Archive | March, 2011

Kêu! Old Street

27 Mar

How much do you pay for a regular sandwich or baguette at a central London cafe? I say regular but even the fancy pants ones aren’t really that special and you can be paying nearly £5 for one. That’s what annoyed me about lunch options when I used to work in central London. It was either a cardboard sandwich from Tesco, a mayonnaise full small portion from Pret or a nicer albeit a lot more expensive option from Leon.

I don’t work in Shoreditch or anywhere near but as I am always on the look out for amazing new places that are opening in London, I took a trip down to Kêu!, the new Vietmanese Banh Mi deli from Hugh Trung Bui of Cye Tre and Viet Grill fame. Now I do have to say that I have been doing a bit of freelance work for a friend of a friend on the launch of the deli but my trip was completely independent to this. The concept is simple – to provide a delicious and authentic, good quality Banh Mi sandwich at great prices and that is just what Kêu! does.

I recently got sent the Encyclopedia of Sandwiches and after flicking through a couple of times, I finally stopped on the Banh Mi sandwich as it looked utterly delicious. I’d much rather a baguette than a couple of slices of bread any day and the fragrant ingredients looked so enticing.

I am aware of other London Banh Mi offerings but I have never got around the trying them before. I did however have a sneaking suspicion Kêu! would be great, partly because I love Viet Grill and Cye Tre and partly because I knew the deli would be a whopper design wise as it was designed by David Archer – the man who designed one of my favourite London restaurants, Busaba.

Upon arrival, the deli didn’t disappoint. There is a range of Vietnamese goodies to purchase, including Kewpie mayonnaise (apparently the best in the world) and my favourite bottles of chilli sauce. Bags of Caravan coffee are also lined up behind the coffee machine, looking gorgeous.

I’m really glad that Kêu! decided to go with Caravan coffee – great locally roasted beans. Those of you who saw my recent post on Caravan coffee will know that this will hit the nail on the head for me. Coffee can be let down immensely if it is not made well but I was happy to find that it was at Kêu!, the flat white was smooth and creamy. This means that even if I’m in the area and I’m not hungry, at least I’ll know where I can go for a good coffee. There aren’t any sweet treats (apart from the morning croissant) yet but I imagine these are on their way.

So let’s get down to the food. The menu is the perfect size, with 5 fixed Banh Mi fillings and a different special each day, plus a range of Vietnamese salads and lunch boxes. Not content with trying one flavour, we opted for 3 Banh Mi baguettes to share. The special of the day was Crispy Duck, which was an absolute delight. We also opted for the Kêu! classic, which is spiced belly of pork with ham terrine and chicken liver pate. The final one was lip smackingly good, my favourite, the BBQ mackerel, which comes with lemongrass, daikon and coriander. Seriously, it is DELICIOUS.

This is just half of a Banh Mi!

The baguette is not just delicious because of the fillings, the bread also has a very large part to play. Hugh has teamed up with the esteemed Sally Clarke and her head baker to create the most delicious, crispy but light and airy artisan sourdough baguette. I nearly died and went to heaven.

All of this happiness only cost a mere £4.50 (per Banh Mi) – now, you compare that to one of those cardboard baguettes from the central London cafes I was talking about earlier and you’re laughing. Literally, I was laughing.

I went in the first week of opening and everything was perfect – and in the words of D Reem ‘Thing’s can only get better’ so I am already eagerly awaiting the next move from Hugh.

Kêu!
332 Old Street
London
EC1V 9LA

Kêu! on Urbanspoon

Coffee at Caravan

25 Mar

If you ever fancy taking any advice from me, I suggest that those of you out there that haven’t managed to get to Caravan for a coffee do.

Nestled in the lovely Exmouth Market, Caravan does a hell of a lot – acting as a cafe, restaurant, bar, wholesaler and shop. Interesting.

Caravan

When I first heard the name, it conjured up images of a small porter cabin with drapes and women sitting around looking like fortune tellers. So when I got around to visiting, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised mind. I don’t know why though as I’d be more surprised if I had found the porter cabin in it’s place. Wooden rough and ready tables, rustic jugs and bare floors, Caravan has taken the minimal approach and it’s one that I love.

