Archive | February, 2010

Making Dim Sum with Angela Malik

28 Feb

My first cookery school experience took place on Thursday at Angela Malik in Acton. I turned up not knowing what to expect but arrived to an array of smiling faces, a glass of wine and a taster of Angela’s Indian Pesto’s.

Angela’s cookery school is based in her and her husbands old shop unit in Acton. As you walk in, you enter into the deli area where Angela sells a range of her own chutneys and pestos along with sweets, tins and bottles of her favourite asian food brands. Go further back and you enter a long, narrow cookery school with 8 benches. We were asked to sling on our aprons and wash our hands before we were given an introduction to the cookery school.

Angela really has a knack for teaching – I was enthralled as she passionately talked about the 5 taste sensations. Armed with a white board, the guests shouted out ingredients that came under each sensation category. Angela is a firm believer that every food that we eat should be a perfect balance of yin and yang in order for it to taste fantastic. Each dish should have one component of each of the following: (examples that were given are in brackets)

Sweet (sugar, jaggery, tomatoes, agave, honey, wheat)
Salty (soy sauce, nam pla, cured bacon)
Hot (chilli, black pepper, ginger, garlic, red onion, wasabi, cumin)
Sour (lime, lemon, grapefruit, vinegar, tamarind, alcohol, yoghurt)
Umami (turmeric, msg, blue cheese, brussell sprouts)

During Angela’s lesson, it was interesting to hear that traditionally chilli is not added to curry. I didn’t eat curry for years but over the last couple I have started eating it again (i’ll save that story for another blog post though). I can’t get enough of curry and never cook any dish without adding a couple of red chillis.

I learnt more in 20 minutes than I ever did in my home economics lessons at school. Economics lessons are something that I think should be compulsory in all schools and not just to teach you how to cut a pineapple or place meat and dairy on different levels of the fridge (two of my lasting memories) – sure it’s helped me in the pineapple cutting stakes but I would much rather have learned about the 5 taste sensations!

Anyway, on to the cooking. Angela runs the cookery school with a lovely Geordie chap called Geoff, who was on hand to show us how to cook the perfect piece of pork smothered with Angela’s fragrant red pesto. Angela also cooked a green prawn curry using her green pesto. The pork was succulent and the coconut milk and green pesto sauce a delight. Next it was our turn to make our very own Dim Sum.

The ingredients that we used are readily available from your nearest Asian supermarket and honestly I had never even contemplated making Dim Sum before, perhaps because I thought it might be slightly tricky.

We started with a simple recipe of Steamed Spiced Pork and Water Chestnut Siu Mai Dumplings – the hardest part is wrapping them up (if you’re not doing a standard open one) but we managed and here is the end result:

Time certainly flies when you’re having fun and by the time that we had steamed and eaten our first dumplings, we were nearly out of time. Angela and Geoff were kind enough to stay later so that we could try our hand at our second and final recipe, Stuffed Gyoza. These were my favourite – they would give Wagamama’s gyoza a run for their money I tell ya.

After a fine evening with good company (and a few glasses of wine) it was time to leave. Armed with a sample of Angela’s red Indian pesto to take home, I walked out of the door with a smile on my face as wide as the smiles I was greeted with on the way in.

Angela Malik
6 Churchfield Road
Acton
London
W3 6EG

Monsieur M, Shoreditch

22 Feb

I am new to Vietnamese food, somehow. I pride myself on being adventurous when it comes to food but i’m sad to say that i’m only just branching out of the more common cuisines that I eat so often.

My trip to Melbourne, Australia in January did not really make me love Vietnamese food. A couple of DJs who ran the night that my boyfriend was DJing at took us out to, in their words ‘one of the best restaurants in Melbourne.’ I was excited, especially as when we turned up the place was packed. We sat down in a tiny room upstairs as the downstairs area was full. The restaurant itself was rickety but it reminded me of a little Japanese restaurant that I love in Soho. When the food came I couldn’t believe it – MSG ridden gloop was the only thing on my mind all of the way through. Not a fresh piece of food in sight and all I could do was grin and bear it. Meeting two guys that you have never met before who are both inhaling the food whilst mmmming and aaahhhhing at the ‘amazing food’ – I didn’t have it in me to be rude.

