Monday, 30 March 2009

Orecchiette with Butter, Sage, Garlic and Parmesan.

If you read my blog regularly, you may remember me mentioning that I bought a new recipe book the other week. I've been after it for some time. It's called 'Big Flavours and Rough Edges' - Recipes from the Eagle. It's out of print, and copies are changing hands for over a £100. But, I found a second hand copy - condition 'Average' for a tenner - and practically chewed the sellers arm off. Apart from a preface page being ripped, its perfect....and seeing as how all my recipe books get well used and spattered with ingredients anyway, who cares. It's got some amazing recipes in it - I recommend it.

The Eagle pub on the Farringdon Road is one of my favourite gastro-pubs, the first gastro-pub, the place that started it all in fact, and although probably no longer the best, it's easily still in the top five. They sell the most amazing steak sandwich (and that recipe is what I was after when I purchased the book), but it's another recipe from the book I'm going to write about.

Last night, I cooked Orecchiette with Butter, Sage, Garlic and Parmesan and it was gorgeous, so simple, quick and cheap! with a scant 4 main ingredients. It's surprising sometimes how some of the most simple dishes are the tastiest. I've never used the Orecchiette pasta shape before, the recipe describes it as 'a chewy type of pasta that looks like the name suggests, little ears'.

Anyway - seeing as the books out of print, and to get your hands on this recipe your either going to have to shell out a £100+ or be really lucky like I was, I'll give you the recipe to try for yourself.

Orechiette with Butter, Sage, Garlic and Parmesan.

Serves 4

75g Unsalted Butter
450g Orecchiette Pasta
2 Garlic Cloves, crushed but left whole.
20 or so Sage leaves, finely chopped
4 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

Clarify the butter by melting it over the lowest possible heat and then skimming off the bits that float on top. Gently pour the clarified butter into a clean pan, discarding the curds (or is it Whey?) that will have collected at the bottom. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain.

Heat the butter with the garlic cloves and sage. When the garlic just begins to brown, remove it and throw it away. Mix the butter and sage with the orecchiette and Parmesan.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Fat Italian Sausages.

Sometimes, if your lucky, you'll have a shop selling something truly spectacular locally, something that's pretty hard to source anywhere else.

When I make this statement, I'm thinking of G.Gazzano & Sons. It's an Italian Food stockist on the Farringdon Road (just past The Eagle), a mere 5 minute walk from my place of work. And the 'something' I'm thinking of is Sausages....Fat, dumpy, tied up with string, authentic, Italian sausages. Unlike your standard British banger, these are pretty much 100% meat. They sell a few different kinds from various regions of Italy, but the type I favour is "Tuscan"....Pork and Fennel. Even better, they're actually really reasonable, yesterday I bought five for £3, which is pretty good value for money I'd say.

G.Gazzano & Sons sells other stuff of course, just about every type of pasta shape you could imagine, a whole wall of packets of pasta in fact. Italian Cheeses, Meats, and all other produce Italian, but it's the sausages I buy most often.

Sometimes I'll cook the sausages using a Jamie Oliver recipe from 'Jamies Italy' with a bowl of Puy Lentils and spicy tomato salsa. But tonight, I cooked them simply with mashed potato, and a dab of Dijon mustard on the side.
So, the lessson here is, always poke your head around the door of all your local Independent food shops and take a good look at what they sell, you might be lucky and find something great.

G. Gazzano & Sons
167 Farringdon Road,

0207 7837 1586

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Breakfast on the Seafront - Sands Bistro.

On Sunday, once again, the sun was shining. What better way to get this gorgeous spring day started on the right foot than breakfast on the seafront.

A new restaurant has recently opened pretty close to Southend Pier, Sands Bistro and Bar.
I'd eaten breakfast in there before, and it was pretty good, and pretty reasonable.
Feeling particularly generous, I declared I'd treat my partner to breakfast, struck dumb and in a state of mute shock I led her downstairs to the car for the short drive down the seafront.