Many of my friends have dined at Caravan but I was most interested in visiting to see the ginormous coffee roaster that I heard is hiding in the basement. And my it looks pretty. The coffee that it roasts is a delight too.

Caravan Flat White

The Flat White that I had nearly blew my head off and I wandered around central London for the rest of the day with the caffeine jitters – I wasn’t actually sure I liked feeling like that. Maybe next time I’d opt for the latte that my boyfriend got – it was a lot weaker, smoother and creamier.

Caravan Latte

I’ll be back to try the brunch menu soon but for now the memory of the fantastic coffee lingers.

Caravan
11-13 Exmouth Market
London
EC1R 4QD
020 7833 8115

Caravan on Urbanspoon

Sticky Black Gingerbread

22 Mar

Another day, another recipe.

A girl that I used to work with made a fantastic batch of gingerbread for a Macmillan coffee morning competition that we held in the office last year. She took the recipe from the Leiths School Baking Bible and won the competition hands down. Her prize was a delightful bottle of Laurent Perrier champagne, lucky girl.

So, inspired by her fantastic baking, I decided to bake a batch myself. I have the book that she used at home and it had been sitting dormant on the shelf for a while so I put it to good use! I adapted my recipe to include nutmeg, which worked really well!

The result is a light, airy and fluffy gingerbread – It is best left for a day so that the flavour really has time to kick in.

Gingerbread

Ingredients

225g butter
225g dark muscovado sugar
225 black treacle
290ml full fat milk
340g plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, beaten

Method
Pre-heat oven to 150degrees

1. Line a baking tin with parchment paper
2. Melt butter along with sugar and treacle in a saucepan. When melted, pour in milk and cool to room temperature
3. Sift flour with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, bicarbonate of soda and then stir in eggs and melted mixture (once cooled!)
4. Pour into the prepared tin and place into the oven for 1 hour. Cover the top of the cake with parchment paper after 45 minutes in the oven
5. Check the cake after an hour – you’ll know that it is cooked when a skewer comes out clean
6. Leave the gingerbread to cool and then cut into slices

Enjoy with a cuppa!

Allpress Espresso

20 Mar

Since I started drinking coffee (a few months ago!) I have been on a mission to try out all of the great independent cafes that London has to offer. Another weekend and another visit – this time to Allpress Espresso in Shoreditch. I had heard and read good things so took a trip down one Sunday afternoon for a coffee and a slice of cake.

First impressions were not fantastic and it didn’t blow me away. Sure enough, the enormous roaster in the window is designed to stop passers by in their tracks and it is impressive as it’s not normally something you’d see in a coffee shop but the decor inside was plain and slightly corporate looking.

But maybe I’m being harsh. After all, I am extremely grateful for coffee shops like this as they are far better than the usual chains that we see on the high street.

Allpress hails from down-under (no surprises there really) and positions itself between boutique and corporate, which is exactly the feeling that I got. The coffee is 100% better than Starbucks but in my opinion it’s still not as good as Monmouth.

The slice of almond and orange cake that I bought was good without being amazing. It certainly was not a bad tasting cake but it wasn’t as good as other slices in my favourite cafes, namely Lantana and Foxcroft & Ginger. Saying that, they seemed to have sold out of a lot of the cakes by the time we arrived and I don’t think that this would necessarily have been my first choice.

I don’t want to be negative about Allpress but I personally didn’t enjoy it as much as other cafes that I have visited recently. They’re definitely not doing anything wrong though – owner Michael Allpress started roasting his beans in the year I was born and it’s still going strong. They are one of the preferred roasters in Australia and New Zealand and I’m sure that it’s going to go down well in the UK. It may not be a cafe that I’d like to go and while away the day in but I’d sure buy their beans to make delicious coffee at home.

I didn’t eat anything other than the cake so in the next few weeks I’ll take a trip back and report on a brunch. I’ve only heard good things.

Allpress Espresso
58 Redchurch St
London
E2 7DP
020 7749 1780

Mayonnaise Chocolate Brownies

15 Mar

A really good advertising campaign has recently caught my eye and I’m sure it has caught the eye of a few other women too.