So – when I was invited to Monsieur M, I was looking forward to it because of their pledge to fresh. I arrived on my own to a room of fellow invitees and after talking to Tiki Chris, I sat down next to Neil and Craig for our starters and mains. The ethos of Monsieur M is simple yet effective. Three main courses each day so that they can concentrate on fresh ingredients. We started with vegetable spring rolls, prawn satay and chicken with lemongrass then we were invited to make our on summer rolls. We were given a demonstration and then were let loose on our own creations.

Next came the main courses. We were given a small bowl of each dish so that we could try everything on the menu – a very good idea. First came the pad kraprao nuer (beef stir fried with chilli, basil and bamboo shoots, served on fragrant rice). This was followed by pho gai (Vietnamese chicken soup with rice noodles, fresh herbs, bean sprouts and fried garlic) and gang kiew whan gai (chicken curry with bamboo shoots and red pepper, served over aromatic rice). My favourite had to be the spicy prawn salad that came last.

My one regret is that I didn’t try one of the freshly prepared smoothies or juices that were on the menu. That’s always an excuse to go back though…

I can safely say that Monsieur M has made me want to try more – so much so that I took a trip to Soho (closer for me than Shoreditch) at lunch the next day to get another fix of fine Vietnamese cuisine.

Monsieur M.
380 Old Street
Shoreditch
London
EC1V 9LT

Tel 020 7613 4094

Nearest tubes: Liverpool Street, Old Street

Monsieur M. on Urbanspoon

Fernandez & Leluu baking and Ottolenghi Sunday brunch

14 Feb

I love weekends, they allow me time to get stuck into some good old baking. I haven’t touched a mixing bowl since before I went to Australia so it was great to get back behind the whisk.

Fernandez and Leluu, a London underground restaurant shouted on Twitter last week that they were looking for a baker for their restaurant. My eyes opened wide and I promptly asked what kind of baking they were after. It was 20 baton baguettes but since there were only two days to go and I had never tried my hand at baguettes before, I said that I wasn’t able to offer a hand but I would love to be considered if there was an opportunity to bake cakes.

Some lovely correspondence later and I was booked in to take samples to their new unit on Columbia Road behind the StART SPACE gallery. My brief was something not too creamy but with quirky ingredients so I put my thinking cap on. I decided on a wonderfully light and dairy free Lime, coconut and macadamia cake and a few vanilla and almond cupcakes with a chocolate ganache and white chocolate hearts (it is Valentines day after all).

My Saturday morning consisted of a good few hours therapeutic baking – the recipes below:

Coconut, Lime and Macadamia cake

Ingredients

200g macadamia nuts
40g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
6 eggs, separated
165g sugar
1 lime, zest only, finely grated
45g desiccated coconut

Lime Icing

125g/4½oz icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest, finely grated

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. Place the nuts, flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are ground.
3. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl and beat for three minutes, or until the mixture is pale and creamy. Fold through the zest and coconut, then the nut mixture.
4. Place the egg whites in a clean, dry, stainless steel bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Using a large metal spoon, fold lightly through the nut batter.
5. Spread the batter evenly into a 23cm (9in) greased or non-stick springform cake tin. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is lightly golden.
6. Meanwhile, make the icing. Combine all the icing ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth and glossy.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to sit for 10 minutes in the tin. Turn the cake out onto a serving plate. Spread the lime icing over the warm cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.
8. Serve.

Vanilla and Almond Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache and White Chocolate Hearts

125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, very soft
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
1tsp almond essence
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

For the Ganache

100g milk chocolate
60ml double cream

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
2. In the bowl of an upright electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla for three minutes on the highest speed until light and fluffy.
3. Sift the flour and baking powder two or three times, then add to the butter mix and beat for 30 seconds.
4. Spoon into eight muffin cups placed in the pockets of a muffin tray, and set aside to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and firm. Leave to cool.

I actually can’t believe that I lived in Bethnal Green for a year and never went to Columbia flower market – i’m quite disappointed with myself. The flowers were beautiful (I wanted to buy a bunch but a parking ticket prevented this – I’m not a fan of traffic wardens and utterly confusing road signs.)

