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!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,104 other followers

%d bloggers like this: