles that a) the steak must be tender and b) the steak must have flavour. This steak had absolutely nothing to commend it, and smothering it in garlic butter couldn’t hide the fact that my sister might as well have been chewing a Wellington boot. She couldn’t be bothered to send it back, but I would have or I’d have broken down and wept.
So the mains ranked from best to worst:
Sticky chilli and ginger rotisserie chicken
Pork and leek sausages with Stoemp mash
Roast tomato and chorizo rotisserie chicken
Chargrilled rib-eye steak
Now the desserts. No-one can screw up desserts right? Right?!
Does the waffle (above) look delicious? Yes, I thought so. Actually, it was more like eating air.
Good waffles X – Oh dear, we’re in trouble now.
Mmm. Is that a hot chocolate fondant? That’s got to be great. NOPE! It tasted like cocoa powder that had been badly mixed with a few other ingredients.
Between us, we could not finish the desserts. They were that terrible. How can someone ruin CHOCOLATE? This would have been really traumatic, if I hadn’t already been traumatised by the statistics class earlier.
Good chocolate X – OK, so maybe expecting Belgian chocolate would be way too much, but how do you make a chocolate fondant so bad?
I left Belgo wishing I’d skipped dessert and eaten the over-priced Haagen Dazs at the theatre.
Dishes are hit and miss, but with the right choices, a meal at Belgo Centraal could prove a fun and reasonably-priced evening. But why take the risk?
Food 2/5 – The food is difficult to collate into a score, as the dishes were so varied. But overall, there were more negatives than positives with the dishes.
Value 2.5/5 – For the location and style of food, the prices are reasonable, but food quality and portion size need to be increased for some dishes.
Atmosphere 3.5/5 – Popular and, with the rather strange industrial aesthetic, it’s trendy in a quirk way. But it’s a somehow just a little bit cold and alienating. Also, any atmosphere DIES when you visit the toilets. They were rather gross.
Service 4/5 – Our waitress was fabulous, providing us with great service, recommendations and rapport. But one mark is docked for the stony welcome I received from the maître d’.
I kindly sampled the 70% Dark hot chocolate and the Cardamom hot chocolate so you didn’t have to…
70% Dark Hot Chocolate – 2/5
Disappointing. I was expecting dark, thick, bitter. A headrush of cocoa. But it was milky and way too sweet.
Cardamom Hot Chocolate 3.5/5
Cardamom goes so well with chocolate and Fleet River got the flavour balance just perfect. However, I added half a sachet of sugar as it needed just a tad of sweetening (ironic eh?). Also, I think they could have tried to filter out the cardamom seeds. They gave a discordant ending to a delicious drink…
Thursday 15th – Chilli hot choc
Friday 16th – Mint
Saturday 17th – Toasted coconut
It’s fair to say that I returned from the BBC Good Food Show with a haul. A rather large haul of rather amazing goodies.
I hope it’s fairly obvious that I take food very seriously. So on entering the show, I quickly oriented myself on the map and began a systematic sampling, up and down the aisles, marking down stalls that I would maybe return to. I estimate that I tried samples from between 80 – 90% of stalls that were offering tasters. (Of course, when a stall had over 16 different products, I did limit myself to just a couple – I wouldn’t want to eat the show out of business.)
It was a task which required determination and dedication – and perhaps a small dash of obsession. But I present to you…
Think of all the flavours of cheese you could possibly want to eat. Then, look at the Cheshire Cheese Company selection and have your desires increase tenfold. Flavours range from Taste of the Raj Curried Cheddar to Sticky Toffee Heaven. I recommend the Oak Roasted Cherry Tomato & Garlic for the depth of flavour and the hint of smokiness which leaves you craving more. Also fantastic is the Rioja and Caramelised Onion Gourmet Cheddar, which strikes the right balance of sweetness infused with a tang.
Apparently, the most fashionable item at the show this year is chilli jam, and relishes in general. I tried A LOT of jams and relishes. Without a doubt in my mind, I saw Mr. Todiwala’s Minted Mango & Ginger Relish jump onto a pedestal and laugh at all the lowly competition. The mint gives a freshness and vitality to the relish, which is zingy, sweet and addictive. I can’t wait to have some curry so I can eat this.
Mr. Todiwala’s Beetroot Chutney is also pretty fantastic. I didn’t manage to sample all the rest but, based on the track record, I would happily experiment with the other varieties.
Mr. Todiwala runs Café Spice Namasté, a dangerously convenient 20 minutes walk from my apartment. I promise a review shall be forthcoming. He has also recently opened Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen at Hilton London Terminal 5. For those of you who feel like fuelling yourselves before suffering aeroplane food.
