Archive | August, 2011

East India butter shortbread with clotted cream

30 Aug

I really wish I could have a butter and clotted cream shortbread with my tea now. But I can’t because I ate them all.

I was sent a packet of Butter Shortbread with Clotted Cream by the East India Company a couple of weeks ago and as soon as I opened the packet and started munching on the biscuits, I knew I was in trouble. I adore shortbread but even more so when it contains clotted cream. Unfortunately, I have a REAL taste for anything creamy and buttery.

The biscuits are pale in colour and slightly chewy. At first the texture reminded me of biscuits that have just started to go stale but I realised quite quickly that the clotted cream makes them chewier than usual. Apparently they were a favourite of Queen Victoria and go great with afternoon tea. I wouldn’t know if they do because I ate them all before I even had a chance to think about afternoon tea.

The packet that they come in is pretty too and I would definitely not shove it to the back of the biscuit cupboard. The plate design, according to the small print on the back, is typical of 18th Century art and craft influences. It’s delicate and ornate and I really like it.

The company also has a fascinating history. I had a great insight into this when I read Kavey’s blog recently.

At £5.25 for 150g packet, they’re a little bit on the expensive side. And although they probably wouldn’t be a permanent fixture in my biscuit tin, I’d sure buy a few and get them out along with my best tea set for special guests.

Meatballs at The Quality Chop House

25 Aug

One of my earliest memories of dining out in London, before I even dreamed of moving here, was my dad taking my brother and I to a Victorian dining room in Clerkenwell to eat a roast dinner for lunch. I can’t remember what the restaurant was called but I walked into the dining room, with it’s high ceilings, and was surrounded by men in suits talking business while drinking ale from metal tankards. I was infatuated. I loved the setting – the old wooden pews, the creaky floors and of course the food.

So I was delighted when I was invited to the launch of Meatballs at The Quality Chop House last night. The Grade II listed building was built in 1870 and has operated as a restaurant for almost 150 years. Many times have I walked past and marveled at the building but never stopped to wonder what was inside. The Quality Chop House was traditionally a working men’s chophouse and was later favoured by the kind of businessmen that I mentioned earlier. But, after closing down in 2010, it was bought by Hugh Fowler (the man responsible for Wendy’s in the 80’s and more recently Hamburger Union) and the rest is history.

Step inside the restaurant and take in the surroundings. Although the building underwent a major refurbishment in the 1980’s, many of the original features have stayed the same. The beautiful but ever so uncomfortable oak benches, oak tables and ornate castings are still standing. Look to the back of the room, next to the kitchen opening and see a photograph of the previous owners. The lady in the middle of the picture (now in her 90’s) was one of the first guests to dine at Meatballs this week. I imagine she wonders what on earth a ‘slider’ is but I’m sure that she is also very proud.

Which brings me onto the food and drink. I ordered one of the blueberry gin and tonics (£5.95) to start with, plus a bowl of bread and olives (£2.95). The bread basket consisted of focaccia and mini brioche buns, which are also used for the sliders on the menu. Diners have a choice of 5 different meatballs, three sliders, a meatball burger, a few salads and a range of sides. Upon closer inspection, I realised just how cheap everything is. Three meatballs will set you back £3.95, three sliders (mini brioche bun burgers) cost just £5.95 and the sides range from £2.45 to £3.95. The salads are a bit more costly with the most expensive being the spinach and bacon at £8.95 – but who goes to an establishment called Meatballs and orders a salad?! Everything on the menu (except from the ice cream) is made on the premises.

We ordered a selection – three sliders with a mixture of fillings (pork, beef and ricotta with tomato sauce and Greek lamb with cucumber, dill and yoghurt sauce), the vegetarian courgette balls with a mild curry sauce and an extra ball of chicken with a caperberry sauce. An extra, or bonus ball as they are called will set you back £1 each.

For sides we ordered egg pappardelle and the pearl barley and tomato risotto. I was very intrigued by the pearl barley side as I have been cooking with it a lot recently (See recent recipes here and here)

The brioche buns are an absolute delight, light, fluffy and buttery. Pair them with a ball of meat and you have a winner. The beef and lamb were slightly on the dry side, both could have done with a tad less cooking but the flavours were fantastic.

