Ezo Gelin Corbasi – Turkish red lentil soup

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Today was supposed to be the E17 Cook Book Club summer picnic – cue torrential rain! So a quick Plan B re-think led to an indoor get together and suddenly a warming lentil soup seemed more appropriate than cucumber sandwiches.

Soup is a staple part of Turkish cuisine, at home or at work, for breakfast, lunch or dinner and before or after a night out partying – the soup shops are open 24 hours a day. Ezo Gelin Corbasi (Bride’s Soup) is a lentil soup with tomato and mint, we prefer this to the basic Mercimek Corbasi lentil soup as it has a bit more character and flavour.

It is apparently named after Ezo, a very beautiful bride (gelin) from southeastern Turkey. Some recipe variations include fine bulgar wheat or a handful of rice, paprika or dried thyme or a couple of chopped fresh tomatoes so feel free to experiment. It’s a really popular soup in Turkey and seems to be in every cafe, restaurant and soup shop. This version was adapted from ‘Turkish Cuisine’ by Tugrul Savkay.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 onion
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 litre stock (meat or veggie)
1 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
150g red lentils, washed
1-2 tsp Turkish red chilli pepper flakes
2 tsp dried mint
salt and black pepper
wedges of fresh lemon
chopped fresh parsley

Method:
This soup is really simple and cheap to make, but it’s also satisfying, delicious and one of our favourites.

Start by chopping the onion, then heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion until it softens. Add the stock and tomato paste to the pan and bring to the boil, then add the lentils, chilli pepper flakes and mint. Turn the heat down and put a lid on the pan. Cook the soup, stirring occasionally for about 40 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Blend with a hand-held blender if you want a smooth consistency and season with salt and pepper to taste. It’s quite a thick and satisfying soup but if you want a thinner, lighter soup just add more water during the cooking.

Serve with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon, a sprinkle of red chilli pepper flakes and chopped fresh parsley and chunks of good, fresh bread. I think this soup often tastes better the following day as the flavours have had time to develop, the only thing you may have to do is add some water to thin it down.

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Salvation in Noodles – Vietnamese in Finsbury Park

4We were definitely NOT eating out this week after a whole weekend of indulging in street food at the Walthamstow Garden Party. But then it was Monday evening and after a virtuous swim outdoors in Covent Garden, we somehow really needed to eat out again. As a kid I always wanted chips after swimming, but now we share a craving for post-swim noodles.

A couple of weeks ago we fell into Pho Cafe on Long Acre in Covent Garden, but this week we tried out the newly opened Salvation in Noodles at Finsbury Park. So how do these modern Vietnamese compare with the old school Hackney and Shoreditch Vietnamese cafes?

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Tofu summer rolls at Salvation in Noodles

The tofu and vegetable summer rolls (£5) were light and tasty but would benefit from more Vietnamese herbs, especially Thai basil. But they beat the prawn summer rolls at Pho which were uninspiring – plain and stodgy.

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and the prawn summer rolls at Pho Cafe

One of the foodies has gone veggie / fish eating for the month of July, which is creating some challenges when eating out. But it’s also making us reassess our options and lazy menu choices. Disappointingly, at Salvation in Noodles only one of the hot noodles dishes is vegetarian, all the rest are either in a meat soup or include meat along with the seafood. We ordered the prawn Bun Bo Hue in spicy lemongrass soup but we weren’t sure if this was a veggie or chicken stock, along with the crispy salt & pepper tofu noodle salad (both around £9).

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Crispy tofu noodle salad at SiN

Both dishes were heavy-handed; the noodles were too oily and the tofu wedges were enormous, you certainly won’t leave hungry! Maybe it’s not fair to make a comparison with a meat stock pho, but for me nothing can beat the pho noodle dishes at Pho 999 on Mare Street, Hackney for only about £8.

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Prawn Bun Bo Hue in spicy lemongrass soupat SiN

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Duck and rice vermicelli noodle soup at Pho 999

So what’s the final verdict on Salvation in Noodles? If they can fix some of the heavy touches, then this is a handy stop on the Victoria Line in the gourmet desert of Finsbury Park and is very near the station. The service is friendly, the bill was cheap and the decor is funky with communal tables.  It won’t beat the Hackney Vietnamese cafes for authenticity and flavour, but it’s easy to get to and we’ll probably head back there after swim soon.

 Salvation in Noodles, 2 Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London, N4 2DL

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Slovak foodie surprises – Bratislava & Piestany

20150626_182645It certainly didn’t start well. The flight was delayed, our hotel room wasn’t ready when we arrived in Bratislava and we found the whole of the old town was swamped by riot police and anti-capatalist protesters, then to top it all, it started raining. So much for a relaxing summer holiday in sunny Slovakia!

But things started looking up from the moment we found the ice-cream shop. I don’t care if it’s raining and humid – as long as you’ve got handmade ice cream life is good. And the ice cream at Koun is really good. Locals and tourists alike queue for a minimum of 20 minutes, even in the rain, just to get in the door of this tiny shop to sample the daily changing range of homemade Italian style gelato. We tried the delicious apricot and passionfruit sorbets, and the luscious fig & ricotta, walnut, chocolate & mint ice creams – all only 1.20 Euro a scoop (this is pricey for Slovakia where ice cream starts at just 50 cents!)

If you can get past the hearty traditional Slovak cooking and the obvious touristy places, Bratislava has a quietly confident, foodie culture of small shops and delis, funky cafes and independent restaurants. We discovered and loved these places:

U Kubistu is a smart, modern brasserie with an exciting menu. Combining forgotten ingredients such as spelt nuts, oats, cottage cheese or trout in fermented brine to create amazing light salads and sharing dishes, served with socca chickpea bread.

20150626_143517Soho is a small, efficient Thai bistro with a limited but interesting menu of healthy soups, delicious main courses of chicken, beef, tofu or prawn with coconut, chilli, veggies and steamed rice for about 7 Euro a bowl. While we’re talking about chilli – the Slovaks LOVE their chilli’s hot. A cooling range of craft beers and homemade lemonades are served by friendly, multi-lingual, tattooed staff.

20150626_194005Mercado is a relaxed waterfront restaurant on the banks of the Danube at the Europark shopping centre. Using fresh, organic ingredients with a focus on lovely  risotto and pasta dishes there’s plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes on offer. Although the prices are above average for Slovakia it’s still cheap in comparison with other European capital cities.

20150621_133443Savage Garden is situated in the brutal concrete park ‘Namestie Slobody’ (Freedom Square). They serve large portions of salads, pasta and burgers and a daily lunch menu popular with local office workers. It’s a good escape from the touristy town centre, and only a 5 minute walk from the Presidential Palace. Lovely for a morning coffee in the park.

20150622_133125In every street and park in Bratislava there’s an exciting, funky cafe. You can hide away on a wet afternoon in Gorila.sk Urban Space, a ‘cafe in a bookshop’ with comfy armchairs, battered sofas and fast wifi connection. Great range of teas, coffees and beers. Snack on street food, healthy raw cakes and not so healthy cheesecakes.

After a few days in Bratislava we moved on to the tiny spa town of Piestany which is about an hour away by train. It’s a blissful countryside retreat from London life. This however is the Slovak idea of spa which has a robust, practical and medical approach so don’t expect soft music and aromatherapy. People travel from all over the world for the medicinal properties of the water. The thermal mineral water and sulphuric mud are renowned for treating rheumatism and arthritis. At the Art Nouveu Erma Spa the basic mud pool, mirror pool and wrap costs about 15 Euro for a 1 hour treatment.

The restaurants in Piestany are traditional and a little outdated, but behind the scenes there are a few less obvious places. Villa Zuckmann is a stylish bistro with rooms, opened in 2014 in the town centre. It’s an excellent place for coffee and cakes, antipasto and simple homemade pasta dishes for around 5 Euro. Lovely outdoor seating areas at the front and back plus a wood-burning stove for winter nights.

20150622_181850ZiWell – hidden away at the back of a courtyard at the end of the town, this community centre, bar and vegetarian cafe is popular at lunchtime for it’s daily-changing healthy menu. Serving 3 courses for only 7 Euro. Language classes, live music nights, friendly staff and a laid-back vibe – well it is next door to the yoga centre.

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And finally, 20 minutes scenic walk along the riverbanks to Ratnovce in a quiet residential area we discovered Tri Grose.

DSCN8465In a traditional log cabin that wouldn’t look out of place in the Swiss Alps, seated on sheep skin covered pine benches, you can eat your fill of meaty stews and grills, expertly fried schnitzels and enormous pizzas. A meal for two with drinks and far too much food rarely cost more than 20 Euro followed by a lovely walk home to burn off some of those calories! Alternatively a taxi back into town costs about 5 Euro.

So if you do head to Slovakia we really recommend the modern restaurants in Bratislava. But you need only spend a few days in the city as it’s fairly small, then jump on one of the efficient trains. Go and explore the beautiful countryside and wallow in the mud baths – it’s rather fun as well as medicinal!

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Copita del mercado, Petticoat Lane

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I’ve been walking past this place for a few months on my way home from work. There’s a whole bunch of restaurants and quirky shops opening up in this area. On a whim I decided to book a table for the evening while wandering around Petticoat Lane Market on my lunch break last Friday. It seemed to tick all the boxes – a light, spacious open plan restaurant and kitchen, Spanish food, lots of fish and seafood, sharing small tapas plates. I didn’t know at the time that it had a pedigree. Copita del mercado is the younger sister to the very popular and successful Copita in Soho.

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The service was friendly and relaxed although it wasn’t very busy for a Friday night. It’s location on a quiet, dark market street might account for this, but I’m sure that once the word is out we’ll be booking weeks in advance. A Spanish tapas restaurant and bar of this quality, with a 50 seat garden opening in July, is a rarity in Shoreditch or the City.

We ordered twice, kicking off with vegetarian and fish tapas and then moving on to meat, mainly ordering from their daily specials menu. Roasted aubergine, hazelnut, tomato honey & coriander (£6) was smoky and rich, the tomato honey was a sweet and slightly sour twist, but after an initial ‘oh wow!’ we became less convinced by the combination with the overly sweet hazelnut puree which was reminiscent of nutella. I was tempted by the kid liver pate £5.50 maybe next time!

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The fresh tuna tartare with silky green tarragon butter, crisp diced apple & pine kernels (£10) disappeared fast. The juicy roast hake with mini Jersey Royals laced with garlic and smoked paprika was good value at £8.50 and was perfectly cooked, it was a shame we were sharing!

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Next up was the beef onglet steak with wild garlic mayonnaise, it was served quite rare, sliced and laid out on bed of bright green garlicky mayo and fresh raw wild garlic leaves (£9) and was again very moreish. The chorizo in red wine sauce (£6) unlike the flame-charred slices of sausage I’ve come to expect in Spain, came in a tapas dish crammed full of meaty chorizo chunks, sizzled, soaked and softened in a rich onion and red wine sauce.

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A quirky speciality is the Spanish G&T list, but we opted for a reasonably priced glass of Tempranillo red from the extensive wine choices by the glass or bottle, and a non-alcohol Mahou beer. This is a great new place for post-work drinks paired with modern, well priced, innovative tapas. It will be even better in the summer when this really will be a taste of sunny Spain.

Copita del mercado, 60 Wentworth Street, London, E1 7AL

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Fancy a burger?

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Proper Burgers Mucho Macho

A good burger has to be a lip-smacking, sticky fingered, messy-plated feast. If you’re not wearing it, you’re not enjoying it. So we had a good time pulling together this post – it wasn’t a hardship! We’ve listed our favourites, but let us know if we are missing yours.

Proper Burgers, 706 Lea Bridge Road, E10 6AW. We’d been hearing positive murmurs about a new kid in the Stow – Proper Burgers in Leyton so we headed there last bank holiday Monday but it was closed. Not to be defeated we tried again this weekend. It’s like stepping into a Jamie Oliver TV set – open plan kitchen, designer lightbulbs, typewriter in the corner, light airy and modern. Not what you’d expect to find on Lea Bridge Road. They cook from scratch which is good but means a 20 minute wait. The ‘Mucho Macho’ special (£7.95) was a magnificent tower of chicken breast, roasted peppers, cheese, fiery jalepenos, nachos and salad, it certainly was Mucho! The other foodie declared her Proper Burger (£5.95) “too big to eat politely” – two 4oz beef patties with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, fried onions and relish. We loved the bottled chilli sauce – homemade, fresh and spicy with a good kick. A choice of starters, sides and desserts from £2.50. All the food is Halal, and as they don’t serve alcohol there’s a fab selection of soft drinks including Dalston Cola, Luscombe’s juices, coffees and mocktails. I’d like to see slightly more choice for vegetarians and maybe a fishy option too, but otherwise – definitely worth a visit! (No FSA score yet).

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Proper Burgers open plan kitchen diner

The Bell, 617 Forest Road, E17 4NE. I love our local pub’s The Bell Beef Burger, but also their veggie Spicy Bean Burger alternative. Both come with a homemade slaw, pickles and chips for about £9.50 with the option of adding a choice of different toppings including goats or blue cheese. Comforting, reliable and homemade. They recently won CAMRA’s East London pub of the year 2015; Burger and Beer – what more is there to say!  (FSA 4 score, 19/01/15)

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The Bell’s Spicy Bean Burger

The Castle, 15 Grosvenor Rise East, E17 9LB. Another good pub burger – The Castle Burger comes with gherkins and salad stuff and chips (£9.50 / £10.50 with cheese or bacon options). They also do a homemade veggie Beetroot & Quinoa Burger with goats cheese (£8.50). Decently priced and tasty, but I always feel the plate is lacking a salad or slaw.  Still, great place to sit back, relax and while away an afternoon. (FSA 4 score, 22/08/14)

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The Castle Burger

Turtle Bay,  The Scene, 269 High Street, E17 7FD.  We’ve enjoyed burgers from their Lights & Lunches menu. A choice of Pulled Jerk Chicken or Pork Bun or the best of both in the Street Burger, beef pattie plus spicy pulled jerk pork. All good value at £6.95 including Caribbean slaw and fries or salad. (No FSA score yet).

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Turtle Bay’s Street Burger

Le Delice, 114 Hoe Street, E17 4QR. Worth a mention for being the only place offering a homemade Fish Burger, white fish in panko breadcrumbs served in a bun with salad & trimmings and our favourite spicy handcut chips, all for a bargain £6.50. They also do beef or chicken burgers for the same price, all Halal. We’re looking forward to trying out the new Le Delice cafe in Lloyd Park very soon. (FSA 5 score, 10/02/15)

Eat 17, 30 Orford Road, E17 9NJ. Finally, the most pricey option, Buttermilk Chicken Burger with slaw & aloili, or Cheeseburger with Eat 17 Bacon Jam both served with triple cooked chips and coming in at £12 each. They also have a burger bar in their Chatsworth Road, Hackney, shop and restaurant. (FSA 5 score, 22/04/15)

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Eat 17 Cheeseburger

 

 

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Village Kitchen Restaurant, E17

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Do you have days in the week that if you don’t prepare ahead for, you’ll never eat? Well Wednesday and Thursday are those days for us. We often have something quick late at night, but if we are ahead of the game, a quiche or pie is assigned to these nights and sits patiently on the reserve lines in the freezer – often it remains there when we forget to defrost it!

It’s always tempting to grab a takeaway or fall into a familiar restaurant. This is often a mistake as we’re usually too tired to enjoy the experience and it’s expensive when all we need  is something quick and tasty but certainly not gastronomic!  A few Wednesdays ago we were in the same old pickle, but the added excuse for eating out was that I was in the ‘dowdy dumps’, so the Village Kitchen was suggested as the relief to a pretty awful day.

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With bad mood in tow, we walked in to be shown a table that just wasn’t right. I’m very specific about where I want to sit and the table offered felt like being in a corridor – well it was to be honest. I just wanted to leave and go home. But the staff were helpful and we were given a much better table in the quiet back room of the restaurant. With ‘tablegate’ out of the way, the focus quickly moved to the menu. Interestingly we went entirely for the specials, we shared a generous portion of duck livers on toast (£7). Followed up by three large spinach and mushroom VK Falafels – think more bread-crumbed croquettes – served on a bed of crunchy green beans with a tomato salsa (£11), and a veal steak with fresh baby vegetables, micro herbs, roasted vine tomatoes and red wine sauce (£16). We added a portion of hand-cut chips. The veal, cooked pink, was so good I refused to share.

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After such a dismal start to the evening, this turned out to be a lovely rescue meal. We’ve heard good things about the Sunday Roast, so we’ll be back to check these out! And the pot of jelly sweets that came with the bill made me smile all the way home.

Village Kitchen, 41 Orford Road, Walthamstow, E17 9NL
FSA scores – 5, last inspected 12 March 2014

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Moroccan-style spiced preserved tangerines

DSCN8180Tangerines, satsumas, mandarins, clementines… boxes of these little oranges look so beautiful when they arrive in the Turkish supermarkets.  We bought a whole box recently, but after eating a handful every day for lunch we were beginning to tire of them. We considered tangerine marmalade, tangerine cheesecake, tangerine-glazed chicken, carrot and tangerine salad, and even tangerine cocktails.

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Then I remembered a conversation at the E17 Cook Book Club about how easy it was to make preserved lemons. After flicking through a selection of Middle Eastern cook books for recipes we decided to have a bash at something new:

Moroccan-style spiced preserved tangerines.

Ingredients:
10-15 tangerines
200g coarse sea salt
1 cinnamon stick
3-4 allspice
3-4 cloves
1 or 2 cardamon pods
1-2cm piece dried ginger
1-2cm piece of dried turmeric
lemon juice

Method:
First sterilise a large glass jar and lid on a hot cycle in the dishwasher or washing in hot soapy water and filling for a few minutes with boiling water. Then dry thoroughly.

Wash the tangerines to remove any waxy residue and all those little stickers, then slice the fruit into wedges. Next grind the spices in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar (if you’re feeling strong) into a fine powder.

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Now sprinkle a generous layer of salt in the bottom of the jar and a teaspoon of spices. Add a layer of tangerine wedges and press down gently to release the juices. Sprinkle another layer of salt and spices, and then top with another layer of fruit. Don’t worry about the measurements, just keep on layering until the jar is full, making sure you are salting and packing them tightly.

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Top up the jar with lemon juice if needed to cover all the fruit. Close the lid tightly and shake the jar. Store the jar somewhere cool and dark for about a month, shaking when you remember, to distribute the salt and spices. Feel free to experiment with the spices, you could try chilli, bay leaves, black peppercorns or coriander seeds. Or you could try other citrus fruits such as lemon slices, regular oranges or grapefruit. They can be stored in the fridge for at least six months.

After a month you will have soft, fragrant tangerines to use in sweet or savoury dishes where you want a citrus hit. You could add them to meaty tagines, blitz them into salad dressings and sauces, or try substituting them in Middle Eastern recipes where spiced, preserved lemons are used. They’ll go into a great marinade for roasting a duck or chicken, or served as an accompaniment to a mature cheese. I can imagine them going well in a roast root-veg rice pilaf rice or couscous with raisins, apricots and toasted nuts… or even into a dark, rich chocolate cake!

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Provender – Wanstead, E11

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We kicked off this weekend with a lunch at Provender cafe & brasserie in leafy Wanstead E11, although confusingly I had actually booked a brunch table at Providores in Marylebone. Arriving at 12.15pm we found the place quiet after the breakfast service, which was fortunate after my table booking mix-up.

Provender is authentically French – the food, the staff, the service, the smart modern brasserie decor of exposed brick walls and charcoal wool upholstery with chunky cushions. So if you fancy a French bistro fix then this place is the real deal – cheaper and quicker than getting a Eurostar train to Paris. We went for the frequently changing Prix Fixe Menu (2 course £11.75 or 3 course £15.25 plus £3 supplement for steak) available Monday to Saturday.

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The Rilette d’Oie et Porc – potted goose, duck & pork with celeriac remoulade, cornichon pickles and toasts; the pate was mild and the accompanying  remoulade was light and fresh. The generous portion of Buisson de Crevettes Fumees – ten Maldon smoked shell on prawns with a lemon aïoli was a highlight. Served cold the prawns were strong and smoky. Other options were a truffle oil celeriac soup or grilled goats cheese and beetroot salad which provoked a bit of plate envy of a neighbouring table.

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We were both in the mood for steak, but alternatives were fish and chips, confit chicken or Gorgonzola risotto. ‘Steak Frites, Bearnaise’ – grilled Flat Iron steak also known as a top blade steak is a popular new cut. Cooked rare as requested, it was rich and bold but the presentation could have been improved if it had been sliced on the plate. The frites were addictive dipped into the rich bearnaise sauce.

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Finally after too much rich food we decided to share a Mousse au Chocolat – bitter chocolate mousse and a warm home made madelaine. The mousse was light and fluffy, sprinkled with cocoa nibs and went down quickly accompanied by a strong black coffee. Also available were a delicious-looking Creme Caramel with confit orange prunes, a Berry Eton Mess or a generous cheeseboard of farmhouse St Nectaire ‘cheese of the day’ with quince jelly and crackers.

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Recommend this place if you want a taste of Gallic cooking at a modest price. The set menu is  a bargain but expect to pay more for the a la carte. Efficient service, smart but informal surroundings, a wide choice of soft drinks and a long wine list by the glass, carafe or bottle are a real draw, plus the W12 bus goes right past the door.

Provender, 17 High Street, Wanstead, London, E11 2AA

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For the love of tea

DSCN8132I drink a lot of tea, mainly the herbal variety. I stopped drinking alcohol well over a year ago so I’m always on the lookout for interesting and flavoursome drinks. Chai tea was a recent revelation as was Tamarind sherbet. I find it’s still difficult to get a decent drink in a bar that isn’t diet Coke but our European neighbours think nothing to drinking pots of fragrant teas and choosing from a vast selection of non-alcoholic beers. I do wish that we would adopt this culture in the UK. Redemption, the first alcohol-free bar opened in London last year, however this was just a pop-up so I’m eagerly awaiting news that they may become a permanent establishment.

The new cafe, Indulgence on Hoe Street, Walthamstow serves a wide selection of amazing teas from the Massis Tea range. As well as lovely tea there is a bit of theatrical presentation which involves a minute timer and a clear jug that you have to allow to stand and brew, which when you move over to your cup miraculously empties – I guess that it all adds to the experience and makes it a real treat!

IMG00667-20141219-1442I’m also driven to tea as a more therapeutic alternative to my desperate fantasy of a mallet to the head for occasional insomnia. I’ve found the Pukka Night Time tea, an organic blend of oat flower tops, lavender, licorice and limeflower does help.

I’m very loyal to Pukka teas so was slightly reticent to try a newbie in the world of night time tea, Good Night tea from Tea Huggers, a small tea business based in Crouch End, North London. Well, look out Pukka, because this tea rocks – well it rocks me to sleep. Perhaps it’s the amazing blend of rooibos, lavender, elderberries, rosehip, orange peel, apple, hibiscus petals and lemon balm that did the trick. We also tried their Flu Fighter tea – hibiscus, apple, rosehip, orange, echinacea and elderflower – which is full of flavour and Vitamin C so your immune system’s best friend and in the words of Tea Huggers ‘TLC in a mug’!  They’re now in stock at the SPAR on Orford Road, E17. I’ve also read on their tea blog about cold brew tea – a fab idea for the approaching summer months.

DSCN8136I’m also a big fan of green tea. As well as being anti-aging, rich in antioxiants and Vitamin B, folate and other good things, it is allegedly beneficial for aiding weight loss, reducing cholesterol and combating heart diseases. So I’ll be trying Tea Huggers’ Ever Green with Chinese green tea, apple, lime leaves and thyme. I also love Kandula Tea – especially their spicy Mango Green Tea Infusion which is served in one of my favourite cafes outside of  Walthamstow, Route at Dalston Junction. All this talk of tea has made me thirsty, it’s time to pop the kettle on…

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* Disclaimer- thanks to TeaHuggers for the introduction to their teas.

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Cinnamon Kitchen, Liverpool Street

DSCN8009DSCN8011We both have a passion for Indian cooking, but ordering in a takeaway curry or popping out for tandoori lamb chops, however good they taste,  just wasn’t going to cut it for a 40th birthday celebration. So off we headed to Cinnamon Kitchen – a sleek and stylish, award-winning restaurant serving creative, modern Indian food. Hidden away in an old East India warehouse in Devonshire Square in Spitalfields, amongst the hustle and bustle of the City, it’s the laid back sibling of Vivek Singh’s celebrated The Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Soho.

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Appetizers – spiced lentil cake with tamarind relish

We opted for the £40 four course taster menu, promising a tour around the regions and flavours of India. Starting in the Eastern Bengali cuisine with a focus on vegetables and subtle and slightly sweet flavours, the spiced beetroot cake was crispy and well-cooked, but a bit boring.

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Bengali spiced vegetable cake

Things certainly improved from there onwards, the Keralan fish was a fillet of sea bream deliciously spiced with chilli, curry leaf and mustard seeds, delicately roasted in a banana leaf and served with a fresh coconut sambal. Kerala cuisine from South Western India is known for its rich, spicy flavours tempered with coconut and tamarind.

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Kerala spiced sea bream grilled in banana leaf parcel

The show stopper however was the main course which was amazing. I don’t usually  choose lamb, it’s too fatty for me, but the lean, smoked saddle of Kentish lamb was rich and gamey. I would have sworn it was venison (which they also serve). The cooking is more French in style – searing and slicing the meat and serving it on a reduced sauce, but the flavours and Rajasthani corn sauce are authentically North Indian. I’m still dreaming about it and would happily go back just for that dish.