The cafe itself is very cute. They have a covered decking area outside with tables and chairs for customers to sit and enjoy the freshly made (on the premises) produce. I arrived at around 9.30am and had not yet had breakfast so purchased a slice of my cake to go with a cup of tea. I was also given a sample of their homemade bread and butter pudding (yum!). Next time i’ll time it perfectly with lunch so I can try the savoury food on offer.

Visit Fernandez & Leluu’s blog to check out the photos from today .

After the parking ticket incident, we decided to go to Ottolenghi for brunch – they serve my favourite scrambled egg with creme fraish, rocket, toasted bread and smoked salmon.

Today was the first day that I didn’t purchase one of their incredibly good looking cakes. Following brunch it was back to the kitchen to eat our homemade bean stew with Ottolenghi corn bread. Perfect Sunday.

Francesco Mazzei for Pizza Express launch

2 Feb

“What is your favourite cuisine” asked my colleague the other evening. I had a confession to make; my favourite cuisine is Italian, more specifically a good old pizza. Ironically, the next day I was delighted to receive an invite to the new Francesco Mazzei (L’Anima) range launching at pizza express this week.

Pizza Express was a real treat when I was a child growing up in my hometown of Nottingham but having lived in London for 4 years, I have grown to realize that there are a plethora of Italian restaurants serving fantastic pizza so I no long rely on establishments like Pizza Express to satisfy my needs. The original menu also doesn’t particularly contain my favourite flavour combinations so it is refreshing to see their recent celebrity chef collaborations.

The evening’s affair was bustling, the wine and fizz flowing and the new Francesco Mazzei range doing the rounds, which consists of two starters, Insalata Semplice and Tricolore and four mains, Mia Sofia, Calabrese, Rustichella and Tagliolini Funghi.

Unfortunately the only dish that we didn’t get to sample was the Tagliolini Funghi but this did not dampen my spirits, after all I am a pizza lover at heart.

I started with the Insalata Semplice, a delicious blend of Santos and vine tomatoes, fresh rocket, gooey buffalo mozzarella and toasted ciabatta topped with Francesco’s own Calabrian dressing. Up next was Francesco’s take on the classic Tricolore salad, only it took the form of mini bite sized pizza dough slices with spicy guacamole, sun blushed tomato and buffalo mozzarella.

The starters delighted the taste buds and I eagerly awaited the mains. The three pizzas on the menu were plentiful. Mia Sofia, named after Francesco’s two year old daughter who loves truffles (expensive taste already!) has a great mild truffle paste, portobello, button and oyster mushroom topping with oregano and garlic on a romana base.

Rustichella was brought alive with a Ceasar dressing, pancetta, roasted tomatoes, fresh rocket and topped with grana padano. Last but certainly not least was the mouth wateringly, taste bud exploding, fiery, eye popping Calabrese. The spicy Salsiccia Calabrese DOP sausage, fresh green chillies, roquito peppers, spicy soft n’duja sausage, watercress dressed with pesto, fior di latte mozzarella and oregano is enough to send you reaching for a nice cool glass of water.

This is the hottest pizza that Pizza Express has ever served and it must be known that this is certainly not for the faint hearted. A few mouthfuls and my mouth was stinging for a good ten minutes afterward. I like a bit of spice but I’m rather a softy when it comes to mega spice. I gave the rest of my slice to Jack and slipped off to find another slice of the Mia Sofia.

Francesco has brought 14 new ingredients to Pizza Express, most of which have a strong link to Calabria, a small Southern Italian town where he grew up. Salsiccia Calabrese DOP comes from locally-raised hogs. Cumin, black pepper, red pepper and chilli pepper flavourings are added to the meat, which is then aged. New additions also include the Oro Verde olive oil that is used at Francesco’s restaurant L’Anima and Calabrese oregano.

The evening ended with a goody bag including a bottle of the Oro Verde olive oil amongst other spicy ingredients and a £20 gift voucher, meaning that we can go back and sample the menu in a restaurant environment. I’m very much looking forward to having a whole pizza myself, although I’m not sure which one I’ll choose!

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