Archive | February, 2011

Bocca Di Lupo

16 Feb

A few months ago, someone told me that a Pork dish that they had eaten at Bocca Di Lupo was a contender for the best dish that they had ever had. I’m not sure then why it took me the best part of a year to book. Valentines day seemed to be the perfect excuse – my boyfriend and I don’t bother with cards and presents but agreed that a nice meal was the best option.

I booked a few weeks in advance and could still only get a table at 6pm but luckily it was at the chefs table, which I’d heard provided a better experience. My nerves about the restaurant being empty and lifeless were shattered as soon as we walked through the door. It was pleasantly busy and the chefs were hard at work behind the long sleek counter.

Bocca Di Lupo is a classy and upmarket Italian restaurant. Don’t expect to find pizza on the menu but instead fantastic pasta, meat and fish dishes.

Blood oranges are in season at the moment so there was a special menu insert with a range of blood orange dishes to choose from. Unfortunately my boyfriend seems to have a phobia of fruit (except, he proudly announces whenever the subject arises, for grapefruits, Pink Lady apples, lemons and limes). We always share our dishes at restaurants so that we can try as much food as possible so it was to be the regular menu for us.

The extremely polite and smilie waitress firstly brought a bowl of olives and a selection of fresh breads and olive oil to our table. The olives were bright green, creamy and utterly delicious. The onion focaccia was also a delight, oily with a fantastic caramelised onion taste. I was very impressed with being provided with delicious pre dinner snacks to whet the whistle.

A wine menu was produced but we had to decline as we rarely drink when we go out for dinner. I think we’re in the minority of people that don’t drink with dinner – after all, I do understand that wine matches food so well but even after a few sips I find that my head goes cloudy and I just don’t enjoy the food as much.

Bocca Di Lupo offers two size options with most of their dishes – small and large and the menu is also used to educate the diners by letting them know what region the dish originates from. We chose a range of small dishes with a couple of sides and a portion of the Fritti Romani.

Our dishes came in two parts. First to arrive in front of us was the Linguine Vongole. This is a dish that just that day I had been dreaming of – a simple classic of linguine with clams, red chilli, parsley, garlic and white wine. The linguine had the perfect crunch and there were a generous amount of clams, which took me by surprise. I didn’t think that we would get 8 clams in a small dish.

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The nettle & borage pansotti with walnut sauce also arrived at the same time. The pasta was extremely fresh and the walnut sauce was a creamy nutty delight. There was also a welcome addition of chopped walnuts scattered on the top, which added to the texture.

We ordered one portion of the ‘Baccalà’ – home-salted pollack, which was actually rather large. The batter was light and fluffy and the fish very tender.

The plates were taken away and the next round of dishes arrived. We had ordered a side of roast potatoes with wild garlic. As they were the same price as the small dishes that we had just eaten, I kind of wished that we hadn’t ordered them. They were tasty but nothing special and they heavily contributed to our extreme fullness at the end of the meal.

We also ordered a side of cannellini beans, which arrived in a creamy tomato sauce. Delicious. I am a huge fan of beans in tomato sauce so this really hit the spot for me.

The last of the hot dishes was the skate wings with gremolata. They were really tender and delicious – I would have liked to have seen slightly more of the lemon zest, garlic and parsely marinade rather than a big wedge of rocket but overall this dish was great.

We had to order a pudding. It was either that or a quick nip into Gelupo (sister gelateria on the opposite side of the road) on the way home. In the end, the brioche sandwich of pistachio, chestnut & hazlenut gelati won out. It arrived and was in the form of a burger – a sweet, buttery, creamy, nutty burger. It was divine. I’m glad that I didn’t order a dessert to myself because one was more than enough for two to share.

Although I really enjoyed the food, I have to say that there is one restaurant in particular in Soho that I have visited on numerous occasions that do similar food, which is just as good (if not better… and cheaper). I won’t say which one because I don’t think it’s fair. My point is that I would dine at the other restaurant often but I would only dine at Bocca Di Lupo for a special occasion.

Bocca Di Lupo
12 Archer St
London W1D 7BB
020 7734 2223

Bocca di Lupo on Urbanspoon

Chocolate and Rose Petal Cookie recipe

12 Feb

My mum gave me a bag of rose petals around Christmas time. She is a baker herself and bought a huge jar back from Australia with her. They have been sitting in the baking box unsused since then so I decided to finally use them this weekend.