The offer was too good to refuse. They sell 6 varieties for £10 from their website, but I got 7 and no post and packaging charges! I was sold after sampling the farmer and green peppercorn salami. I sneakily nibbled a bit of chorizo and I’m sorry to say that Tesco’s Finest beats it by miles. I’m not too sad though, as I can’t wait to tackle the rest, including a hazelnut salami!
4. Khayri Olives: Feta Cheese £12.80 / “Half a block of feta and an olive mix”
His method of charging may have been suspect, but there’s no doubt that this salesman knew how good his products are. The feta cheese that he sold me is the best feta cheese I have ever eaten in my entire life (and yes, I have been to Greece)! Coated in parsley, it’s not too tangy, not too bland, not too crumbly, not too stodgy. It is the perfect balance of creaminess and flavour. The highlight of my purchases.
The olive mix was also fantastic, and included plenty of garlic. Mmmm.
5. Choclatl: Mayan Hot Chocolate £3.50 / Mini Chocpot (100g)
Choclatl have taken hot chocolate back to its roots. Roasting and grinding the cocoa beans like coffee, they produce a drink that’s pure and free of any additives. Essentially, it’s an intense chocolate shot. The drink is made by emptying a chocolate block out of the tub and boiling it up with water. Being a hot chocolate snob, I was horrified at this discovery. Until I realised Choclatl is thick, rich and doesn’t require milk. In fact, it’s so rich that two shots is plenty! I tried the Mayan blend of cinammon and almonds, and it was beyond sublime. Sadly, they had all sold out when I went to buy, but I managed to grab their last tub of “Luxurious Pure”. Verdict to come!
This really surprised me. I like coriander, but I can find it overpowering and little soapy in flavour. I certainly wasn’t expecting a coriander chutney to be so mild…and delicious. Really delicious. A great fresh flavour. I can’t wait to coat some lamb chops in it!
Maha Fresh Chutney are running a Kickstarter campaign next month. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to stay up-to-date.
7. Well Seasoned: Little Pots of Autumn – Butternut Squash and Sage £3.50 / 150g tub
The concept really appealed to me – a seasonal British pesto! I love the ethos behind the product: firstly, pesto can be British and there’s a lot of wonderful produce to be used, and secondly, let’s take advantage of the seasonal variation. I tried the Chestnut Mushroom and Garlic, which I imagine goes really well in a risotto. But the Butternut Squash and Sage stole my heart stomach and I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe for a Butternut Carbonara at the weekend.
Ciren Calui for their 100% Natural Chilli Jam. I would be interested in trying more from their range, and would have bought some if funds had allowed.
Joe and Seph’s Flavoured Popcorn. I know it sounds revolting but it’s seriously addictive stuff. I loved the peanut flavour and the seasonal mince pie flavour is worth a try!
Mannings Juice – please would you pour your apple juice down my throat?
Flavour Magic for their fajita mix, although I bet their rock salts are great as well.
The BBC Good Food Show has blown me away. With hundreds of exhibitors, ranging from organic ice cream and high-quality meat to egg poaching pouches and automatic rubbish bins, it’s more than a show – it’s an experience.
Look out tomorrow for a post on ALL THE DELICIOUS THINGS I BOUGHT and where you can buy them. In the mean time, read about the things you might not expect to find at a food show, or scroll down to explore the show for yourself through my photos.
The Quirky Invention of the Day
Well, to be honest, I thought the automatic dustbins has won this one. The bins have a sensor so when you approach them, they flip back their lids as if screaming “Oh feed me the trash, Master, FEED ME!” All sounds great, unless the contents of the bin are very smelly and every time you walk past, they throw open their mouths and waft foul fumes at you. Plus I think they’d give me a heart attack if I went to get a glass of water in the middle of the night.
No, quirky invention of the show goes to the automatic stirrer (watch the video for its amazing talents). I had to blink twice to remind myself “You are no longer living in Japan.”
The Impressive Moment of the Day: Supertheatre – The Roux Scholarship
The Roux Scholarship is a massive cookery competition in the UK where young chefs, aged 22 – 30, compete to impress the judges, who mainly consist of the Roux family, a Michelin-star, gastronomic dynasty.
We settled into our seats to watch youngest member of the dynasty, Michel Roux Jr., joyfully introduce the 2012 Roux Scholar, a quiet and unassuming Adam Smith. A bit of Internet research told me that he’s only 24 and has a young family, which make his accomplishments even more impressive.
Today he re-created the dish he made to win the competition, Turbotin Jubilee – a whole turbot, coated in lobster mousse and smothered in a champagne sauce. Talk about decadent.