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Smoked saddle of Kentish lamb with Rajasthani corn sauce and pilau rice

Finally, the smooth and sweet ginger panna cotta was creamy and delicate with a crispy, ginger crumble. A lighter finish than the traditional sticky, syrupy Indian sweets.

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Stem ginger panna cotta

The contemporary decor mixes intricate lampshades and dark leather seating with bare floors and exposed industrial pipes in a mammoth warehouse space. The service is polite, informative and hyper-efficient. But essentially, come for the familiar curries and tandoori grills that they’ve taken, twisted, and re-thought to offer something new and unexpected.

Cinnamon Kitchen – 9 Devonshire Square, London, EC2M 4YL

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Roasted red grape chutney

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Red grapes beginning to shrivel…

I don’t know why, but every time I walk past the Turkish supermarkets I seem to be drawn in to buy a big bunch of grapes. Despite the protests of the other foodie, I promise to definitely eat them this time… and then I never do. They sit in the fruit bowl slowly shriveling and making me feel guilty. So this week I decided to roast the grapes into a quick chutney to serve with a cheeseboard.

This easy Roasted Red Grape Chutney goes well with any strong flavoured cheese, especially a mature goats cheese, or even served with sausages or roast chicken. It keeps in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

You need:

500g red or black seedless grapes (approx)
2 generous tbsp good quality olive oil
1-2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or 1-2 tsp dried rosemary

Method:

In a large oven-proof dish simply combine all the ingredients, tossing the grapes around to make sure they’re all covered in oil, herbs and seasoning. You could vary the flavours, maybe adding Turkish chilli flakes, or swapping rosemary for oregano or thyme.

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Combine all the ingredients

Heat your oven to 220 C / Gas 7. Roast the grapes for 45 minutes – 1 hour, shaking them occasionally, until the grapes burst and the grape juice begins to thicken.

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Shake occasionally to stop them burning

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Your finished sticky result

As they roast the natural sugars in the grapes caramelizes, the fruit softens and the flavour intensifies, developing into a jammy chutney. Leave them to cool slightly, then transfer to a glass jar, seal tightly and keep in the fridge.

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Serve with your favourite cheese

 

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Our top ten+ takeaways in Walthamstow – updated Spring 2015

 

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This was quite a controversial post when we published it in January last year. We didn’t realise how passionate our readers are about their favourite weekend takeaway places.  Well one year later things have changed in the Stow with more eateries than ever and of course more takeaway places. We still haven’t been to Bonners – stop shouting please! – despite your cry that they are the best fish and chip shop in Walthamstow. We have however listened to your number one Thai recommendation – O’Cha Thai and really regret not trying their food sooner – we’ve definitely been missing out.

As you’ll see, we have dusted off our original Top Ten recommends, added a few more and removed two places. Food safety is extremely important to us, so we try to only recommend places with a 3 plus Food Hygiene Rating score as awarded by the Food Standards  Agency, the regulatory body for the food industry. We have added the FSA score next to each place listed to give more confidence in our recommendations and save you having to check!

These are our own personal choices and in no particular order.

O’Cha Thai 60 Billet Road, E17 5DN, 5 score FSA
A popular, well recommended place delivering fragrant Thai dishes using good quality ingredients. Portions are on the small side, so order lots if you’re starving!

Five Star Fish Bar, 442 Forest Road, E17 4PY, 4 score FSA
Really like this friendly fish bar. They have haddock to order, lunchtime specials and freshly cooked chips.

Le Delice, 114 Hoe Street, E17 4QR, 5 score FSA
Good pizza, grills and tagines. Loads of lovely cakes and they specialise in made to order birthday cakes. We especially like the Pizza Le Delice – goats cheese, mushroom, spinach, artichoke and sun-dried tomatoes. Free delivery over £10.

Razmins, 22 Hoe Street,E17 4PH, 5 score FSA
Good Indian takeaway – tandooris, biryani and all your favourite curries. Very popular with our friends. Collection and delivery.

Peppe’s Pizza Rose & Crown pub, 53 Hoe Street, E17 4SA, 5 score FSA
Still a favourite despite the wait, and probably the best pizza in the Stow!  A mobile stall outside the pub with a real wood-fired oven. Large, handmade authentic Italian pizza. Good selection of classic and gourmet choices from £5-£8 including our favourite Mamma Rosaria – asparagus, artichoke, speck ham, parmigiana plus truffle oil. Weds, Thurs & Fri from 7pm. Wait and collect only – or eat it in the pub!

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New Dragon Inn 57 Hoe Street, E17 4SA, 5 score FSA
Next door to the Rose & Crown. Chinese takeaway menu including tofu and vegetable dishes. The roast duck with vegetables is particularly good. Dishes between £5-£8. Dinner boxes are excellent value for money. The food is fresh and hot. Open 7 days a week from 5pm. Collection takes about 10 minutes, delivery in about 40 mins.

Woo Lot 592 Lea Bridge Road, E10 7DN, 5 score FSA
Well, yes technically it is just over the road into Leyton at Bakers Arms. Wide range of Chinese dishes, cheap (around £5), big portions, efficient service and friendly staff. Eat-in or takeaway. (Not to be confused with Woo on Forest Road) Open 12 – late, Mon-Sat, from 4pm on Sun. Delivery from 5.30pm.

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Teras 117 Wood Street, E17 3LL, 3 score FSA
Family-run Turkish charcoal BBQ restaurant and takeaway. Lovely homemade dishes, cooked freshly to order including meze, pide, grilled kebabs and oven-baked dishes. Friendly and welcoming staff and beautiful decor reminiscent of a night out in Istanbul. Main dishes from £7 including bread and salad. Open daily from 12 noon.

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Istanbul 154 Hoe Street, E17 4QH, 5 score FSA
Another good authentic Turkish restaurant and takeaway. Homemade daily stews, lamacun and set-price lunches. Good range of grilled meats including a counter full of fresh kebabs and 2 doners. Ice-cream parlour attached. ‘Best Kebab Shop of the Year’ Finalist in the British Kebab Awards 2013.

Neelam’s Sweet Centre 492 Hoe Street, E17 9AH, 4 score FSA
Near Baker’s Arms end of Hoe Street. Wide range of homemade sweets, jalebi and kulfi. We rave for the vegetable pakoras bought by weight. Vegetable curries for takeaway or eat-in. Open daily from lunch time.

Central Chick Cottage 230 Hoe Street, E17 3AY, 4 score FSA
Popular for chicken and chips, but we come here for the Mauritian and Indian curries. Chicken, lamb, vegetable curries and dhal from £3-4.50. Weekend biryani specials. Fresh naan bread baked in the tandoori oven only 50p each. Open daily until late.

The Brothers Fish Bar 122 Wood Street, E17 3HX, 5 score FSA
Serving fresh fish and chips in Wood Street for 50 years. Good quality and traditional – they peel and chip their own potatoes and serve fresh battered fish. Decent prices and friendly service. Opening hours Mon-Sat, 12-9pm.

Out of E17 but worth mentioning for the quality and they deliver to E17:

  • The Tiffin Tin 4 Station Parade, High Street, Wanstead, E11 1QF, 5 score FSA
    Real Indian dishes, first-class quality takeaway – even Giles Coren raves for their food!
  • Sumo Fresh 141 High Street, Wanstead, E11 2RL, 5 score FSA
    Japanese restaurant serving fresh sushi and traditional dishes. Free delivery on orders over £20.20140118_130640(1)

If your favourite takeaway’s missing from our list, let us know and we’ll try to check it out.

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Froth & Rind – cheese and beer in the village

DSCN8022We’re really happy that a particularly sexy combo of artisan cheese and craft beer – East London Cheese Board and E17 Tap Rooms got together to offer another new shop to the people of the Stow – Froth & Rind.

We love cheese and have been regular visitors to the garden at Bygga Bo, the Swedish coffee shop near The Bell, where the cheese guys have been selling from for the past year or so. Now their new shop is just too tempting, I’m finding it impossible to resist popping in to pick up a generous chunk of Ribblesdale goats cheese or a whole Vacherin on my way through the village on a Wednesday evening – not to mention the draw of the crepes that are cooked up on a Saturday, courtesy of award winning Les Deux Amies.

DSCN8025Anthony Bourdain said, “You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.”

We really like the passion that Mark and Fraser have for cheese and I could talk ‘cheese’ for far longer than a quick pop to the shop should allow! They are keen to sell artisan cheese from small batches and assure me that factory flavoured, coloured and fruit cheese (you know the soapy tasting ones) won’t be given house room. There’s often a great local cheese from urban cheesemaker Wildes Cheese in Tottenham. They also serve a choice of cheeseboards to nibble while you sip on a craft beer or a good coffee, plus you can pick up something sweet from another local foodie Eva Homemade. I love this place despite the pleading from my ever increasing waistline!

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Froth & Rind – 37 Orford Road, Walthamstow, E17 9NL

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Birthday Banana Bread – let’s see how this turns out!

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Birthday Banana Bread

I’ve never tried to bake a banana bread before – so maybe experimenting whilst needing to create a birthday cake wasn’t the best idea! After a lovely slice at Wynwood Art District cafe last weekend, I was inspired by some over ripened bananas and some forgotten cupboard ingredients. It’s risen beautifully, looks delicious (if I say so myself) and smells yummy. Now it’s cooling and teasing me… I won’t be able to try it until the Birthday girl gets home.

You need:

140g buckwheat flour
70g rye, spelt or plain wholemeal flour
70g coconut flour
2 eggs
5 bananas (old, soft brown-skinned)
120g sugar
15 dates (stones removed)
120ml milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
100g walnuts

Method:

Heat the oven 190 C / Gas Mark 5.

Set 1 whole banana aside.

Add all the rest of the ingredients into a food mixer. Blend until smooth with no bits – especially from the dates.

Spoon the batter into a lined 2lb loaf baking tin. Slice the whole banana lengthways and place on top of the cake, glaze with a drizzle of honey.

Bake for 40 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Eat warm or cool with ice cream, custard or just a big mug of coffee.

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Yoghurt waffles

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A cupboard full of gadgets

Do you have a cupboard full of kitchen gadgets? We do – the rice cooker, slow cooker, pressure cooker, deep fat fryer, juicer, whisk, blender… this Christmas we got an electronic waffle-maker too.

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A waffle-maker is for life, not just for Christmas!

We tried it out straight away but were less than happy with the results. So, determined to make sure the waffle maker wasn’t lost to the back of the cupboard we decided to try another waffle recipe. Someone recommended Norwegian chef Signe Johansen’s yoghurt waffles so we started searching for the recipe. We dug into her fabulous ‘Scandilicious’ cook book, but no sign of waffles…

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Signe Johansen’s Norwegian baking cook book

After a bit of Google searching we found what we were looking for and after a bit of amendment here’s the waffle recipe. We used Turkish yoghurt rather than buttermilk and swapped the whole milk in Signe’s recipe for soya milk.

Yoghurt Waffles (makes enough for 3-4 people)

You need:

230g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
70g sugar
70g butter
70ml water
150g Turkish yoghurt
100ml milk / soya milk
2 free-range eggs
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
Pinch sea salt

Method:

Melt the butter and leave to cool. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, and add the sugar and a pinch of sea salt.  Next add the butter, yoghurt, eggs,  milk, water and seeds from the vanilla pod. Pop the empty pod into a tub of sugar for delicious vanilla sugar.

Gently, but thoroughly stir together into a smooth batter, then set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes if you can wait that long.  Once rested the batter will be thick and bubbly. Heat the waffle-maker, when hot spoon a ladleful of batter on to the iron. Close it tight and cook for about 6 minutes, depending on your waffle-maker and how crispy you like your waffles.

We were happy with the results this time – luxuriously sweet and rich with the flavour of vanilla coming through; fluffy and light inside and crisp on the outside. They were delicious served hot with a generous dollop of homemade berry jam. They stored well for a couple of days in an air tight tin.

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Waffles for breakfast – they didn’t last long!

 

 

 

 

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Lazeez Lebanese Tapas – Marylebone

Lazeez Tapas – casual Lebanese dining

Just around the corner from Selfridges is Lazeez Tapas, a quiet place to grab a drink and some authentic Lebanese street food after a day of shopping on Oxford Street. Lazeez Tapas is set over two floors with a large pavement seating area popular with shisha pipe smokers. The menu offers a selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes with an emphasis on sharing. There’s a good selection of juices, cocktails and Lebanese wines.

We started with the homemade houmous which was light and fresh and we’d soon wiped the bowl clean. The manager recommended the mixed meze which at about £15pp consisted of crispy lamb borek, tabbouleh & salad, rice-stuffed vine leaves, delicious falafel, more houmous and a lamb or chicken kebab. This came served with Lebanese flat bread, a rich aubergine ‘moussaka’, zingy pickles and dips. We drew the meal to a close with sticky baklava and a big pot of fresh mint tea.

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Homemade houmous

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The mixed meze plate for one!