I also still have a huge amount of Green & Blacks chocolate left over from the cook off that I did a few months ago so I put a chocolate, rose petal and vanilla cookie to the test.

I baked the cookies with rose petals in the mixture and then covered the top with Green & Blacks Milk Chocolate and scattered more rose petals on top.

Ingredients- Makes 8 large cookies

115 g butter, at room temperature
55 g caster sugar
135 g plain flour
Hand full of rose petals

For the topping

1 bar Green & Blacks Milk Chocolate
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp butter
Hand full of rose petals to scatter

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 170degrees
1. Cream the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy
2. Add the sugar and beat together
3. Sift in the flour, add the rose petals and combine until a soft dough is formed
4. Pull off a bit of the dough, roll it into a ball and place on a lined baking tray. Repeat until all of the dough has been used up. Leave at least 2cm between each cookie so that they don’t merge together when baking
5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until firm on top. Make sure you take them out of the oven before hard otherwise they won’t be soft in the middle
6. While the cookies are baking, melt the chocolate, butter and milk in a bain marie
7. Place the baked cookies on a cooling rack and smother over the melted chocolate mixture. Scatter rose petals on a leave the dry
8. Enjoy!

Ottolenghi, Islington

11 Feb

I have already done one post on Ottolenghi but I was very hungover that time and I figure I should just do it again.

Ottolenghi is a vegetarian or cake lovers heaven. It is also one the best places to go for brunch and lunch in London – in my opinion anyway!

The word vegetarian has been tarred with the wrong brush over the years. People expect vegetarians to live on a diet of Linda McCartney sausages, carrot sticks and celery. Ok, maybe that is a bit far but Yotam Ottolenghi has shown us over the last few years just how exciting the humble vegetable can be.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting his restaurant in Islington (or the three take away cafes branches in Notting Hill, Belgravia or Kensington), you may have been lucky enough to see one of his two cookbooks. The first, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook was written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and took influence from their home towns of West and East Jerusalem. But their culinary repertoire does not stop there as the book also features recipes with Italian, American and Lebanese infuences to name a few. The most recent book, Plenty, is yet another delectable mix of cuisines and lets face it, proper food porn.

Ottolenghi doesn’t just like to make dishes taste great, he uses vibrant colours and mixes them together to make the dish look appealing to even the biggest carnivore. It is refreshing to know that Ottolenghi himself is not even a vegetarian – he just understands that the humble vegetable can be so versatile in both taste and visually.

So it’s no surprise that his salads are renowned – there are non veggie options in the restaurant but everything is served cold. Don’t let this put you off though as the seared tuna, seared beef, lamb kebabs and salmon fillets are tasty winners.

Ottolenghi scrambled egg

Every time I have been, I say to myself that next time I visit I will order the French toast but every time I go back I can’t help but order the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast with a rocket salad. He uses Foreman and Field smoked salmon, which I know from visiting the Foreman restaurant is top quality salmon. I wondered for a long time how they managed to get the yolks so orange until I recently came across Clarence Court Burford Brown Eggs. My boyfriend and I had tried to recreate it a few times at home and added a bit of Turmeric to the eggs before scrambling, which worked but we soon realised that this is not the method used in the restaurant! I’m not sure if Ottolenghi uses Clarence Court Eggs but the yolks have the same rich orangey colour and taste fantastic.

Ottolenghi Welsh Rarebit

We also ordered the Welsh rarebit and shared the two dishes. It was a huge error on my part – I totally forgot that Welsh Rarebit has a big dollop of mustard smothered over the bread so I was slightly disappointed as I am not a fan of mustard. At all. My boyfriend lapped it up though and left me with the majority of the scrambled eggs, which I was grateful for.

We ordered a plate of corn bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a side dish to share. I am gutted that this recipe isn’t in either of the books – I really want to know how to make it. It is utterly delicious – sweet but with a slight hint of spice from the chilli.

Ottolenghi cheesecake

For dessert (yes you can have dessert at breakfast time too!) we ordered the cake that my boyfriend has become utterly obsessed with, the Macadamia Caramel Cheesecake. I have tasted a lot of the Ottolenghi cakes and I have to say that this is my favourite too. An absolute winner – with a biscuit base and a not too rich cheese centre, a creamy caramel sauce, crunchy macadamia nuts and crunchy caramel. Definitely not one for the health conscious. This recipe is in his first book but I haven’t tried making it yet – I just have a horrible feeling that after all the effort (there are a lot of stages), I will be disappointed with my attempt.