I bake at least twice a week and since I don’t have an office of hungry, sweet toothed girls to share my creations with anymore, a lot more of it goes into my own stomach. Now while my tastebuds and stomach may not be complaining, my waist line might be!

My first ever batch of brownies was what started my roller coaster ride filled with sugar, flour, butter, eggs, sugar and chocolate. So when I saw the advert for using mayonnaise instead of butter, I was very intrigued. Normally I don’t like to mess – it took me a while to come to terms with chocolate cake baked with beetroot but when I eventually tasted it, I realised that it was amazing and you couldn’t taste the beetroot at all.

These Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Green & Blacks chocolate brownies are gooey, chocolatey, absolutely delicious, so easy to bake and 55% lower in saturated fat than if baked with butter. Good eh?

Ingredients – makes 16

40g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder
140g plain chocolate, broken into small pieces
3 medium eggs
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
8 tbsp Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise
55g walnuts, finely chopped

Method

1. Lightly grease a 23cm square cake tin and line with baking paper
2. Sift the flour with the baking powder and cocoa
3. Put the chocolate into a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of hot water and leave until melted (alternatively, microwave on medium power, stirring occasionally, until just melted)
4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until slightly thickened
5. Whisk in the chocolate mixture
6. Fold in the flour mixture, mayonnaise and walnuts
7. Pour into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven at 160°C for about 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean

Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares

Enjoy!

Ping Pong Chinese New Year menu

13 Mar

Pardon me for being so late but I have a post related to Chinese New Year!

A few weeks ago I was invited to dine at Ping Pong to celebrate their special Chinese New Year menu. I had only ever been once before and I was nicely hungover so wasn’t able to appreciate the food – so when the invite came, I duly accepted. What I didn’t realise was that we were only going to be dining with a handful of others and that we would get to try almost everything on the menu, including any extras from the regular menu that we might want.

Despite Chinese New Year falling on 3rd February this year, the special menu at Ping Pong ran for the whole month of February. We dined at the original venue on Great Marlborough Street in London and I found the restaurant to be well designed and very sleek. I looked at the special menu and was excited to try everything. Chinese isn’t my favourite cuisine, which is no secret and I think various trips to dodgy Chinese restaurants when I was younger are to blame. No Chinese restaurant would be at the top of my list when i’m thinking where to dine out. Having said that, my last trip to Ping Pong wasn’t dire and I wanted to see if this trip might be able to change my mind. Read on to see if it did.

Ping Pong Soho 1 Image courtesy of Ping Pong.

To start, we were brought a pear and elderflower collins, which was a delicious and welcome start to the meal!

Pear and elderflower  collins-1
Image courtesy of Ping Pong.

The dishes started flowing thick and fast but to start we had roasted wasabi nuts, spinach prawn crackers and pork scratchings. You’ll have to excuse my photography – my good camera was broken at the time so I had to use my point and shoot!



Can you tell these are my own photos?!

The main dishes just kept coming but my favourites were the Chinese five spice mushrooms and black fungus and the king prawn and fish shu mai. I tried making my own Dim Sum at Angela Malik cookery school a few months ago and the king prawn dish reminded me of those, very delicious.

King prawn & fish shu mai-1
Image courtesy of Ping Pong.

For dessert my boyfriend and I shared the chocolate brownie with blood orange sorbet and I’m glad that we did share because by this time I was incredibly full, feeling that I might pop any second! Desserts at chain restaurants are always tricky for me as I know that the majority of them aren’t made fresh on the premises. With a dessert, I just love when it looks and tastes home made. This brownie was tasty but, as I bake a lot myself, I know that I could probably make a tastier version. I didn’t like the chocolate sauce that had been piped on the top because it kind of tasted like it had come out of a bottle but the blood orange sorbet was delicious and I like the fact that they are using seasonal ingredients on the menu.

Chinese chocolate brownie-1
Image courtesy of Ping Pong.

I wouldn’t by any means say that it’s one of the better restaurants in London, nor is it one of my favourites. However, it’s one of those great places to go if you’re out in town, you haven’t had a chance to book anywhere and you are in need of some quick, honest, well priced food that is tasty.