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Zingy pickled cucumber, turnip and chillies

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Rich aubergine moussaka

Considering its location in the heart of London this is a taste of Lebanon at a reasonable price. It’s popular with locals and tourists who seem to be willing to pay £30 for a shisha pipe. Lazeez Tapas is open daily from 11.30am offering breakfast egg dishes, lunchtime snacks and wraps, through to dinner, late night coffees and cocktails until midnight.

Lazeez Tapas, 29 Duke St, London W1U 1LH

*Disclaimer: we were invited to review Lazeez Tapas as their guests.

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Turtle Bay – Walthamstow

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Turtle Bay’s Rum Bar

Turtle Bay, is the newly opened Caribbean restaurant and bar loudly dominating the corner site of The Scene cinema complex, at the top of Walthamstow’s High Street. Interestingly the owner of Turtle Bay is Ajith Jayawickrema, also the founder of Las Iguanas and investor in Grillstock, the next restaurant due to open on this site.  Turtle Bay is a popular chain nationwide but this is their first in East London.

Their opening in early January was a boisterous night; loud DJ’s, delicious cocktails, enthusiastic staff and spicy party food. We went back on an average Friday evening to see if it lives up to the buzz, and more importantly for us, to get a real taste of the food. This is definitely not the place for a quiet romantic night out, but it stirs up holiday fantasies of warm summer nights on a Caribbean island. Helping to paint this picture is a jerk street food shack, colourful shipping containers, loud reggae and decent rum cocktails. The Jamaican Mule – spiced rum, fresh lime & homemade ginger beer was way too drinkable!

The service is eager and friendly once you get past the door staff, and our ‘server for tonight’ was keen to recommend dishes and drinks. There is a busy bar in the centre of the ground floor where cocktails (2 for 1 every night 12-7pm & 10-12pm) and small snack plates called ‘cutters’ are served plus there are numerous tables around the open kitchen. There is more seating upstairs for at least 30 more diners –  great for a birthday or  event.

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Kitchen hard at work on a Friday night

The food like the decor is fun, loud and affordable. We went with the recommended Trini Doubles – 2 puffed roti with curried chickpeas, cucumber chutney & coconut  and Jerk Pit Ribs – marinated, grilled pork ribs with a sour orange chutney (both £4.95). I think our Trinidadian sister-in-law would approve of the Doubles (her Trini chicken puffs is still one of the most popular recipes on this blog!). The ribs were spicy and soft but the chutney tasted like a gooey marmalade mistake. The hot pepper and jerk sauces on the table were not homemade which is not surprising for a chain but disappointing.

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Trini Doubles

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Sauces & cocktails

The One Pots – curries and stews with rice & peas were tempting, but we decided on Escovitch Fish – whole baked bream in a sauce of tomatoes, scotch bonnet chilli & peppers, with salad, and swapped the rice ‘n’ peas for sweet potato fries (£12.50) and the Double Dipped jerk rump steak with Caribbean slaw and  more sweet potato fries (£14.25).

The fish was well-cooked, moist and fleshy and the fries were a real hit, we’d go back just for them on a cold Friday night!  The steak was cooked as requested, medium-rare, but the spice overwhelmed the flavours of the meat and we felt the portion was small for the price.

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Escovitch Fish – not easy to say, easier to eat!

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Double Dipped Steak

We loved the puddings especially the spiced chocolate pot with coconut ice cream, and BBQ pineapple with a rum caramel sauce (£4.85). A rum and coffee finished the meal perfectly.

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BBQ Pineapple

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Chocolate Pot

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Rum and coffee – happy days

So what’s the verdict? We are predicting that this place will remain jammed as it appeals to a diverse range of people and serves decent, spicy food at accessible prices. From the ‘lights’ menu you could have a burger, slaw and fries for £6.95 and 2 for 1 cocktails so a night out for less than £25.  It’s a good addition to the Walthamstow night scene, we’ll be back for more cocktails and those sweet potato fries but we’ll certainly have to book!

Turtle Bay Walthamstow, The Scene, 269 High Street, London E17 7FD

*Disclaimer: we were invited to review Turtle Bay as their guests.

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Dabbous – Whitfield Street, London

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Homemade sourdough bread, butter flaked with sea-salt & big green nocellara olives

Dabbous, in central London, launched in 2012 to rave reviews. It was quickly impossible to get a table, with a year-long waiting list, especially after winning it’s first Michelin star in 2013. But it’s not about formal fine dining; the decor is like an industrial workshop – battleship greys, rough plaster walls, cold steel scaffolding pipes, bare wood and concrete. There’s no linen tablecloths or flowers, the service is calm and friendly, and wines are served by the carafe. The dining room is on the ground floor, while downstairs is a bar where the well-dressed  drink cocktails.

So, how good is it?

The chef, Oliver Dabbous, trained under Raymond Blanc and worked at The Fat Duck and Noma. The food is balanced, carefully thought-out with a focus on the ingredients rather than fancy foams. The 4 course set menu lunch is short, simple and seasonal, and a real bargain at £32.

We kicked off with a healthy plate of shaved raw celeriac, muscat grapes & toasted hazelnuts and the alternative starter of iced raw scallop with eucalyptus – a savoury granita idea, not entirely convinced but definitely an experience. A dense acorn flour noodles in a rich duck & fenugreek broth  with garlic chive flowers followed. One foodie declared it was ‘lick the bowl’ good while the other really disliked it – bit of a marmite experience, I’d say!

Perfectly cooked, poached cod with warm potted shrimps on a bed of potato puree, pea shoots and a fish broth was the highlight dish. Light and delicious. The roast pink veal fillet with autumnal vegetables & a cheese broth was well executed and interestingly topped with nutty, thinly sliced raw mushrooms.

We felt the burrata and tamarillo: a creamy mozzarella with caraway and a slice of sweet, roasted tomato-like tamarillo was ok, but steep at a £5 supplement. But we both loved the dessert of a miniature warm fig & honey cake, and a chilled, frothed rice milk infused with fig leaves. We’ve been determined ever since to recreate this simple dish at home. Finally, chilli-infused, gold bullion bar chocolates ended the meal perfectly!

So why was it so special? Probably the fact that we’re still talking about it. It was a real treat to be able to have a very ‘London’ foodie experience without a massive bill …. maybe we’ll go back for the eight course tasting menu next time!

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Shaved celeriac

Iced raw scallop

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Acorn flour noodles in duck & fenugreek broth

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Poached cod & warm potted shrimps

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Roast veal fillet with autumn vegetables & a cheese broth

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Burrata & tamarillo

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Fig & honey cake, with a chilled rice milk

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Finally, chilli-infused, gold bullion bar chocolates!

Dabbous, 39 Whitfield Street, London, W1T 2SF

Dabbous on Urbanspoon

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Hipster hangouts – the changing food scene in Palma de Mallorca

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La Seu – Palma Cathedral

Palma, the capital city of the Spanish island of Mallorca has changed over recent years and eating out now has become an amazing culinary experience which really took us by surprise. There’s a tidal wave of Peruvian ceviche, Japanese fusion and slow-poached truffle eggs.

When we stayed here about 7 years ago we froze in the Hostal Cuba, it was a cheap and friendly but cold and old-style Spanish hostal in the traditional fishermen’s area. Now it’s a boutique hotel complete with a roof terrace, restaurant and bar in the trendy Santa Catalina district.

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Hostal Cuba in Santa Catalina

This gentrification has brought the arrival of hipster hangouts across Palma – it’s like Hackney, Dalston and Barcelona, all bearded guys who ride white racing bikes and drink aeropress coffees. We especially liked La Molienda serving designer coffees, cakes and gourmet teas which happened to be just across the road from our apartment.

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La Molienda – Carrer de les Caputxines

The Room (Calle Cotoner, 47) is a Santa Catalina pasticerria and restaurant with informal cafe decor and friendly staff. Their lunchtime menu offers 3 courses for 14 . We opted for a cream of cauliflower and cheese soup decorated with steamed greeen beans, drizzled with a rich olive oil, followed by a homemade pasta with a veal ragu, and desserts of banoffee tart and cheese cake accompanied by a glass of Mallorcan red wine.

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Veal ragu @ The Room

Across the street is Bros, a Skandi decor restaurant / cafe with bearded hipster staff in designer aprons. Their seasonal foodie menu of the week is only 12.90 €. From the 4 starters and mains offered, we chose the goats cheese salad with piquillo peppers, and the gooey aubergine stuffed with cheese & tomato with a sticky red wine & onion reduction. For mains, the risotto of courgette & shrimp and the grilled pork loin & potatoes with mushroom salsa were well executed. We greedily polished off a rich chocolate fondant with chocolate ice cream.

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Seasonal menu @ Bros

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Shrimp & Courgette risotto @ Bros

When we arrived in Palma a local friend recommended the new Toque de Queda (Can Cavalleria, 15B) a deli / bar in an historical oven bakery ‘Forn Cremat’. It was so good we went twice. They specialise in local and Mediterranean platters of meats and cheeses and tapas served with cristal tomato bread. They are part of the wave of restaurants reinventing tapas aimed at the new young locals with money looking for the Barcelona lifestyle.

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A 1/2 racion mixed platter, cristal bread and oven roasted potatoes @ Toque de Queda

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Hot Provolone cheese with mushrooms @ Toque de Queda

Another new bar on the scene is Can Trispol, (Travessa Den Ballester, 6) named after a local Mallorcan red wine. They specialise in llonguets – an artisan bread traditional to Palma. Here they are served filled with anything from quinoa veggie burgers to smoked salmon, cheese and jamon. They boast using local products from the market including the Mallorcan Pep lemonade.

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Newly opened Can Trispol

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Mallorcan hand-made Pep Lemon

Even the stalls in the old market halls in de l’Olivar and Santa Catalina have been given a makeover following in the fashion of the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid and now are a hive of drinking and eating. Street food, tapas and pintxos is served from small kiosks and stalls. So if you fancy a foodie weekend or longer, Palma is an exciting place to be.

Now get me back to London – I’m dying for a good curry!

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Fibonacci coffee stall @ Mercat de l’Olivar

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E17 Cook Book Club – 28 January, Spanish theme

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Our next E17 Cook Book Club get-together will be on 28 January 2015, 8pm in the back room at The Bell, 617 Forest Road, E17 4 NE.

The concept for the Cook Book Club is simple: it’s a foodie social evening, each person brings some themed food to share and buy drinks at the bar. The theme for 28 January is Spanish food. We now have a Facebook page, E17 Cook Book Club, so we can all discuss and see in advance who wants to cook and bring what to avoid a glut of cakes as happened at our last one!

Everyone is welcome to join us, just turn up at 8pm. The plan is to meet every 6 weeks and for it to be … well… fun!

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Last minute Christmas food shopping in the Stow

20130522_185627[1]I love to be organised, so you’d think that all our Christmas food shopping would be in hand. Well it’s not. I’ve just started a new job and seem to be spending a lot of time travelling up and down the country, so playing Santa has been neglected this year. But all is not lost. Although I’ll be working right up to the big day I know that our wonderful shops in the Stow won’t let me down.

I thought that I’d share, as we often get asked, some of the places where we’ll be shopping including some of the less obvious shops that we love. This year the meat will be Yorkshire game from home, but last year we bought a duck and an organic chicken from the Sunday Farmers Market. We’ll be picking up some home-smoked salmon from Davies Fishmongers at Bakers Arms – they can also supply fresh lobster and crab if ordered in advance.

DSCN6156We’ll probably get our favourite merguez sausages from Maghreb on Hoe Street as an alternative to pigs in blankets. It’s also the best place for dates to wrap in bacon – a great tapas snack.

DSCN0640We have a regular veggie box from Organiclea which we’ll add to from the Veg Hut on Chingford Road. Herbs, fruit and olives will be from the Turkish supermarket, Akdeniz on Hoe Street. DSCN0644Cheese was sorted by a trip on Friday to what will be the new East London Cheese Board shop on Orford Road. For steaks I’ll be popping into the Brazilian butchers Boi na brasa and wine will be from Forest Wines.

DSCN6567I’ve heard about sourdough from Fluffy’s Bakery on Lea Bridge Road so I’ll be off in search of that, although if I run out of time there are many Polish shops selling great rye bread. I’ll be getting sliced meats and cheese from Gulliver’s the Polish deli on the High Street.

With all these amazing and diverse independent producers and traders, I really can’t see the point of all the rushing and queuing in the supermarkets – the little shops always have more unusual and better quality products. All that remains is for us to wish you a safe, happy and healthy Christmas – see you in the New Year!

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Pizza Express – Walthamstow

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Chefs at work at the new Pizza Express Walthamstow

We’ve watched ‘The Scene’ cinema complex develop over the past 15 years on the corner of High Street and Hoe Street, Walthamstow. A WW2 flying bomb first cleared the area in 1944, then the derelict 1960’s concrete arcade was demolished in 2004 leaving a tarmac open space that’s hosted the occasional market, a wonky blue xmas trees and a tiny ice rink over the years. After all the rumours, planning changes, the ‘fight the height’ campaign, false starts, funding problems and scrutiny comittees something finally happened in April 2013.  The JCBs arrived to rip up the tarmac, followed by huge cranes, loads of builders, lorries and mud.