I ordered a pot of tea to go with the cake at the end of the meal – I just love the tea pots that are served at Ottolenghi. Another great thing about the restaurant is that the fresh produce is on show and the chefs have to come out of the kitchen to grab another aubergine or tomato. There is one long communal table, which spreads out along the length of the restaurant but there are also a few tables to the side for couples.

Chances are you have walked past it a few times – so you’ll know what I mean when I say that next time you pass the cafe/restaurant with the huge merringues in the window, you must go in for brunch or a cake and a spot of tea.

Ottolenghi
287 Upper Street
London
N1 2TZ
020 7288 1454

Ottolenghi on Urbanspoon

Two ways with Hummus – recipe

10 Feb

I just LOVE hummus. The humble chick pea is one of my favourite legumes because it is so versatile and tasty! I mostly add them to stews, my favourite being a curried chickpea and spinach stew. I haven’t made it for a while but it is sure to make an appearance on here soon.

My recent trip to Hummus Brothers inspired me to make my own hummus dishes. I made enough so that we could have it for dinner and then lunch the next two days! I have always previously used extra virgin olive oil in my recipe but decided to omit it this time and add a drizzle on at the end. I’ll give you the basic recipe for hummus below and show you two ways of serving, one for lunch and the other for dinner.

Ingredients

1 jar Tahini (roughly 250g)
300g dried chickpeas
70ml lemon juice (I used it from a bottle – very easy)
6 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp table salt (you may need more depending on how you want it to taste)
water (amount depends on how you want to consistency but it will be around 50ml)

Method

1. Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl of water overnight
2. Drain and place in a large pan of boiling water. Cook until soft (around 30 minutes)
3. Once soft, drain and place into a large food processor along with the lemon juice, garlic, salt, tahini and a drop of water
4. Blitz until smooth. You may need to add more water, lemon juice or salt to taste

Serving suggestion 1 – lunch

This is so cheap, delicious, easy to make and it will fill you up for hours!

1. Thinly slice a small red onion and marinade it in a splash (1 tbsp) red wine vinegar and a pinch of Cornish Sea Salt for a few minutes
2. Serve hummus with sliced baby vine tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, paprika, lemon juice, onion and flat bread

Serving suggestion 2 – dinner

Again, extremely inexpensive and delicious. Serve with a side of tender stem broccoli

1. Keep some of the boiled chick peas back and set aside
2. Assemble hummus in the dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with paprika, add a squeeze of lemon juice and scatter the boiled chick peas over the top. Finish with half a boiled egg and a warmed flatbread

Roast tomato, buffalo mozzarella and puy lentil salad

9 Feb

I had never cooked Puy Lentils until I made this salad. We have recently just moved into a new kitchen and the dried pulses now stand proud in kilner jars so that I can actually see them! The Puy Lentils sat neglected at the back of the cupboard in our old kitchen for so long – so I decided that it was time to put them to good use.

I roasted a whole chicken, along with some potatoes and served it with this salad. I roasted the tomatoes first in balsamic glaze, extra virgin olive oil and Cornish Sea Salt. There was also enough left over the lunch the next day, which was a huge bonus!

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Ingredients – serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side

200g Puy Lentils
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 small red onion
Glug of extra virgin olive oil
5 vine ripened tomatoes
Drizzle of balsamic glaze
Cornish Sea Salt
1 ball of good quality Buffalo Mozzarella
A few sprigs of rosemary
Glug (around 2 tbsp) red wine vinegar)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 130degrees
1. Chop tomatoes into quarters, place in a baking tray and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze, sprinkle with salt and place a few sprigs of rosemary on the top. Roast for 1 1/2 hours or until soft. This is what mine looked like before roasting

2. Boil the lentils for 30 minutes, or until soft
3. Slice the onion very finely and place in a bowl with the red wine vinegar and a good pinch of salt
3. Drain the lentils and place in a large bowl along with the herbs, a glug of olive oil and the tomatoes
4. Drain the onions after a few minutes and serve on a large plate
5. Tear up the ball of mozzarella, throw it on a drizzle with extra virgin olive oil
6. Enjoy!