In my opinion (and i’m sure there are many out there that will disagree with me), it’s better than any dim sum restaurant I have been to in China town and I’m sure that there will be a few trips back to Ping Pong as a result of this meal.

45 Great Marlborough Street
London
W1F 7JL
020 7851 6969

Ping Pong Soho on Urbanspoon

Maple and Pecan muffins

11 Mar

I love breakfast foods, which is why I’ve been making a lot of loaves and muffins recently. Since it was pancake day this week and I bought a bottle of Maple Syrup especially, I thought I’d carry on the theme and make some Maple Syrup and Pecan Muffins. I have the Hummingbird Bakery book but their recipe called for more buttermilk than I have in the fridge so it was back to the drawing board.

I came across a recipe from Nigella Lawson, which uses wheat germ. I had some oat germ in the cupboard which needed using so I decided to substitute it. There is no sugar or butter in the batter – instead I used milk, vegetable oil and of course, maple syrup. The result is a light and fluffy muffin with a delicious crunchy sugary and nutty topping. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re healthy but i’m sure they’re not as bad as your regular muffin.

I have an American cup measure so I used this – if you don’t have one, you can convert here.

Ingredients (Makes 12)

1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
2 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup oat germ
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon light muscovado sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 190degrees

1. Fill a muffin tray with paper liners and set aside 1/4 of the chopped pecans

2. Mix together the remaining pecans with flour, salt, oat germ and baking powder

3. Whisk together the milk, egg, maple syrup, vegetable oil and vanilla in a separate bowl

3. Pour the liquids into the dry mixture and gently fold to mix. Do not over mix because the mixture can get too hard, which will make the muffin tough. It doesn’t matter if there are a few lumps in the mixture

4. Spoon into the muffin cases

5. Sprinkle the light muscovado and remaining pecan nuts on the top of each muffin case

5. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean

6. Remove muffins to a cooling rack

Enjoy!

Viajante bar snacks

10 Mar

I went to a vintage clothes fair a couple of weekends ago in Bethnal Green and the venue was a minutes walk from Viajante so we decided to treat ourselves to a cup of tea after trawling through the endless rails of clothes.

Viajante is situated in the Town Hall Hotel.The reception boasts beautiful art deco furniture and the Grade II listed building has been extended and modernised but has kept it’s original character. The restaurant across the hallway from the bar is designed by award-winning architects and features installations from fashion and lighting designers as well as some of the East End’s most brilliant young artists. Brilliant!

We entered the bar to see a chandelier art-installation and an extremely good looking bar attender. We were then greeted by a polite and very welcoming waiter. I looked at the menu and was disappointed to be told that they don’t serve English breakfast tea or Earl Grey! So I settled with a fresh lime and soda water, which the waiter took the liberty of adding a slight amount of sugar to as he believed that it would be too tart without it. Nice touch.

The cocktail menu looked special but as it was 1pm on a Sunday afternoon, I just couldn’t do it. Still, it gives me an excuse to go back.

We had plans to eat Ethiopean at the Sunday Upmarket but feeling slightly peckish and liking the look of the bar snacks, we decided to order a couple to share and see if we were still hungry afterward.

We ordered the Mini bocadillo with Jamon Iberico and the Fish tacos, not thinking that the portions were going to be anything to shout about. We were wrong. The tacos were large (and might I add delicious) and the bocadillo was small ish but absolutely yum. But then you can never go wrong with melt in mouth Jamon Iberico! The snacks on the menu are new versions of snacks that Nuno Mendes has discovered on his world travels. Judging by what we had on our fleeting visit, I’d like to go back and try more, not to mention a dinner in the restaurant.

Viajante
Patriot Square
City of London
E2 9NF
020 7871 0461

Viajante on Urbanspoon

Maltby Street Market

8 Mar

Ok – so I have a new favourite place. I came across the Bermondsey arches on Maltby Street a few weeks ago and then found out that some food traders that either produce or store their goods in the arches hold stalls every Saturday from 9-2pm. A new food market is born.