His creation today wasn’t actually a whole turbot due to time constraints (and possibly the cost of providing a giant just for demonstration purposes) but he diligently prepared this extravagant dish, with sliced scallops and a Santa’s hat of caviare, served with an artichoke, topped with asparagus. Wow.
The Interesting Fact of the Day
We happened upon Emma Russell, 7th best cook in Masterchef 2012, giving a demonstration in the “Masterchef pod”. We learned that one does not just melt chocolate; one must temper it. This process involved heating the chocolate up to 45°C, lowering it to 27°C, and then bringing it up to 31°C to ensure the chocolate is creamy and smooth. Impressive, but far too dedicated for any attempts to try this at home (a student budget doesn’t allow luxuries such as a cooking thermometer).
The “Can’t-Believe-It” Moment of the Day: The Restaurant Experience
First, the price/quality/size ratio was a bit of a joke. Secondly, there was ONLY ONE VEGETARIAN DISH. Which made life difficult as I’d purchased in advance £18 worth of dining currency (DC) for my VEGETARIAN boyfriend.
As a result, we ended up ordering at Chutney Mary. Calle wasn’t impressed with this complicated yet uninspiring dish worth £5, which he was unable to identify. Even in it’s description, it maintained its mysteriousness: “Tokri Chaat -Delicate potato lace basket filled with street food goodies”.
I ordered “Almond Encrusted Masala Grilled Lamb Chop with Spiced Turnip Mash”, which whilst small for £6, did indeed have some flavour. If it hadn’t have been a lukewarm product of mass-catering (ie. lack of quality/care), I believe that the flavour combinations could be quite delicious.
I then paid a visit to The Bowler, and ordered “Smokin’ Beef & Bacon – Beef chuck, smoked bacon & cheddar balls, red onion & tomato sauce, cumin soured cream” and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and the tastiness of the coleslaw.
Overall though, it was very fortunate customers that were able to swap their plastic chips back for real money. Or I would have had to make a fuss. Grr.
What springs to mind when you think of the word “baguette”? A bakery in Paris? Mopping up sauce whilst listening to fast-flowing French? Or how about…Vietnam?
Didn’t think so. I was more than a little surprised when I was tipped off about a Vietnamese lunch place, north of Holborn, with supposedly great Vietnamese baguettes.
It’s an easy enough place to find, but if you’re stuck in the dark ages like myself (ie. you don’t own a Smartphone), be careful before you think you can memorise a map. Luckily, my incredibly patient friend came to my rescue and guided me to the incredibly busy Bahn Mi Bay.
My first thought on entering this over-crowded café was: “The queue is so long! How will I ever get served in time?”
My second thought was: “Wow! How did they build such a life-like robot?”
This robot was behind a glass screen. Spread in front of him were tubs containing various fillings. Two piles of baguettes lay to one side. The robot moved so quickly that his hands and the ingredients became just a blur of movement. He could make sandwiches in less than 10 seconds. Open-mouthed I watched. Then my stomach growled at me, “For Christ’s sake, Pheebz. Look at the menu!”
I was in the fortunate position of requiring both lunch and dinner that day. So I ordered myself a Banh Mi Bi (caramel shredded pork) Vietnamese-style baguette and a Bun Vermicelli (noodle salad) with Ga Sate (satay chicken).
Now I have to say that I was not impressed with my baguette. At all. Firstly, I would like to know how the bread was Vietnamese as opposed to any other baguette one might purchase. Secondly, where is the filling?? Hello? Are you there? Caramel pork – get on my taste buds please! Cucumber, coriander and carrots do not make up for the fact that there is virtually no caramel pork in there. Being faster than a robot is all very well, but not if the job is only half-done. I felt it was £3.95 not well spent.
My friend was similarly unimpressed with the “special” baguette she got. Although the filling was significantly more… present, the pork/crab paté smeared throughout it was apparently a taste disaster.
But I had my noodle salad. And fortunately, it saved the day.
Yes, it’s not high cuisine and it’s not the greatest quality lunch box ever served (let’s face it – no-one can rival the bento boxes in Japan, which are works of art in themselves). But the satay chicken was tasty and not the dry kind that likes to stick itself to the roof of your mouth. It lay across a bed of thin Vietnamese rice noodles, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, covered with healthy sprinkling of peanuts. This was served with nuoc cham (dipping sauce),which consists mainly of fish sauce. It wasn’t fishy, but added a light yet flavoursome garlic-chilli taste to the food. (In my ignorance, I mistook the sauce for dressing, which worked just fine).
I was satisfied and, at £5.50 for take-away, I thought it was reasonable enough for central London prices. I can only imagine how delicious this dish must be if made in a good-quality Vietnamese restaurant. Recommendations anyone?