Glorious soup competition

8 Feb

At the tail end of last year I entered the Glorious Soup competition with a few fellow bloggers. The task? Create your own Brazillian inspired soup recipe. The prize? The winners soup would make it into the Glorious range. Pretty cool.

So I set to work on my recipe and after a bit of research had a soup that fit the bill. It consisted of Chicken, Quinoa, Sweet Potato, Coconut Milk and Spices.

The competition itself was fun – I made it down to the final 5 alongside Charlie Nelson (Eat My Nels), Michelle Minnaar (Greedy Gourmet), Carla Spuri (Can be bribed with food) and Danny Kingston (Food Urchin). I was invited to the cook off where our soups were judged by Lee Bennett, Head Chef at Le Pont de la Tour, Karen D’souza (a massive fan of the brand), food writer, broadcaster and photographer Tim Hayward and Matthew Owen from Cool Earth.

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We arrived at the kitchens and it felt like a smaller scale Masterchef – our cooking stations were all set out for us, including rather nice Glorious aprons and chefs hats plus our recipe and a name card (Twitter profile picture included!)

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We had around an hour and a half to cook and at the end the judges walked around the room, armed with spoons and tasted our creations. 20 minutes later we were told that a decision could not be made easily and that they had to go and test the recipes to see what would best fit in with their existing range.

A few days later an email landed in my inbox with bad news, I hadn’t made it down to the last two. But it was congratulations to Charlie Nelson (Eat My Nels) and Michelle Minnaar (Greedy Gourmet) who were to battle it out for the public vote at Taste of Christmas. We’re still waiting for details on the winner but I’m still wishing them the best of luck.

You can watch footage from the day and find out about Cool Earth’s involvement here.

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Recipe:

Ingredients

100g Quinoa
500g Chicken thighs, boneless
1 litre chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
2 red onions
3 garlic cloves
1 green chilli
1 red chilli
1 lime leaf
3 tbsp fresh corriander
1 lime
3 tbsp olive oil
250g (about small) sweet potatoes, cubed
1 teaspoon of tumeric

Method

1. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry onions on a medium heat for 8 minutes or until translucent
2. Add chilli, garlic, turmeric and fry for a further minute
3. Add coconut milk, sweet potato, chicken thighs, chicken stock and lime leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and sweet potato is soft
4. Meanwhile, place quinoa in a pan with the cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes (you want the quinoa to have a slight crunch)
5. Drain any remaining water from the quinoa and add to the soup along with coriander and lime juice
6. Serve with fresh chopped red chilli

Chennai Dosa

7 Feb

This post is so so so long overdue. There are two Indian restaurants in Wembley that I just LOVE and literally couldn’t live without. The first is Karahi King, which is more expensive than Chennai Dosa (although still cheap!) and it has been open for over 20 years. My boyfriends parents started going when their Red or Dead offices were in a warehouse nearby over 20 years ago.

My absolute adoration for curry started around 3 years ago when I was re-introduced to it by my boyfriend and his family of curry lovers but there’ll be more on that story another time.

We’ll head to Chennai Dosa around about once every fortnight for a quick, simple and CHEAP meal. It is South Indian cuisine and within a year of opening their first branch in Manor Park, they became the largest suppliers of Dosa’s in Europe!

For those of you who don’t know what a Dosa is, it is a savoury Indian pancake made from rice batter and black lentils. I’m told that it is traditionally eaten for breakfast or dinner but I have only ever eaten one for dinner.

Chennai Dosa 3

I always order the Chicken Masala Dosa, which is £3.85 – let me just tell you that this alone would be enough for dinner but we’ll always get sides too as they are so good. The Dosa comes with your filling of choice plus curried potato and a range of sambar and chutneys (my favourite being a coconut one). There are extra chutneys and sambar so that you can refill if you run out. This is an no extra charge.

We also always order a side of Channa Batura, which is a dish of curried chick peas with puffed bread. It is simply delicious and my mouth is watering just thinking about it while writing this post! This costs around £2 and is enough to share as the bread is large!

The bill usually comes to around £11, which for a meal out for 2 people is absolutely fantastic. They don’t serve alcohol so don’t go expecting a drink or two.

There are also branches in Manor Park, West Ham and East Croydon, Tooting Bec, Reading and Birmingham. If you live remotely near any of them, I suggest you go and check out the magic for yourself.

529 High Road
Wembley
Middlesex HA0 2DH
T: +44 (0)20 8782

Chennai Dosa Pure Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

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