After grabbing a parking space more or less opposite, we grabbed a table and admired the restaurant space, very nice indeed, flooded with natural light. The dining room is a large cylindrical shape, with a curved bar and reception area on one side, and floor to ceiling windows on the other....offering a view down the beautiful Thames Estuary.....but only if your standing (or lying down!)....the windows being split in two by a crossbar that is perfectly positioned at the correct height to obscure the view of the seafront to the seated diner.

Musing of this design flaw, I studied the menu and opted for the 'Sands Classic Breakfast' which according to the menu consists of 2 bacon, 1 butchers Cumberland sausage, 1 egg (cooked to your liking), Grilled Tomatoes, Baked Beans and Mushrooms. I also ordered a coffee. My partner, being petite and a girl to boot ordered a children's breakfast. I thought it fair to warn her, to save later disappointment that it probably didn't come with a toy or colouring pencils. This comment went down as well as you'd imagine.
Our drinks arrived, and the coffee was excellent....a good sign I thought optimistically.
Our breakfasts arrived and I'll be brutally honest - it was OK....bordering on good, but not a patch on the breakfast I had for the same price at
Bills Produce Store in Brighton recently.
There appeared to be a bit of a problem with the service, I know it was Mothers Day and traditionally an extremely busy day for restaurants up and down the country...but....
The waitress didn't ask how I wanted my egg 'cooked to my liking'....
I had to scream at her back as she retreated to the kitchen.
I had to ask for napkins as my partner with the children's breakfast was covered in it. (Just kidding honey!)
Not once was I asked whether my food was OK - which as far as I'm concerned is a cardinal sin of good service.

I wasn't able to get the attention of the staff to pay, so ended up having to drag my bursting at the seams carcass up to the front desk and more or less force them to accept payment.
but no tip, the service was poor and they didn't deserve it.

I have eaten here a couple of months back, and the breakfast was better and the service was excellent - so I'm going to put it down to an off-day perhaps, although the coffee is very good.
I want them to do well, the restaurant is a lovely space.

The Evening Menu looked interesting, so I'll be visiting again soon to sample that, and maybe next time I'll leave a tip.

Sands Bistro / Restaurant
Icon Building
Western Esplanade

Friday, 20 March 2009

What I've been cooking, and eating.

I thought I'd write something about the food I've been cooking at home this past week. One's an old favourite, the rest are all new recipes I've tried for the first time. Looking at the photos, I just realised there's Definitely a real Middle Eastern vibe going on in my choice of recipes right now.

The photo above is two recipes from Nigel Slater's 'Real Food' (if you don't own it - buy it! some cracking recipes in there). We have 'Classic French Potato Salad' combined with 'Grilled Chicken with Chili. Lemon and Mint. Really impressed with these, especially the potato dish. So simple but so gorgeous. What's interesting is that the dressing (2 chopped shallots, 3 Tbs Tarragon Vinegar, 125ml Olive oil and chopped flat leaf parsley). Is poured over the hot peeled potatoes and then left for 30 Min's to soak in. And it did! completely soaked up, tasted gorgeous.
The Chicken dish was good too - very clean and fresh tasting, but the potato recipe was the clear winner here.

An old Favourite this, from Nigella Lawsons 'Forever Summer' cookbook, 'Lamb patties with Hummus and Pitta'. Another really fresh tasting plate of food. Rather than buy hummus I made my own - it's really easy, miles cheaper and tastes much better.

Another recipe from Nigella's 'Forever Summer' - 'Bulgar Wheat Salad with Pink-Seared Lamb'. First time I've made this, and very nice it was too - the Lamb Loins needed a bit more 'searing' I'd say, but still they weren't bad, the accompanying Bulgar Wheat Salad was lovely.

Finally we have 'Kosheri' from the newest recipe book on my shelf, 'Ottolenghi - The Cookbook'. This is apparently Egyptian street food, and is similar to kedgeree (without the fish). It consists of green lentils, basmati rice, vermicelli noodles (had real trouble getting these - it's no different to spaghetti really). This is flavoured with Nutmeg, Cinnamon and caramelised white onions. Then served with a spicy, chili spiked tomato sauce on the side. This recipe tasted truly fantastic. Only downside was, for mid-week cooking, it took quite a while to cook and generated a sink full of washing up.