I wasn’t sure about having a single chicken meatball in a bowl, I think it would have been better in a slider. But luckiy we had the bowl of pappardelle to eat it with and together they were delicious.

One of my favourites was the pearl barley and tomato risotto. It was absolutely divine – the pearl barley had a slight crunch and the tomato sauce was tangy. There was also a very welcome couple of slices of melted parmesan sat on top.

After sharing all of our savoury dishes, we were pretty full but that certainly did not deter us from ordering a chocolate brownie ice cream sandwich with hot chocolate sauce and a malt chocolate milkshake for dessert. The pudding arrived and my smile dropped a bit when I saw the size – I thought it looked pretty small and as I was sharing, I thought I’d walk out unsatisfied. How wrong I was! We tucked in and were both immediately in heaven. The crunchy and fudgey chocolate brownie, encased in warm chocolate sauce and cold vanilla icea cream (and proper ice cream too) was one of the best desserts I have had in a long time. The malt chocolate milkshake could have been a tiny bit thicker but it too went down a treat.

We were given a goody bag as we left, which contained a beatutiful bottle of blueberry gin. Giddy, full and with a smile on my face, I walked to the tube station already planning my return visit.

Meatballs also do takeaway, so if you work around the area, be sure to try it out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Meatballs at The Quality Chop House opens to the public on Friday 26th August.

Food For Think was a guest at Meatballs at the Quality Chop House.

tarte au citron recipe

23 Aug

Who doesn’t like a good slice of tarte au citron? The buttery, flakey pastry with the rich, sweet and tangy wobbly middle. Pour some double cream over a big slice and that’s me done. I’ll tuck myself away in a corner for a few minutes so no stray forks can interfere, while I enjoy every last morsel.

But despite there being a few decent shop bought alternatives out there, home made is definitely preferable. Having never made one before, I set out to do just that on Sunday. What I didn’t realise was just how long the process is – I completely understand why people shove one in their supermarket trolley. Not only is it 10 times quicker, it’s also around the same price. But nothing compares to home made (if done well of course) and it is oh so satisfying to see the golden pastry and wobbly lemony filling come out of the oven almost perfect.

I got my recipe from Lindsey Bareham, who wrote a piece about the delightful dessert after being inspired by Marco Pierre White’s 1987 ‘Harveys’ version, back when he was head chef. However, it wasn’t Marco that introduced us Brits to the queen of tarts, it was no other than the Roux brothers at the beginning of the 80’s. Who better to introduce this than the masters of pastry themselves. I have tried the tart both cold and at room temperature and I definitely prefer the latter. The flavours shine out more – but you can always add a drizzle of cold double cream.

If you’re thinking of making a dessert soon, I can’t recommend this enough. But it’s not for the time conscious. This dessert is one that needs love, care, attention and a good few hours. I thoroughly enjoyed my therapeutic time in the kitchen, but I enjoyed my slice smothered in cream much more.

Serves 6 to 8
Prep 35 min plus 1 hr chilling
Cook 1 hr plus 1 hr cooling

Ingredients

For the pastry:
250g plain flour plus extra for dusting
Pinch of salt
150g butter plus an extra knob, cubed
75g icing sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk

For the filling:
4 large unwaxed lemons
5 large eggs
150g caster sugar
200ml double cream
Double cream

Method

For the pastry:
1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl with the salt
2. Add the butter and rub it into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
3. Sift the icing sugar over the crumbs and mix
4. Lightly whisk the whole egg and egg yolk and add to the crumbs
5. Bring everything together and knead slightly. You can add more flour if needed
6. Form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour
7. Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4
8. Grease a 22cm by 2.5cm deep flan ring with the knob of butter and dust with flour. Shake the excess flour out and place on a baking tray, lined with a baking sheet
9. Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the pastry to make a 28cm circle
10.Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and place over the prepared flan ring, pressing to neatly line the ring, leaving a 1cm overhang
11.Roll your rolling pin over the flan case to cut off the excess. Cover with graseproof paper and fill with ceramic baking beans. Bake for 20 minutes
12.Separate one of the eggs required for the filling and lightly whisk the egg white with 1 tbsp water. Paint the cooked pastry case with beaten egg white to seal. Plug any holes with leftover pastry. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Lower heat to 150C/gas mark 2.