Some are hailing it as the ‘new Borough Market’, although the two really aren’t terribly alike. For starters, each trader sells their products directly out of their arch so as we walked down Druid Street to the St John bakery, it didn’t look like there was a lot of action going on. It’s only when you reach Booth’s the greengrocers that you realise you’ve hit the market. You’ll probably see a few customers ambling about, armed with their baskets full of fruit and veg, some of which you won’t find at a local supermarket. I missed out on purchasing anything here as I knew that I’d be out all day so I didn’t want to be carrying too much around with me.

photo-3

However, I have developed a recent obsession with sourdough bread so really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase a white sourdough loaf from St John. The large loaf shone out at me as I walked into their arch, as did their now infamous custard filled doughnuts. Made with a second hand manual doughnut machine, these beautiful sugary, fluffy, creamy vanilla doughnuts are the best I have ever tasted – and that’s coming from someone who is not a doughnut fan. I loathe Krispy Creme’s or the kind of jam filled ones that you used to get at your friends birthday party as a child. Unfortunately I was too engrossed in it’s greatness to get a photo. Next time, I promise.

photo-9

We strolled on to the next arch, which is shared by Polish supplier Topolski , Kase Swiss and Jacob’s Ladder Farms and were confused at first by the different pickings on offer but soon realised that it was three separate companies. Here we purchased a freshly pan fried pancake, which was filled with diced red onion and cheese. A perfect breakfast after a night on the sauce. Local foodies were purchasing the handsome slabs of meat from Jacob’s Ladder Farms.

photo-4

We wandered under the bridge to the other side and came across Neal’s Yard selling their fantastic range of cheeses and followed the arches all the way down to Monmouth at the other end. There seemed to be quite a lot of cheese and chorizo on sale at the various stalls. There is the odd arch that is not dedicated to food but they look desolate in comparison.

photo-5

Our final stop was Monmouth where we ordered a flat white and a latte. It was here that we (naughtily) ate the cream doughnut from St John. We were saving it for later but it seemed too perfect to eat with our organic Jersey Milk Monmouth coffee.

photo-11

We stood next to the huge roaster and watched fellow customers enjoying their leisurely Sunday coffee and pastry. It was busy but not half as much as the nearby Borough Market branch on a Saturday morning.

photo-7

I popped into an antiques warehouse while my boyfriend went to find a loo (sorry for the information) and came across some great art deco – one Union Jack desk in particular took my fancy but at £899 in the sale was a bit out of my price range.

It was bitterly cold so we retreated to the West End for a spot of shopping before lunch at Foxcroft and Ginger and Dinner at Busaba. What a day!

Other traders that you’ll find at Maltby Street Market include Fern Verrow, The Borough Cheese Co, Kappacasein, The Kernel Brewery , The Ham & Cheese Co, Aubert Mascoli and La Grotta Ices. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough but I definitely didn’t see all of these. No worries if I wasn’t because I’m definitely going back when it’s not so bitingly cold for a more leisurely visit!

The Maltby Street Market
Maltby Street
London

New Zealand green lipped mussel linguine recipe

4 Mar

I have seen mussels popping up a lot recently and I suddenly realised that I have never cooked them before. I wanted to do something about it but my supermarket had ran out of fresh mussels by the time we arrived on Sunday afternoon (can’t blame them really) so we had to settle for already cooked mussels. To spice it up a bit and make it look prettier, we also bought a few New Zealand green lipped mussels.

This is such an easy dinner and absolutely delicious. It only takes a few minutes from start to finish.

Ingredients (serves 2)

100ml dry white wine (I used Orca Bay)
20ml single cream
4 tbsp olive oil
pinch of chilli flakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
200g linguine
2 tbsp curly leaf parsley
salt and pepper to season
squeeze of lemon

Method

1. Boil the linguine in salted water
2. Meanwhile warm the wine and olive oil in a pan
3. Add the garlic to the wine and cook for about 5 minutes
4. Pour in the cream and stir well. You can use more cream if this doesn’t look like enough – you can have it as creamy as you like. Leave to simmer until the linguine is cooked
5. Drain the linguine and place back in the pan
6. Add the mussels, parsley, chilli flakes and some of the white wine sauce. You can add as much or as little as you like – I liked mine without too much. Leave on the heat for a few minutes so that the mussels have a chance to heat up
7. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze a bit of lemon and serve

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