So, that's what I've been cooking this week....
In other foodie related news, I ate the best Falafel I've ever tasted from a stall in Whitecross Street Market, EC1, It was wrapped in a flatbread with chopped tomato, pickled beetroot(?) pickled chilli's, a dash of Chili Sauce and finally Tahini sauce and all for £4-50. Which, was for a large one. (A size, which I've learnt is only for the truly famished! I just about finished it.) There was a queue down the road, so the stall is obviously very popular. (Follow the crowds!)

And in some late breaking news - I ordered some new recipe books from Amazon....
'Big Flavours and Rough Edges'- Recipes from 'The Eagle'
One of my favourite Gastro Pubs, this book is out of print and priced at over £100 in some places, but I grabbed a second hand copy for £10!

Gordon Ramsay's
'Cooking for Friends'
I recently read about a recipe for Cardamom and Lime Mousse in another blog, and I had to get the recipe.

Last but not least,
Anthony Bourdain's
"Les Halles" Cookbook: Classic Bistro Cooking
After reading 'Kitchen Confidential', I've had my eye on this for a while - and I love French Bistro food.

I'll let you know how I get on with these when they arrive.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sunday Lunch at 'The Gun'

I awoke early Sunday Morning, with sunlight streaming through the bedroom window. The sky, a vivid shade of blue. Days with weather such as this, rare in Britain, reward the early riser.

After a quick conference with the bleary eyed partner, it was decided. Greenwich on a Sunday, a trawl round the shops and market, some time spent in the beautiful spring flower strewn park, a walk by the Thames and a spot of lunch somewhere nice.

The Gun, just across the Thames from Greenwich in the Isle of Dogs is somewhere I've wanted to eat for ages. I've read so many good reviews, heard so many good things. That's where I wanted to have lunch.

After walking under the Thames through the Greenwich foot tunnel, and a 15 minute walk through the Isle of Dogs, we arrived outside the rather attractive 'Gun' around 12-30, a bit earlier than I'd like for Sunday lunch but I've heard it gets extremely busy, and I'm determined to get a table on the terrace overlooking the Thames and the 02 arena on the opposite bank.
My careful planning reaped it's reward, and we cadge a riverside table without too much trouble.

After perusing the menu, we decide to skip the starters (saving room for dessert) and press onto the mains. As it's Sunday, and I love a roast dinner, I go for Roast Sirloin of Beef, this comes with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, honey glazed carrots, parsnip, broccoli, red wine gravy and horseradish.

My partner orders the wild mushroom and chestnut wellington with brussel sprouts and truffle emulsion.
It's a lovely day, the terrace is buzzing with fellow customers reading the Sunday papers and drinking wine, the food arrives surprisingly quickly.

Mine is good, the potatoes are gorgeous and crispy, the beef is nicely cooked, definitely one of the better Sunday dinners I've had anywhere. There's some kind of problem with the offered Horseradish sauce, it doesn't seem to have any actual Horseradish in it!.....I like it eye wateringly pungent, but this is soon put right by a passing waitress.

What's interesting is my partners choice, it looks amazing (No photos, as she tucked in like lightning before I even got a chance to take a picture). She offered me a try, and wow.....this is how good it was, I hate brussel sprouts, I always have.....but this casually proffered fork full of food made me re-evaluate my whole 35 year hatred of the vegetable, combined with the mushrooms and truffle emulsion the taste was truly stunning.

Polishing off our mains, it was onto desert. I can't resist a sticky toffee pudding and despite the fairly hefty main, I figured what with all the walking, I'd soon work it off.....this came with malt ice-cream.My other half went for the Cheeseboard, which at £9 was a pretty expensive cheese option, but ended up being well worth the money.
The toffee pudding was great, I've eaten these all over the place and it was one of the best examples of toffee goodness Ive ever eaten, the malt ice cream was the perfect partner.

The Cheeseboard was interesting, it arrived on a slate with various crackers, oat biscuits, toasted walnut bread, red grapes and five different cheeses, all British produce - Blackstick's Blue from Lancashire, Tornegus from Somerset, Quickes farmhouse cheddar from Dorset, Kidderton Ashe from Lancashire and finally Bath soft organic from Somerset. I'd finished off my dessert with gusto, so helped my girlfriend polish off the cheeseboard, we could have ordered just that between us, so it was well worth the cost. The Cheeses were great, we ate the lot.