Filling:
1. Juice the lemons through a sieve to make approx 175ml and stir in the zest
2. Whisk 4 eggs and the reserved egg yolk with 150g caster sugar, continuing until the sugar disappears
3. Lightly whip the cream and stir it into the eggs. Add the lemon juice and zest.
4. Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 45-60 minutes until the tart is just set but still slightly wobbly in the middle.
5. Leave to cool for an hour before removing from the tin
6. Dust with icing sugar and serve with double cream!

Win a Francis Francis X7.1 coffee machine!!

22 Aug

To celebrate the arrival of the month long pop up Galleria illy in London, I am offering one lucky Food For Think reader the chance to win a gorgeous Francis Francis X7.1 coffee machine (worth £199), courtesy of Espressocrazy.

X7.1_front_rossa_copia

Now, I know that this is a good little piece of kit. I have recently been to a few photo shoots at Georgia Glynn Smith’s house and she has one in order to provide her guests with delicious coffee. It’s easy to operate, simply pop in an illy coffee iperEspresso capsule and press the button. The milk frother on the side is also very good, considering the size of the machine.

After runs in Berlin, New York, Milan and Istanbul, Galleria illy will run from 13 September – 16 October. It’s free to get in and you’ll be able to enjoy a programme of gastronomy, art, literature and design events.

I’m really looking forward to popping along and learning a trick or two from the Università del Caffè illy baristas. I’ll be there mid September so I’m sure I’ll be able to share what I learn with you afterwards! You can book a coffee masterclass, just go to Espressocrazy.

Four ways to enter the competition below:

1. Mandatory. Like the Food For Think Facebook page here and leave a comment on the wall to say that you have entered

2. Second chance to win. Tweet this text exactly as shown – #WIN Francis Francis X7.1 coffee machine #prize RRP £199 @foodforthink http://www.foodforthink.com Pls RT

3. Third chance to win. Follow @foodforthink on Twitter and Tweet to say that you are entering the competition

4. Fourth chance to win. Leave a comment on this blog post telling us why you NEED the Francis Francis X7.1 coffee machine

Competition ends on Monday 5th September at midday. Open to UK residents only.

Good luck!!!

Melt in mouth meringue recipe

11 Aug

If you have read my blog in the last few months, you will know that I have three gorgeous chickens on my roof who provide me with fresh and delicious eggs daily.

Since only two of us in the house eat eggs, we sometimes get a bit of a glut, as you can see.

Eggs

So we’re forever having to come up with ways to use more than just one or two eggs at a time. Someone suggested I make meringue but I wasn’t keen on the idea at first – I would rather tuck into a big slab of cake or a delicious brownie than a light and fluffy meringue. Then again, I had never made them before so decided to give them a go.

As our eggs are very small, I would recommend using Bantam eggs. If you are using hens eggs, use two less than I have stated. I was so pleased with how they turned out – they have a beautiful golden colour due to the fact that I used unrefined golden caster sugar and unrefined golden icing sugar.

Eat them with fresh and cream berries, or be naughty and sandwich two together with Nutella (that’s what my boyfriend did!)

Ingredients

4 bantam eggs, separated and at room temperature (you can either discard the yolk or add them as extra to scrambled eggs)
75g unrefined golden caster sugar
75g unrefined golden icing sugar

Method – Pre-heat the oven to 100degrees Celsius

1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper
2. Place the egg whites in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, whisk on a medium speed until soft peaks form
3. Turn the speed up and gradually add the cater sugar, bit by bit
4. Sift the icing sugar in bit by bit and fold in gently with a spatula or large metal spoon
5. Spoon onto the baking sheet in equal portions and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes
6. Enjoy how you wish!

Pan fried lemon sole with samphire and parsley butter

10 Aug

Samphire is everywhere at the moment. I had it with fish at three different restaurants last week and I can’t get enough if it. So when I was getting my fish from the Waitrose fish counter at the weekend, I was very happy to see a pack of the delicious green edible plant sat next to the fish. I chose two filets of lemon sole and grabbed a pack and a lemon to go with it.