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Start of the work on The Scene

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Beginning to take shape

And now it’s nearly finished … and so we are home to penthouses, apartments, a nine screen cinema and five new shiny restaurants to try although only two are currently open. When we were invited to review the new Pizza Express at first we argued – about our integrity, our independence  – but, hey free pizza on a Friday night proved to be too tempting!

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Mare Rosa pizza

The decor is based on the old Walthamstow Stadium dog track and the cinema theme is reflected in the camera-styled lighting. I’m sure the large seating area outside will be a popular people-watching spot on warmer days. Back indoors, the booths are great for groups of four. We were given a large round table in the centre of the restaurant which was probably meant to be an upgrade on the rather tight tables for two, but the staff use it as a cut-through from the pizza ovens, passing behind with plates of food, which was rather disconcerting.

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Try and bag a booth table

We wanted to try the pork & pancetta croquettes from the Xmas menu but they’d already run out, so they must have been popular. Instead we had the Arancini Provola – risotto balls with spinach & cheese, unfortunately they were a flavourless start to the meal, although the spicy arrabiata sauce they came with was addictive. The antipasti sharing platter of salami, olives, sunblush tomatoes and mozzarella with bread sticks was enjoyable and good value for a group at about £10. However we must admit that we do prefer Sodo’s mozzarella and local cured meats – we’d like to see Pizza Express putting more locally sourced products on the menu.

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The antipasti platter for sharers

The rocket and Gran Moravia (a veggie-friendly parmesan alternative) cheese salad with truffle oil was fighting – some would find it overpowering. Onto the pizzas, the Mare Rosa was generous in it’s toppings of prawn, salmon and broccoli but was under-seasoned while the Francesco Mazzei Calabrese suffered from being too fiery. I love chilli but I found the balance of sweet roasted peppers didn’t work with the hot ‘nduja.

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Fiery Calbrese pizza with ‘nduja

However the desserts brought smiles, especially the little dolcetti served with a coffee, the Cafe Reale mini figs soaked in spiced wine with mascarpone was a great end to the meal.

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Figs & mascapone – dolcetti and coffee to finish

It was a bit odd being asked to review a Pizza Express – surely everyone’s been before, has their opinion and has a favourite pizza already. Ok it’s a chain and limited in being creative or individual, but what’s great about Pizza Express is that it appeals to such a wide range of people and Walthamstow needs that. Everyone was out last Friday night, frazzled mums and kids; old and new Stowers; couples of every nationality, gender and ages; folks celebrating with prosecco and those just sharing a pizza and a couple of cokes. It’s a place for a reliable, happy night out and you know what to expect. There’s always plenty of online vouchers and deals available and it’s commendable for the wide range of gluten-free and less calorie options. Of course we are loyal to Peppe – his pizzas are fantastic, but it’s quicker at Pizza Express and you don’t have to hang around in the pub for 40 minutes (although this isn’t really a hardship!) But Pizza Express suits people who wouldn’t eat out in the pub or don’t have the budget for the restaurants in the village which up until now have been the only options for an evening out in Walthamstow. I’m sure we’ll go again – the staff were lovely and it’s a reasonable price, a convenient location and there’s plenty of choices to work our way through.

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Deals & vouchers!

 

*Disclaimer: we were invited to review Pizza Express as their guests.

Pizza Express Walthamstow
The Scene
265 High Street
London
E17 7FD

Tel: 020 8521 8889

Open daily: 11.30am-11pm (Sun 10pm)

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Tassili – Algerian cafe on Hoe Street

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Tassili Algerian Cafe – Hoe Street, Walthamstow

*Revision – Tassili was awarded a one star score by the Food Standards Agency in November 2014, previously when we visited they had a three score. Original post below.

It’s not a glamorous location – sandwiched between a barbers and a Sri Lankan grocers, opposite the Skoda garage on Hoe Street, so there’s nothing from the outside of Tassili shouting “come in, give us a try!”. But if you’re feeling brave and venture in you’ll find a warm welcome and authentic Algerian dishes. This is our secret Saturday lunch place when we want quick, very cheap, home-cooked food.

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Grilled marinated liver kebabs – £4.50

There’s always a range of fresh fish, tagines and grilled meats. Everything comes served with either homemade chips or spicy rice, plus salad and a warm baguette.

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Snapper & chips

The owner brings fresh fish with him every morning from Billingsgate Market, there’s often tuna steak, swordfish, mackerel and sardines. The portions aren’t enormous but this red snapper only cost us £5.50 and was freshly grilled and tasty.

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Merguez sausages – c £5.00

We’ve had a meatball dish which is broken down and fried with an egg – I’ve forgotten the name but it was delicious.

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The mystery meatball dish

Recently the ‘Loubia b’lham’ was an amazingly comforting white bean stew with lamb – cooked like his mother does, apparently! There’s no menu, just look in the counter and see what you like, and let the owner talk you through what’s cooking. Sometimes there’s some scary stuff – a tripe tagine or other offal offerings. Everything costs around £5.00 including sides and bread, so with drinks and coffees a lunch only ever costs us about £12-13.

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Tagine Djedj b’ Zeitoun – Algerian chicken with olives

It can be a bit of a ‘men’s place’ – we’ve never been brave enough to go in the evening when the football’s playing or try out the pool table in the newly opened back room. We’re often the only women and usually the only non-Algerian customers. But we’re always made welcome by the friendly owner and staff – when we’ve asked for a diet coke or mustard they’ve gone to the shop next door, and we’re left in peace to enjoy our lunch. They also do sandwiches and takeaway.

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Good coffees too!

In August 2013 Tassili scored a ‘4 Good’ in the FSA hygiene ratings.

Open daily 9am – 11pm.

Tassili
134 Hoe Street
Walthamstow
London
E17 4QR

 

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E17 Cook Book Club

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Ever since I heard about Thane Prince’s Cook Book Club in Islington, I thought it was a great idea. Being a bit shy I had put off attending and I wasn’t sure about taking food to complete strangers for their critique – I had a vision of something between Come Dine With Me meets Bake Off! But I had a great evening and plan to go again.

The concept for the Cook Book Club is simple: it’s a foodie social evening, each person brings some food to share and contributes to cover the cost of the venue. The themes or cook books change – I attended the ‘Wild’ night and took a rabbit pate, while other others took foraged fruit jam, bread and potted shrimps.

I raised on Twitter the idea of having a Cook Book Club in Walthamstow and so we launched the E17 Cook Book Club last week at Bygga Bo Cafe. After lots of interest we were worried that it would either be a dismal failure and no one would turn up, or we’d have too many people and run out of space! Thankfully, neither nightmare came true and we had a lovely group of people with a shared interest in food – quite a lot of which turned out to be cakes. Everyone brought along a favourite dish to share and a few bottles of wine helped the evening along.

So we’ve agreed the theme for the next E17 Cook Book Club is ‘Spanish’ and we will be meeting up on Wednesday 28th January 2015 – venue to be decided, everyone is welcome to join us. Again, it will be bring a dish and maybe the recipe or cook book. The plan is to meet every 6 weeks and for it to be … well… fun!

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North Gran Canaria restaurants – a different flavour

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Artisan ice cream in Arehucas

Eating-out in northern Gran Canaria is different in many ways to the south of the island. The southern resorts with their beautiful beaches, shopping centres, hotels, holiday villages, marinas, bars & restaurants are tourist-focussed. Although we found some authentic Canarian food, the restaurants are mainly geared towards the holidaymakers wanting pizza and pasta after a long day on the beach. But the green and leafy north, with its banana and coffee plantations, the capital city of Las Palmas and quieter beaches is where the Canarians live; it’s more local and more multi-cultural. So it makes sense that eating-out would be different too.

Cafes & bakeries: It took us a few days to get into the swing of Las Palmas. The Canarians don’t really go in for breakfast, then about 11am everyone floods out of the offices into the nearest cafe or bakery for jamon bocadillos, tostas, tuna empanadas, croissants and a vast array of cakes and tartas with their cafe con leche. At the weekend this becomes a late brunch as friends and families gather at the local coffee shop.  These shops are cheap, seem to be constantly baking on-site and have a wide range of fresh bread too. Some serve alcohol, they also have fresh juices and smoothies and gourmet tea selections, along with every possible coffee option. They often have free WiFi and leave you in peace to enjoy it. We frequently found ourselves in Xokolat (Leon y Castillo, 225) and the Panaria chain.

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Coffee & cakes at Panaria

Late lunches: In typical Spanish-style, lunch is a 2 or 3 o’clock affair and we often opted for the traditional ‘Menu del Dia’. This 3 course set menu is good value for money in Gran Canaria at only 8-11 Euros. It often includes soup and salad starters, 2 or 3 local Canarian / Spanish meat or fish mains, a dessert or coffee plus a drink – wine, beer etc to wash it down. It gave us a chance to try dishes we might not have ordered – sometimes a  limited menu you can’t read forces you out of your food comfort zone. We tried beef with prawn sauce – which was better than it sounds, chicken slow-cooked in beer, and saltcod fried with loads of potatoes, onions and garlic. Occasionally we decided to treat ourselves to a paella or rice dish, these are always made to order for a minimum of two. We really loved the soupy rice – Arroz Caldoso we ate sitting on the terrace at La Marea (Av. Alcalde José Ramírez Bethencourt), full of langostines, clams and local fish.

It’s all about sharing: Evening eating in the north is a whole different ball game to the south, restaurants open from 8pm and even that’s seen as too early for dinner. To bridge the gap, pinchos and tapas are nibbled.

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Tacos de Pescado with Mojo Verde

When we arrived in Las Palmas we went off to the Mercado del Puerto to immerse ourselves in the Saturday night tapas culture. The old market hall is a hive of drinking and eating, street food is served from small kiosks including pinchos – mini kebab sticks, montaditos – little sandwich towers and plates of seafood. We loved the Tacos de Pescado served with green Mojo Verde sauce at Piscos y Buches in the market hall.

Sharing dominates in the evening – as each dish is brought out, whether it’s steak and chips, a platter of seafood or boards of cheese and ham, everyone dives in and then they order some more. We shared Chocos Fritos at the recommended seaside Restaurante Terraza El Puertillo a 15 minute bus ride outside of Las Palmas.

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Chocos Fritos – fried octopus chunks

We shared in even the most fashionable restaurants, where in London you’d feel embarrassed and obliged to stick to your own plate. In Las Palmas it’s an eat, drink and move on to the next place culture. At the popular but pricey tapas restaurant in Triana, Kano 31 (Calle Cano, 31) we ordered Huevo Escalfado – a poached egg with potato puree, truffle, and mushroom sauce. We weren’t expecting this extravagent looking martini-glass wonder to appear – I thought it was someone’s tiramisu!

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The poached egg disguised as a martini!

We stumbled across La Dispensa (Calle Diderot, 8) when looking for another restaurant nearby. It’s an old shop, the long marble shop counter has been converted into a bar with all the old shop fittings retained and filled with wine bottles. The music plays loudly and it’s full of locals.  We shared an enormous half racion of fresh grilled tuna with potatoes & padron peppers, and then we ordered another 1/2 portion of fried pork with chips.

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Vegetable powered clock at La Dispensa!

Mix of cultures & flavours: The cuisine of Gran Canaria combines traditional Spanish recipes with African and Latin-American influences. Aji, Limon y Canela (Sagasta, 68) is a Peruvian ‘cevicheria’ on the Las Canteras beachfront, specialising in citrus-marinated fish and seafood. We tried the Causa Rellena, a tower of cold, seasoned mashed potato stuffed with prawns, egg and avocado. Las Canteras beach promenade is also the place to sample the amazing milk-free, tropical fruit ice creams including guava, passion fruit and mango.

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Peruvian starter – Causa Rellena

An unusual but traditional Canarian product is gofio made from toasted maize, barely or wheat ground to a fine flour. It is commonly used to thicken soups and sauces or make milk-based desserts. Gofio is cooked in saffron-infused fish stock to make a thick, hot, polenta-type dish called Gofio Escaldado which is served in most seafood restaurants. It’s a nutritious, filling but calorific starter, again shared by everyone at the table.

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Fishy Gofio Escaldado

Hipster places: Finally – the north is just more stylish. It has the hipster places and as Londoners we were missing that in the south. After getting a bit bored of the standard lunchtime offerings we wanted something a bit different. On the seafront at Las Canteras we went to La Bikina Cantina (Paseo de las Canteras, 63). We shared a fresh fig and tomato salad, a delicious seabass ceviche with avocado and soft chicken taco wraps, then a warm chocolate brownie with green tea ice cream, all for only 23 Euros.

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Simple fresh, local figs and tomatoes in a basil vinaigrette

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Mexican inspired chicken tacos with guacamole for 5 Euros

Our coffee shop of choice that we returned to over an over again was El Apartamento (Av. Mesa y Lopez, 1). This arty cafe bar is the perfect place for a coffee & cake break while out shopping, but it’s open all day from breakfast to cocktails. The relaxed atmosphere attracts everyone – old ladies, young hipsters, locals and tourists.