The Gun is without a doubt one of the best gastro-pubs I've eaten in, although I've got a real soft spot for the much less refined, much more rough and ready 'The Eagle' in Farringdon Road and 'The Ginger Pig' in Brighton where I ate recently currently holds the 'gastro-pub numero uno' spot as far as I'm concerned.
But, if your in Greenwich one fine Sunday and fancy a bit of walk and a fantastic lunch overlooking the river, you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere better to spend the afternoon.

The Gun

27 Coldharbour,
E14 9NS

Friday, 13 March 2009

Clerkenwell Lunch Options - Part 4 - Nusa Kitchen.

Nusa Kitchen is a place I frequent for lunch, probably more than any other. I never heard about it through word of mouth. I wasn't enticed through the door by a flashy shopfront and I've never seen it advertised. No, what drew this place to my attention was the massive queue outside every lunchtime. Intrigued, one day I decided to joined the queue and now I can be found there most lunchtimes,patiently waiting in line to depart with my little brown paper bag back to my desk to consume the contents.

Nusa Kitchen is all about soup. They sell other stuff, various salads for example - but that's not the draw, it's not what the massive queues outside are there for, and rightly so - the Soup is stunning.

It's made from all natural and organic ingredients, and the choice changes weekly, there's normally some kind of option for everyone from your vegans to your gluten free eaters.
Me? It's all about Jungli Beef. Love it.
And if the soup goodness isn't enough, you also get some kind of naan/flatbread type thing to dip in your soup.
As a measure of how good their soup is, I have a loyalty 9 soups and get it stamped, you get a free roughly £4 a go - that's £36 spent for a free soup.....I've had dozens of free soups.

Finally, it's not just for the Clerkenwell lunchtime crowd, Nusa Kitchen opened another store a few months back in Adams Court off Threadneedle Street, so you Square Mile lunchers can sample the goodness too. (speaking of samples - they're happy to let you sample any of the soups before you buy - so do take advantage of that).

Nusa Kitchen.
9 Old Street, EC1V 9HL
2 Adams Court, EC2N 1DW

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Quick Pizzas

A few years ago I was given The Savoy Cookbook by Anton Edelmann as a present. It's a great book, with some fantastic recipes, albeit, as you'd expect from the Savoy, fine dining\dinner party fare rather than anything practical for midweek credit crunch eating.

But, there's one particular recipe I've cooked countless times, and it ticks all the right 'get in from work, and cook up something tasty and quick' boxes.

It's Pizza on a wholemeal Pitta base. and apparently a version of these is on the Savoy room service menu.

I make these regularly, and over the years have changed the recipe slightly to suit my own taste in toppings, which I guess is the beauty of pizzas as the pitta base and tomato sauce are a blank canvas to which you can add anything you fancy, so feel free to adapt as you see fit.
Here's the recipe...
Serves 4 (or in my experience, 2 Hungry/Greedy people).

Quick Pizzas
You'll Need:-

Pack of 6 Wholemeal Pittas.

For the Tomato base sauce.

1 Onion Chopped
3 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves crushed
1/2 tbsp tomato puree
400g tin chopped tomatoes, drained.
100ml Chicken Stock (I use 1/2 a Chicken Oxo cube in 100ml boiling water)
1/2 tsp dried Oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the topping.....(This is what I like, again, feel free to change it to suit your own taste)

1 Ball of Mozzarella
Chorizo Sausage sliced
1 Large Tomato
6 Large Basil leaves.
1/2 finely chopped red onion.
Fennel Seeds.

To make the base sauce: sweat the onions in the olive oil until translucent, add the garlic and sweat for 1 minute. Add the tomato puree and caramelize for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and oregano, and simmer until reduced to a paste. (10-15 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. (The base sauce can be left to cool, and then refrigerated for 4 or 5 days).