I was very looking forward to my Monday evening dinner but was left slightly disappointed with the samphire. I followed the cooking instructions on the pack but the stalks were quite hard and a small amount was inedible. Only a very small amount though so the meal was not ruined. I can’t expect cooking with a new ingredient to be perfect first time, so as with most things, practice makes perfect!

Ingredients

2 skin on lemon sole fillets
1 garlic clove
1 red chilli
2 knobs of butter
4 tsp fresh or or frozen parsley
90g samphire
Salt and black pepper to season
Juice of half a lemon

Method

1. Make the parsley, garlic and chilli butter by placing into a food processor and blitzing until smooth. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
2. Preheat a pan on a medium heat for the fish – season the skin of the fish with salt and black pepper.
5. Melt a knob of butter in another pan and place the samphire in to wilt. Cook on a medium heat for 4 minutes, or until soft. You still want a little bit of a crunch.
6. As soon as the samphire is in the pan, place the fish skin side down into the other hot pan and season with black pepper. Cook for around three minutes, add the parsley butter and a squeeze of lemon and flip the fish over to cook on the flesh side for 30 seconds.
7. Place the samphire on the plate and top with the fish.
8. Serve with buttered potatoes and seasonal veg – yum!

Maille pop up supper club

8 Aug

I have had a battle with mustard over the years. After trying that powdered English stuff that used to be popular about 20 years ago, I abstained from putting myself through the misery again. That is until someone persuaded me to try a dollop of Maille mustard with a salad a couple of years ago. I didn’t love it straight away but it was a lot more pleasurable than my first experience.

I was invited to the Maille mustard pop up in Shoreditch, which was hosted by Ms Marmite Lover a few weeks ago and couldn’t say no – partly because I wanted to try the new range, which includes honey mustard and mayonnaise with a hint of mustard and partly because I was allowed to take a guest and my boyfriend is the biggest mustard fan.

We turned up to Spitalfields market on a Friday evening and I was surprised to see a small pop up located just in front of the main entrance. It looked beautiful and featured stained wood with beautifully packaged Maille products decorating. The boutique was inspired by those of Paris and Dijon and gave us diners a real insight into the world of mustard. We were seated around the bar and offered a ‘Mustardy Mary’ to start us off. I couldn’t drink this – despite one of my favourite foods being delicious, juicy tomatoes, as soon as I put the juice version to my lips, a slightly unpleasant gag takes place. So I had to apologise and make my excuses.

We were also treated to a Gravadlax, honey mustard and red endive canape before the cooking got underway. It was totally and utterly lip smackingly beautiful – I would probably go so far as to say that it was one of the best canapes I have ever had. The honey mustard is the newest addition to Maille’s mustard range. I’d love to try it glazed on roast chicken – the thought is making my mouth water a little bit.

Next up was a whole artichoke. Now, I don’t think I was the only person that had never tried it before – there were a few confused faces around. Luckily, Marmite showed us how to eat it – slather the Dijon mustard on the bottom, place your chops around it and get the fleshy bit out with your teeth. I was in heaven – what a simple but delicious dish.

The main arrived and I was pleased to see smoked haddock with wholegrain mustard, cheese and Asian greens. Smoked haddock isn’t usually one of my favourite pieces of fish but it was tasty. The mustard and cheese worked so well together. Simply smother the fish with mustard, add a sprinkle of cheese and bake it in the oven.

I was a bit nervous about the dessert – Mostarda tutti frutti ice cream with berries, mint sugar and mustard candy floss. But all worries were diminished when I placed the spoon in my mouth. I particularly enjoyed the candy floss and just loved learning that Marmite has her very own candy floss machine. Who else?

As if dessert was not enough, we were also treated to a fantastic cheese board with Moustardier, Charollais, Langres, Comté and palmiers.

I had a great evening – the wine flowed, my fellow diners were lovely and we had a good old laugh. Maille has a large range of mustards, sauces, vinegars and mayonnaise, which you can see here.

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