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Cool hangout for coffee or cocktails

Inspired by the food, culture and scenery of Gran Canaria, a trip to the neighbouring Canarian islands is on the menu. Bring on that winter sunshine.

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Our favourite restaurants in Gran Canaria – the south of the island

DSCN6956With 350 days of sunshine a year, an average temperature of 28 C, budget flights from the UK and plenty of self catering accommodation – Gran Canaria ticked all the boxes for our late October holiday. It is one of the 8 islands making up the Canaries, located in the Atlantic Ocean 210 km from the West Coast of Africa. It has a unique micro-climate with mountains and an inactive volcano in the centre, miles of beaches and a Sahara-style desert in the arid south, and banana, mango and papaya plantations in the north of the island.

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Canarian Rancho soup – with chickpeas, goat meat and sweetcorn

It sounded idyllic; but then our pre-holiday research revealed that the south of Gran Canaria is known only for the all-day English Breakfast, burgers and pizzas, Irish pubs and German bratwurst. We found this to be true in part – but if you look hard enough you can find pizzas and pasta homemade by Italians using fresh, local produce, and Canarian locals serving traditional Spanish island cuisine, plus Maspalomas is home to many Scandinavians who know how to run a good coffee shop.

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Turron (nougat) cake

On arrival we went on the hunt for authentic Canarian food. Armed with a map and only a very vague idea of where we should head, we set off in the midday sun – what do they say about mad dogs and the English?! Several arguments later, with our only bottle of water running out, we found the sought after restaurant in the residential area of San Fernando Los Jose’s La Tapita (Calle Placido Domingo 5, Playa del Ingles).  This is the street for authentic local tapas and it became a regular haunt for us. Every visit we kicked off with a selection of tapas from the bar. They only serve a limited menu of 3 starters and 3 mains which change daily. We got a real taste for the the fresh octopus salad, the stuffed mussels and bacalao (cod) with tomato sauce and boiled Canarian potatoes. However the succulent veal T-bone steak was a real show stopper, cooked to perfection. About 20 Euro p/p and with food at this quality and price the queues are out of the door.

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Montaditos and tapas on the bar at Los Jose’s

There’s a strong Italian presence amongst the island’s restaurants. The Tripadvisor current number one place to eat in Maspalomas is just a few doors down from Los Jose’s. Bravo Cocina (Calle Placido Domingo 10) is a small place with only about six outdoor tables so you need to book ahead. A massive slab of fresh tuna was presented to our table on arrival which enticed us into ordering the tuna tartare – a very generous portion served on a puff pastry basket with capers, watercress, melon and confusingly dragon fruit – lovely, but a bit too much. The baked Tomino goats cheese wrapped in bacon and rosemary was simpler. We chose two pasta dishes – boar and venison, again both were large portions. Lovely food but go hungry!

Strangely, in Gran Canaria there seems to be a real love of  shopping centres – they are everywhere from the small to the gigantic, indoor and outdoor, all offering entertainment, supermarkets, shopping, bars and restaurants. There isn’t much at San Agustin except for the beautiful beach and the rather dilapidated, pink concrete Centro Comercial. Having wandered around for a while we stopped when we found a small relaxed Italian cafe/restaurant Pizzissima (Centro Comercial San Agustin, Calle de las Dalias 51). On the board outside were the magical words ‘homemade black pasta with seafood’ – that’s me sold!

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Homemade black pasta with garlic and fresh clams at Pizzissima

The more fine dining Piccola Italia (Centro Commercial San Agustin, 2a Planta Loc, 156 Pasillo Interno) was another restaurant that we loved, especially as they serve gluten-free bread, pasta, pizza, desserts and beer – oh, and more rare tuna.

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Fresh tuna at Piccola Italia

We also found a dairy-free ice cream at a new Italian ice cream shop, Cacoa in San Agustin. Gran Canaria caters for special dietary requirements and the supermarkets have a large range of free-from products.

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Homemade ice cream at Cacao

Being foodies we wanted to make sure that we had tried all the gems before we headed to the north of the island. A quick Google search flagged up a place nearby called A. Gaudi by Patrick Hartl (Calle Cuba 3, El Tablero) which gets rave reviews on Tripadvisor. This was an experience in many ways – the food was well executed but the service, decor and ambiance is eccentric and at times left us in fits of giggles. We went for the 4 course set menu which for 29 Euros pp was a bargain and included grilled green asparagus, potato soup served with mushroom croissant, and melt in the mouth beef and pork with carrot puree and black pasta. Highlight was the dessert, a fantastic hot chocolate & passionfruit fondant with carmelised kumquat and a smiley-face lollypop! On a serious note the cooking was probably Michelin quality – go for the food.

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Tender beef and pork main course at A.Gaudi – not sure about the black pasta

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Amazing dessert – smiley lollypop!

Back to Canarian food; so in a car park down the back of Arguineguin fishing port we found the Cofradia Pescadores de Arguineguin (Muelle Pesquero de Arguineguin) which is the Cooperation of Fishermans’ restaurant. We went early as it gets busy on a Sunday lunch with Canarian families and Spanish tourists – how many people other than locals would order a whole fried octopus and spend lunch chopping it to pieces! Our choices seemed tame in comparison, we had soup packed with seafood and chunks of fish, pan-fried John Dory and the local fresh fish, Choka.

After a week in Gran Canaria, we’ve found that the tourist resorts in the south of the island have much more to offer than we expected. Off now to the north to explore what’s on their menu.

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Rather fresh tuna!

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Puerto de Mogan

 

 

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The Culpeper – Spitalfields E1

IMG00574-20140928-1159Next to the magnificent Toynbee Hall, on a busy corner of Petticoat Lane and Commercial Street, The Culpeper is a recent refurbishment of an old East End Spitalfields boozer. It’s now a brasserie style gastropub with stripped back oak doors, large industrial windows, reclaimed lighting, retro furniture, a long turquoise leather couch, and a zinc-topped central bar with ceramic beer taps – oh, and a rooftop veggie garden!

IMG00575-20140928-1200The chef Sandy Jarvis, previously at Terroirs has created a menu that’s a mix of traditional British and French, using seasonal ingredients.

IMG00576-20140928-1228We tried out the Sunday lunch this weekend after a shopping trip through Petticoat Lane market. Starting out with the complimentary sourdough and homemade anchovy butter, followed by a whole globe artichoke with a fantastic warmed crab butter to dunk the leaves in.

IMG00577-20140928-1231They only offer one Sunday roast  – this week it was chicken served with red cabbage, Yorkshire pudding, roasties, a rich, fruity gravy and bread sauce (which I really can’t see the point of). The meat is from The Ginger Pig butchers – so, well looked-after animals and flavoursome meat, but I thought the portion was slight for £16 and would have been better value with some extra vegetables. There was one other meat dish and a veggie alternative.

IMG00578-20140928-1257The other foodie opted for the salt beef Pot au Feu (£14). We were expecting a rich meat stew having never had this dish before, but it turns out this classic French family favourite included 3 generous, thick slices of brisket with turnip, potatoes and spinach boiled in a light broth.  It was served with a little pot of cornichon and fresh horseradish relish.

IMG00579-20140928-1258This is a lovely place for dinner, after work drinks, weekend brunch or Sunday lunch (you need to be early or make a reservation). It has a relaxed ambiance and efficient, friendly staff. There’s a couple of real ales on tap, a wide choice of bottled, local-sourced craft beers, and a long wine list but the soft drinks choices are a bit limited. The total lunch bill with drinks and service for 2 was about £50 – reasonable for the inventive cooking and the quality ingredients in this tourist-heavy area of the East End.

The Culpeper
40 Commercial Street
E1 6LP
020 72475371

Culpeper on Urbanspoon

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Windfall Green Tomato Chutney

DSCN6686Our lovely neighbour dropped off a whole shoebox of green tomatoes, meaning only one thing – windfall chutney! For years my mum has made green tomato chutney in a bid to use up the last fruit on the vines from my dad’s greenhouse. This year he’s also grown an abundance of over-sized ridge cucumbers too – so we’d got a load of these. And there was the red grapes dying in the fridge…

DSCN6693…also not forgetting the big bag of chillies from the market for a bargain £1, a sack of onions from the Turkish supermarket for £1.09 plus apples from our neighbours tree. So we decided all this could be transformed into a spicy, fruity chutney –  just a few jars to see us through the winter.

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First thing to do is prepare your jars and lids – make sure they’re spotlessly clean by washing in hot, soapy water. Then pour boiling water into the jars and let them sit for a few minutes before pouring the water out and letting them dry. Alternatively put them on a hot dishwasher cycle.

This recipe will make about 4 jars. It is an economical and flexible recipe – the amounts  are approximate and the veggies/fruits are easily variable.

You need:

  • 1.5kg green tomatoes
  • 4 large apples
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 3 large onions
  • 100g sultanas or grapes
  • 25og brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 chilli peppers (de-seeded)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 600ml vinegar

Method:

Core and chop the apples and put them into a large pan. Add the roughly chopped cucumbers (de-seeded), tomatoes, onions and chillies (de-seeded).

Next add the sultanas, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger and vinegar.

DSCN6695Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and leave to simmer for an hour, giving it a stir occasionally to stop it sticking. Then spoon into the jars and seal.

This chutney is best left for a month and will keep for up to a year. As well as being a vital part of a tasty ploughman’s salad or a mighty cheese sandwich, chutney also makes a great fruity addition to a winter veggie stew or in a meat or lentil curry.

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Coffee & cakes in E17

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Swedish Midsummer strawberry cake @ Bygga Bo

We have our old-favourite coffee shops, the new ones that we just love and those that we just occasionally pop into for a quick takeaway coffee before jumping on the tube. So after lots of difficult reseach & tasting, we have put together our list of the coffee shops in E17 that we think are well worth a visit! Oh and we’re stating upfront before our inbox falls over with protests, this list is just OUR opinion – go out and try them for yourselves.

Hoe Street in Walthamstow is like running the ‘cake’ gauntlet. It takes strong willpower every morning to make it to the station without emerging from one of the many coffee shops with a latte and cake. Scrap that. Let’s be real, we have to walk the back-route otherwise we would be in Oasis or L’Hirondelle until lunchtime, quietly munching through their delicious cakes – a particular favourite is the almond eclairs oozing with custard!

Have fun working through this list:

  • 56 St James  – The first Hackney-style hipster cafe in the Stow – a blackboard wall and graffiti art. Serving flat whites and espressos using Nude Coffee, toasted sandwiches and salads (56 St James’ Street, E17 7PE)
  • Aura Rosa Cakes at Mother’s Ruin Gin Factory  – Delicious flamboyant cakes and patisseries served up alongside small-batch fruit gin liquers and cocktails – what more is there to say! (Unit 18, Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, E17 9HQ)
  • Bygga Bo – Swedish cakes and open sandwiches, including the popular cinnamon buns. Excellent coffee, teas and juices and a sunny garden and art space at the back. Lots of tempting home ware & clothes shopping too (8 Chingford Road, E17 4PJ)
  • Cafe Bonito – Daily changing Mediterranean menu. Homemade cakes and churros (doughnuts) washed down with thick, dark, sweet Spanish hot chocolate – like a rich chocolate soup!  (162 Wood Street, E17 3HX)
  • Deja Vu – Bulgarian cafe with a hidden back garden full of sofas for the smokers. Serve lovely lattes and toasties. Good place for people-watching as they wander up and down the market in the summer (75a High Street, E17 7DB)
  • Golden Rustic Deli – Romanian deli shop, bakery and small cafe. Strudel, rum cakes, bread and pretzels all freshly baked at the glass fronted bakery on site. They also serve daily specials and soups (228 Hoe Street, E17 3AY)
  • Le Delice – An old favourite. Big cappuccinos, 3 x daily specials and North African tagines, fresh juices, ice creams and highly recommended pizzas. Bonus of free WiFi. Beautiful special occasion cakes made to order (114 Hoe Street, E17 4QR)
  • L’ Hirondelle – Long-standing, unpretentious local hangout making great coffee from an iconic Italian Elektra coffee machine. Enticing homemade pastries and cakes at reasonable prices – our favourites are the macaroons and almond eclairs. Watch the short-film of behind the scenes with Milo the Baker  (160 Hoe Street, E17 4QH)
  • Niyazi Usta – The new Turkish bakery (actually it’s a baklavaci) with a tempting array of savoury pastries including gozleme (stuffed pancakes) and of course amazing baklava – the walnut and pistachio ones are totally yum! (254 Hoe Street, E17 3AX)
  • Oasis  – Great coffee and homemade pastries and cakes. Roadside garden terrace for people watching or air-conditioned interior including an internet cafe. One of the cheapest places in the Stow – only £1.3o for a latte (152 Hoe Street, E17 4QR)
  • Tierra Madre – Alessandro serves up Italian coffees and the best almond croissants ‘to go’ from his animal-sculpture covered coffee kiosk at Walthamstow Central tube station (Selbourne Walk)
  • Windmill  – Madeiran /Portuguese cafe & tapas restaurant serving Pastel de Nata custard tarts and good coffee, a little Iberian holiday escape (18 High Street, E17 7LD)
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    56 St James’

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    Flat White @ 56

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    Fresh Danish pastry and lattes @ Oasis

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Chocolate & Guinness cake @ Aura Rosa at the Mothers Ruin Gin Factory

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Old Italian copper coffee machine @ L’Hirondelle (always reminds me of a Dalek!)