To make the Pizzas: Heat the oven to 200C.
Slice the mozzarella, chorizo, tomato, and finely chop the red onion.
Spread a generous amount of the base sauce over the pittas and top with the mozzarella, chorizo, tomato, red onion and a scattering of fennel seeds.
Put the pizzas on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. A few minutes before the end, divide the basil leaves among the pizzas and bake for another couple of minutes.

Eat! -

I'm a bit of a greedy guts, so I normally manage three of these. Although suprisingly my Girlfriend who is extremely petite also manages to put three away at a time!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Chocolate Fondant Recipe.

A fellow food blogger, (Merlotti at Bon Appetit) asked for my ripped out of a paper, dog eared and yellowed Marco Pierre White recipe for Chocolate Fondant. (supposedly a favourite at Quo Vadis)
This recipe has served me well for years, these are gorgeous, and incredibly easy to make.

So here it is:-
Chocolate Fondant.

Serves 6
You'll Need:-

250g Plain dark good quality chocolate
250g unsalted butter
5 medium eggs
125g Sugar
75g Plain Flour

Butter and flour six 175ml moulds.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, and sugar (it doesn't have to be a sabayon but they do have to be well mixed).
Pour the melted chocolate into the eggs and whisk until very smooth. Then whisk in the flour, making sure there are no lumps, pour into the prepared moulds and bake in the oven pre-heated to 200C/400F/Gas 6 for about 10 minutes.

These taste best, served with Ice-Cream.
There is also a recipe for a chocolate sauce to drizzle over the fondants, I don't always make this
but I'll add it as well.

Melt 150g plain dark chocolate in a bain marie (or very carefully in a microwave). place 100ml milk, 25ml double cream and 25g butter in a pan and, over a low heat, gently bring to the boil. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and pour over the melted chocolate. Whisk until smooth and silky. Leave in a warm place.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A home cooked Anniversary Meal.

Yesterday was mine and my girlfriends eight year anniversary.
For a change, and bearing in mind the ongoing "credit crunch", rather than go out and spend loads in a restaurant, we decided to stay in, crack open a bottle of Champagne (On a decadent!) and cook.

Now, I cook every night of the week, so what's new there.....the difference being rather than your comfort grub, quick to knock up, 30 minute dishes - this would be three courses and I would cook whatever the Girlfriend which she promptly replied she wanted Duck breast. The rest, was up to me.

This is what I chose to cook:-

Starter - Ripe Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella and White Balsamic salad.

Nice easy one this, but I made to sure to buy quality ingredients.....really good tomatoes, which I left to ripen on the window sill for a couple of days, Buffalo Mozzarella, torn Basil, Rocket, drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and dash of White Balsamic.
Really nice, quick to make and really tasty.

Main - Pan fried Gressingham Duck Breast with Rhubarb, Spinach and Potato Rosti.

I bought the Duck Breasts from my local butcher,I try to buy most of my meat from's not cheap, but the quality especially compared to the supermarket stuff is off the chart. (and they make the best Gloucester Old Spot sausages.)

I cooked the rhubarb with some sugar to make a sauce beforehand, and prepared the potato rosti's (first time I've made these, and I was amazed at how much water came out!)
I impressed myself with this, I'm normally very critical of my own cooking. But this was gorgeous.

Desert - Chocolate Fondant with Baileys Parfait.
The Chocolate Fondant recipe is an old dog eared Marco Pierre White one I ripped out of a paper years ago, and it's served me well. I've made these loads of times and they always turn out great. Most recipe books have a version of these liquid in the center chocolate desserts. Sadly, I messed around taking photos and the parfait started to melt.....the trials of a food blogger.

With all this food we drank a bottle of Gribble Bridge Ortega Dry from the Biddenden vineyards in Kent. We visit Biddenden and the nearby Chapel Down vineyard a few times a year to stock up on wine.....incredible that you can get truly great English Wine, we first tried it in Conran's Chop House, and it was so nice we decided to drive to the vineyard to get some. It's a really nice day out - combined with a bit of shopping in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

By the way, if you want to try Chapel Down's excellent wine, and don't fancy the drive to Kent...they stock some of their range in Waitrose.
Last but not least, we cracked open a bottle of Champagne and toasted eight years together, what a fantastic evening, I just wish I could eat and drink like that more often on a Monday night!