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Spinach gozleme and baklava @ Niyazi Usta

 

 

 

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It’s raining cakes!

DSCN6630We arrived home one evening this week soaked to the skin – squelching sandals and soggy T-shirts and jeans. What happened to the summer sunshine?

So – time to bake a comforting ‘cheer-me-up’ cake. A quick raid of the fridge and cupboards identified some likely / possible cake ingredients – carrots, blueberries, dates, yogurt – but there were no eggs in the house?!

And here was the dilemma – get soaked again running to the shop to buy eggs or risk an egg-free cake disaster. One glance at the rain bucketing it down made the decision easy – egg-free cake it is. After a bit of an internet search and a few tweaks of our own this recipe, once triple tested, was declared a success. It’s light, delicious and feels quite virtuous, being wheat and butter-free too. We also experimented with adding poppy seeds which worked well. It seems to last a few days (well it would if one of the foodies didn’t keep scoffing it) and is great with a coffee or served up with warming custard or cooling ice-cream – depending on the summer weather!

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Yogurt & blueberry cake (egg-free)

You need:

250g Spelt (or plain) flour
1.5 tsp Baking powder
0.5 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
60ml Olive oil
pinch Salt
60ml Milk
125g Yogurt
150g Sugar (plus more for the topping)
1 Vanilla pod
1 tbsp Lemon juice
190g Fresh blueberries (or any other berries)
zest 1 Lemon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease with olive oil or line with silicon / baking paper a large loaf tin.

Put 3 tablespoons of the flour in a small bowl and add the blueberries, wrapping each one in flour will stop them all settling at the bottom of the cake when it’s baking.

In large bowl sieve the remaining flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in the lemon zest and set it aside.

Whisk the oil and sugar together, then add the yogurt and milk and briefly whisk again. Stir in the lemon juice and vanilla essence.

Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and fold together until everything is well mixed. Now add the blueberries and any remaining flour and stir together.

Spoon the batter into the tin and bake at 180 C for around 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and let the cake cool.

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The Ferry Boat Inn – Tottenham Hale, N17

20140524_161340Like lots of Walthamstowers, one of the foodies was caught out on Friday night by the tube disruption and was forced to do the long walk home across the reservoirs from Tottenham Hale. But this reminded us that we’ve been meaning to post for ages about The Ferry Boat Inn.

The old inn has been trading for over 250 years at the crossing of the River Lea, and after a recent major refurbishment the place looks great. Tottenham isn’t exactly famous for its drinking establishments, so with its winter log fires, stone-flagged floors, oak beams and large garden for a summer’s evening overlooking the reservoir, this is like escaping to a local country pub (even if it’s the chain version).

The drinks include some interesting craft and real ales, wines from about £3.50 a glass, and a wide range of soft drinks. The food is reasonably priced with an emphasis on pub classics of steaks, sausage & mash, burgers and scampi & chips. There’s a Spice Night special on Wednesdays when curry and a drink will only set you back £7.75.

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We opted for the classic 7oz beef burger in a brioche bun with tomato & jalapeno relish and an upgrade to sweet potato chips for £8.85 served up on a wooden board. It was simple, happy pub grub – nothing more or less. But the unexpected winning meal was from the ‘under 500 calories’ range.  This was a plate loaded with the Superfood Salad – shredded beetroot, edamame beans,  cucumber, tomato, mixed leaves, coriander, spring onion, radish and pomegranate served up with a tasty 8oz chargrilled rump steak. Not bad for only 490 calories! (£10.45).

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We keep saying we’ll go back for the all day Sunday Roast – with a tasty sounding 35-day aged rib eye of beef for £10.95 or pork or turkey and all the trimmings for £9.95. We’ll let you know how we get on.

Ferry Boat Inn
Ferry Lane
London
N17 9NG

Tel: 0208 8084980

 

 

 

 

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Bygga Bo – Scandinavian cafe

DSCN6491We love Bygga Bo (meaning ‘to make a nest’) – how did we live without it? We waited months for it to open, and when it did we were there! It’s in an old hairdresser’s shop just near The Bell. The décor is a comfortable mix of modern and vintage, complete with original mirrors, brass panelled ceiling and even the old hair perming heaters converted into lights.

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Malin and her team serve good coffee in pretty cups and our Saturday morning indulgences include sourdough toast with jam & butter, their popular cinnamon buns and the quinoa porridge topped with fresh pomegranate.

Bygga Bo 2There’s a good range of Swedish teas and bottled juices, but I’m a fan of their fresh smoothies!

DSCN6529But there’s more to this place than breakfast; just pop in for a cinnamon bun and a coffee and be prepared to fall in love with a pair of Swedish clogs, the Skandi designer homeware, cute kids clothes, Fjallraven bags or the beautiful toiletries…

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DSCN6494There’s also one-off events – art exhibitions, live music afternoons … We really enjoyed welcoming in the Midsummer with homemade schnapps and tongue-twisting Swedish drinking songs! Marinated herrings, potato salad and meatballs, and fresh strawberry cake also added to the traditional evening.

DSCN6567If you thought this place couldn’t be more on trend, The East London Cheese Board has a weekly Saturday residence in the garden. We highly recommend the Drunken Burt – a stunning washed Cheshire, the buffalo milk Pendragon, and the Fosseway Fleece ewe’s milk cheese from Somerset.

DSCN6569And if you find yourself still lingering there at lunchtime … try the open sandwiches – meatball with beetroot; smoked salmon & horseradish, and exciting toasties – butternut squash & blue cheese; ham, cheese & mustard or cheese, tomato & basil butter. There are also specials … the quinoa, butternut squash, pomegranate & feta salad is lovely.

Bygga Bo 1So when you’ve done your shopping, bought your cheese and had a lovely breakfast or lunch in the decked garden … a cheeky pint is only a couple of doors away at The Bell – what a great start to the weekend!

Bygga Bo
8 Chingford Road
E17 4PJ
Open: 9am -5pm, daily
twitter.com/byggabo

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Sodo – Sourdough pizza cafe

SoDo 3

Fancy an amazing pizza this weekend? Get yourself to Sodo in Clapton or in the George & Vulture pub in Hoxton (they have a branch in Honor Oak Park – but that’s south of the river!).

We went to the Clapton ‘pizza cafe’ on a Saturday night earlier this year and it was packed – you’ll need to reserve a table. It’s only a small place, squeezing in about 25 people at an array of high tables, small tables and counters. The service is lovely and so is the home-made ginger beer! They also offer wine from Borough Wines and local Hackney beers from Beavertown, the Kernel and the London Fields Brewery.

So a few weeks ago we tried the Hoxton version. This is housed within the George and Vulture – a big Victorian boozer on the edge of Shoreditch.  They offer a good range of real ales on the pumps and a wine list from £15.

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The menu is short and very reasonably priced especially considering the authentic Italian or locally sourced ingredients that they’re using. In Clapton, but unfortunately not available in Hoxton, the sides include a bowl of mixed Nocellara, Queen Green & Botija olives for £3.50 and a green salad from local Growing Communities farmers market (£4).

SoDo 6At both places they have a sliced meat plate from local curers Picco Salumi with sourdough and pickled cucumber slices for £6, and our favourite indulgence – the heavenly (but sinful) cream-filled, fresh mozzarella Burratina with olive oil and basil (£5).

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But what about the pizza? Well, on a light and crispy sourdough base they have some great veggie options including the Sunny Goat – goats cheese, sun dried tomato & rocket, and the Lorena – mozzarella, butternut squash, rosemary, feta & pine nuts for only £8.

For a couple of quid more there’s the meaty versions, such as the Dirty Boy – topped with caramelised onions, mushrooms & smoked pancetta, or the Cured Meat – salami Napoli, salami Calabrese, Parma ham & chilli. In Hoxton there was also a fishy Jon Bon Chovy – anchovy, olives, capers, & chilli.

Plus there are weekly specials; we had a fiery London Sexy with ‘Nduja’ – a spicy, spreadable pork and roasted pepper Calabrian salami. As a gluten-free alternative in Hoxton they also offer the pizza toppings baked a butter bean stew. 

Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the pizza as it was so good!

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For dessert there was a choice of the Italian classics of Tiramisu or espresso coffee & ice cream Affogato for only £4.

Sodo Clapton
126 Upper Clapton Road
E5 9JY
020 8806 5626

Sodo Hoxton
The George & Vulture
N1 6BU
020 7253 3988

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Mussel Men Sunday seafood roast

20140525_141614This is my kind of Sunday Roast; when the sun is shining and the seaside is calling, Mussel Men in Dalston is the place to eat bucket loads of seafood. Mussel Men offer a short menu – focusing on what they do best, mussels (mariniere, curry or Buerre Blanc) & chips, lobster and rock oysters.

I like that this isn’t pretentious seafood fine dining, it reminds me of the seafood bars and cafes around the markets in France and Spain. Mussel Men has evolved from street food to restaurant pop ups and bring a new approach to dining out. They’ve recently moved along to 584 Kingsland Road and are open for BBQ weekends, late night cocktails and live music. The staff are super friendly, the furniture is rustic and the walls are covered in graffiti art.

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The Seafood Roast Platter is a monster tower of  steaming mussels, clams, razor clams, langoustines, tempura-battered soft shell crab and cheesy Rockefeller oysters. It’s served with all the Sunday Roast trimmings of fat chips, mini Yorkshire puddings and veggies. £20 pp for min 2 people. It was outrageously delicious!

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The drinks are decent price to quality ratio – £5 for a glass of Prosecco or wine, craft beers for £4, and some unusual seafaring cocktails at £7.

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For dessert we had the homemade waffle with bacon ice-cream and maple syrup – like eating bacon crisps flavour ice-cream; it was wrong on so many levels but strangely addictive! If you fancy a Sunday roast with a difference give it a go.

584 Kingsland Road
London
E8 4AH

1 minute walk from Dalston Junction overground

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Brazilian food & football fever

Brazilian shop at night

With the football fever of the World Cup 2014 about to kick off, I thought this would be a good time to post about our local Walthamstow Brazilian butchers and deli, Boi Na Brasa and Ki Delicia. Everything seems to be going ‘Brazilian’ from Lucozade flavours to Latin feasts at The Goose, but it’s great to see a surge of interest in Brazilian food.

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‘Boi Na Brasa butcher and Ki Delicia cafe’ is a bit of an unusual concept – it’s like two businesses sharing one shop – but it seems to work. They’ve been trading since just before Xmas on Hoe Street near The Bell.

The butcher’s counter at the front of the shop stocks a great range of homemade spicy sausages (Linguica) at £4.99 per kilo. These are smoke cured, intensely ‘meaty’ bangers seasoned with garlic and paprika – a couple each make a good meal, typically served with rice, beans and salad.

There are Costela ribs and Alcatra rump steak on offer, but we go for the Picanha which is more like a rib-eye steak. This is the prime Brazilian beef cut, popular in all Churrascaria restaurants. Seasoned, grilled and sliced to share, it makes a fantastic steak & chips, beef salad or stir-fry.

20140517_102840At the back of the shop is the cafe and deli. They specialise in Coxinhas  – delicious Brazilian chicken croquettes made of shredded chicken and cheese encased in a deep fried crispy dough, which is shaped like a chicken drumstick thigh.  There are also Lebanese- influenced beef Kibbe and other popular Brazilian street snacks – eat in or take-away at £1 -£1.50. The coffee is strong , dark and cheap – about £1 for an espresso.

They’ve recently started doing lunchtime special including a drink for £5.99, and the Brazilian classic black bean and meat stew Feijoada is available at the weekend.

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In the deli / shop they stock Brazilian staples that aren’t always easy to find – Manioc (cassava) flour, Farofa, frozen snacks including cheese bread ‘Pao de Queijo’ and drinks including my favourite pick-me-up Guarana Antarctica.

If you live in the area this is a great place to get sausages and steaks for the BBQ, and maybe some snacks and drinks too before you settle into the sunshine and the footie.

Whichever team you’re backing – enjoy the football season!

Boi Na Brasa and Ki Delicia
40 Hoe Street
Walthamstow
London E17

 

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Lithuanian Zeppelin dumplings

Cevapalini
A trip to Lituanica, the Lithuanian supermarket on the High Street this week led to lunch… usually we only stay for a coffee and one of their amazing curd doughnuts. Today I decided to try Cepelinai, the Lithuanian dumplings named after the Zeppelin. They may resemble the airship’s oval shape but they’re certainly not light enough to fly away!

These boiled Lithuanian national specialities are slightly sticky, giant potato dumplings stuffed with minced meat. They are traditionally served with Smetana sour cream and topped with fried bacon – a half portion was about £3.

Borscht
Lituanica also has a daily soup for £1.90 – on our visit it was Borscht. If you’re imagining a light vegetable soup you might be disturbed by the big hunks of smoked pork! This rich beetroot soup, full of onions and spiced with juniper berries, was also served with a dollop of thick sour cream and dark, sweet rye bread.

Lituanica is a great deli and Eastern European grocery shop. They stock a great range of bread, charcuterie meats, marinated fish, frozen pierogi, fruit tea and grains.

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Rotorino – an Italian night out in Dalston

20140503_195638In a converted old bank on Kingsland Road, Dalston is Stevie Parle’s new East London restaurant. It’s only been open since mid-April but already seems to have developed quite a following. Stevie was the youngest ever chef at The River Café, writes for the Telegraph Food, has four cookbooks out which we love, was on TV in the Spice Trip and has launched Rotorino after success in West London at The Dock Kitchen.

Rotorino has a relaxed feel – leather clad booths hug one wall of the restaurant, and there’s wood paneling from the old bank and retro 60’s tiles on the back wall. The staff are friendly and warm too and seem knowledgeable.

The food is inspired by Southern Italy but also features local products such as cold meats cured in Highbury. To follow the complimentary Sardinian pane carasau crisp flatbread, we chose Coppa (beef) with sweet and sour fennel to share.  Our waitress emphasised that this was ‘small plate’ dining, but we thought it was generous at only £4. Wafer-thin, deliciousness!

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We moved on to another shared plate of Sausage Casarecce – a homemade pasta with a slow-cooked sausage, red wine and chilli ragu with crispy fried breadcrumbs – an old Italian alternative to Parmesan. This comes in two sizes at £8 or £12 – we shared a large portion. The food is served simply on old tin camping plates and mis-matched crockery.

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Next in our meaty feast we went for a flash-cooked hanger steak on the grill, £10. It was served ready sliced and was expertly cooked medium rare, but the Calabrian chilli sauce needs more of a kick to bring out the flavours. Side dishes of fried new potatoes with rosemary and garlic and a simple green salad were great. The mainly Italian wine list is good value and drinkable served by the glass, carafe or bottle selected by Street Vin.

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Open for brunch, lunch and dinner at the weekend and dinner and drinks come school nights, Rotorino is modest in size offering only sixty covers, but the aim of the game is a relaxed ambiance here, and that’s one that Stevie has achieved with ease. Be it the beautiful oversized table that greets you as you walk in (perfect for large groups), the leather clad booths that hug one wall of the restaurant, the cherry wood details, the warm golden lighting or the tiles that adorn the back wall, both Stevie and Mango London Architects (who were also responsible for East London places like the Clove Club and Sager and Wilde) haven’t overlooked but one perfect detail in the decor. – See more at: http://www.justopenedlondon.com/rotorino/#sthash.k7P7Mn7Q.dpuf

Finally we opted for the chocolate cake with honeycomb and pistachios and sour cream. Disappointingly this was the low point of the meal – the cake was an odd soft scoop of ganache – souffle which just didn’t taste rich enough after the steak. Next time we’ll go for the cheese.

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Rotorino is fairly-priced, frill-free Italian cooking using great ingredients with an emphasis on Josper grilled meat and fish.  It’s open during the week from 5.30pm for dinner and drinks and at weekends for brunch, lunch and dinner. For either a special occasion blow-out or a simple pasta and steak dinner – we’ll be back!

434 Kingsland Rd, London, E8 4AA
020 7249 9081
eat@rotorino.com

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Beetroot & horseradish meatballs

DSCN6432We were so excited when our recipe for beetroot & horseradish meatballs appeared in The Guardian ‘Cook’ Readers’ recipe swap on Saturday 3 May 2014.

These meatballs bring back happy memories of lazy days exploring Berlin in our 20’s. Beetroot and horseradish is a classic German combination and works well here served in a rye-bread roll with sour cream. If you can’t get hold of fresh horseradish then a teaspoon of hot horseradish sauce would be an alternative. The meatballs are light and juicy, they’re healthy too as they’re oven-baked and beetroot is low in fat, full of vitamins and minerals and packed with antioxidants.

Beetroot & Horseradish Meatballs

You need:

250g minced pork
250g minced beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 raw beetroots, grated
1 tbsp grated (fresh) horseradish
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
salt & pepper
1 tbsp rapeseed oil, for frying

Method:

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

DSCN6442Mix all the ingredients, except the oil for frying, in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Shape into about 15-20 golf ball-sized meatballs.

DSCN6452Heat the oil and pan fry the meatballs for 2 minutes on each side, then bake on a tray for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

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Hummus with lamb & sumac

DSCN6341Recently we changed our Supperclub starters to sharing platters and they’ve been going down a storm – especially the hummus topped with lamb and sumac, so I promised to share the recipe. I need to credit Silvena Rowe’s cook book ‘Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume’ – which inspired us. This is a life-changing hummus recipe, promise! The ice cubes help to produce an almost whipped cream-like light texture.

The secret to a good hummus is the quality of the chickpeas. Too often in the UK we have really old dried ones that no one else wants or rely on a tin. I bought dried chickpeas from Maghreb, the Moroccan butchers shop on Hoe Street, Walthamstow. They recommended that the best ones in stock were from a company called Garrido – £2.49 for 1kg.

Hummus with lamb & sumac

You need:

500g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
4 ice cubes
3 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
juice of 1 -2 lemons

Method:

Put the chickpeas into a large bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and leave to soak overnight. Alternatively, put the chickpeas into a large pan and cover with water, bring them to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and leave them to soak for an hour.

Drain the chickpeas and rinse thoroughly. Put them into a large pan and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes to kill off any toxins. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chickpeas are soft but not mushy. The skins will float to the surface so skim them off the top of the water when it builds up. It will take about an hour depending on the quality of the chickpeas for them to cook. Or we have found recently that soaked chickpeas will cook in a pressure cooker in about 20 minutes.

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Drain and cool the chickpeas for a few minutes. Pop them into a food processor and blend them adding the ice cubes one at a time. This is pure magic – as you blend them you will slowly see the chickpea paste get paler and look almost like whipped cream.

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Remove the paste from the food processor and place in a large bowl. Add the tahini, crushed garlic and juice of 1 – 2 lemons, depending on how juicy they are, and season with salt to taste.

For the lamb topping:

100g lean diced lamb
3 tsp ground sumac
1 tbsp olive oil

Chop the lamb into small cubes. Add 2 tsp of sumac and a sprinkle of salt and rub into the meat. The sumac has a warm, lemony flavour. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and gently fry the lamb cubes until crispy. For a veggie alternative, reserve a handful of the whole cooked chickpeas and gently fry with a roughly chopped red onion and the sumac until caramelised.

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To serve put the hummus into a large pretty bowl, top with the hot lamb cubes, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle over the final teaspoon of sumac.

 

 

 

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Morrocan beef & date stew

DSCN6265The weather has been so unpredictable lately that it has been a challenge to decide in the morning what we’ll be wanting to eat by the evening. Saturday was quite warm with a hint of sunshine so fish was on the menu, however with rain forecast for today I went for a comforting beef stew. This is a stew with attitude, it’s all about the spices and the slow cooking giving the warm flavours time to develop.

I used good quality Dexter beef from Pick’s Organic Farm stall at the Walthamstow Farmers Market and served it with couscous and a stir fry of rainbow chard and lentil sprouts. The sprouts were in our OrganicLea vegetable box apparently as a filler to bridge the growing-food gap between the end of spring into summer. The chard was from Growing Communities at Stoke Newington Farmers Market.

DSCN6138You need:

500g Dexter stewing beef
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp rape seed oil
1 roughly chopped onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2cm fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tsp sweet, smoked paprika
1 tsp hot paprika
2 tbsp fruit / onion chutney (we used homemade apricot & marrow)
5-6 large dried dates, roughly chopped
300g tomato passata
800ml water or chicken stock
salt & pepper

Method:

Take a large bowl, add the flour and roll the beef in it until covered. On the hob, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large heavy pan that has a lid.  Add the flour coated beef and brown the meat, then remove from the pan to a plate and set aside.

DSCN6251Add the onions, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook on a low heat until soft. Put the meat back into the pan and add all the other ingredients, except the water. I often add chutney to stews to add intense flavours – it’s also good if you want to use up a jar that has been kicking around the fridge for too long! I choose an onion-based apricot and marrow chutney which married well with the dates and paprika flavours.

DSCN6257Increase the heat and bring the tomato sauce to almost bubbling before adding the water. Now cover with a lid and put the pan into a preheated oven at 200C/ 400F/ Gas Mark 5 for 2-3 hours. Check and stir every hour.

We served it with couscous and stir-fried greens, but the stew would also go well with mashed potatoes, brown rice or polenta.

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Date & walnut black bread triangles

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On a mission to find good cheese we walked over the Marshes to Stoke Newington, and picked up a lovely blue cheese from the Growing Communities Farmers Market. On our return we called in at the Spar in the village as they have a wide range. Armed with a strong flavoured blue and an ash-covered goats cheese we needed something sweet, strong and hearty bread-wise.

So after a bit of cupboard searching we came up with this date & walnut bread. It looks like a long list of ingredients but it really is a simple recipe. However the high proportion of rye flour means that it rises slowly – we started this process in the evening, left the dough to rise overnight and baked the bread next morning.

You need:

200ml warm water
200g strong white flour
200g dark rye flour
2 tbsp oil (pumpkin, walnut, or olive)
2 tbsp black treacle or molasses
1 tsp salt
2 level tsp instant yeast (we like Bruggeman, available from Maghreb)
100g golden raisins
5-6 dates, chopped
10 walnuts, chopped
1-2 tsp caraway seeds

Method:

Measure out the warm water into a jug, check it’s hand hot. Add the yeast and caraway seeds and leave for a few minutes to activate and bubble up.

Meanwhile put all the other ingredients into a large bowl. Add the yeast and water mixture and stir to combine. It will slowly form into a sticky dark ball of dough.

DSCN6216 Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth.

Put the dough ball back in the bowl and cover. Leave it now in a warm place (kitchen, airing cupboard, sauna!) for a few hours, or even overnight until it has slowly risen and doubled in size.

DSCN6217When the dough has risen and you’re ready to bake, heat to the oven to 200C/ 400F/ Gas Mark 6.

After rising, take the dough from the bowl and flatten or roll out to a 2 cm thick circle. Cut into triangle wedges and place on an oiled baking tray. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until they have risen and sound hollow when tapped underneath.

Serve warm with stinky cheese and a fruity chutney!

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Pheasant schnitzels

DSCN6079We have a real fondness for Stepney City Farm, near Whitechapel in East London. I think that it is the beautiful mix of old and new – the old village church next to the high rise student living, the cockerels and the Crossrail, the old ladies toiling in their allotments contrasting with the busy artisan farmers’ market. This weekend while visiting the farm’s pigs, newly hatched chicks, shaggy-haired goats and donkeys we picked up some foodie delights – pheasant breasts, free range duck eggs and smokey back bacon.

Pheasant is a good choice as it’s low in fat and cholesterol, but chicken would work as an alternative. I decided to turn the pheasant breasts into schnitzels and serve them with a green salad, wild garlic pesto & a ruby remoulade for Sunday lunch. We used manioc flour instead of breadcrumbs – this comes from a Central and South American woody shrub known as manioc, cassava or yucca. It is used in traditional Brazilian recipes including Farofa and to make tapioca, but its real value is that it is gluten free. You can buy it from the Brazilian butchers shop on Hoe Street, E17.

Pheasant schnitzels

You need:

4 pheasant breasts
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, beaten
3 tsp harissa powder
5 tbsp course manioc flour (or panko breadcrumbs)

You need three bowls – place the plain flour mixed with the harissa powder in one, a whisked egg  in another and finally the manioc flour into the third bowl.

DSCN6173Take a pheasant breast and cover both sides in the seasoned plain flour, then dip it into the beaten egg, then finally coat each side with manioc flour. Repeat until all four breasts are covered. Place the pheasant breasts on a lightly oiled baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes on 220C / 450F / Gas Mark 8 until crispy. We served it with a ruby remoulade of red cabbage, red onion, beetroot and carrot, a dollop of chilli sauce, homemade wild garlic pesto and green salad.

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Walthamstow Sunday Farmers Market

DSCN6158Every Sunday we try to get to the Farmers Market. This week was the judging of the Kelmscott School Farmers Market poster competition – we couldn’t agree of course! But it seemed a good chance to wander around with the camera and take you on a crawl of what’s on offer at our lovely Farmers Market.

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We started off with the cheeses – tasting as we went. The Saint George goats cheese from Nut Knowle Farm in East Sussex is an award winner. They also have a whole range of soft goats cheese logs from a moreish sweet stem ginger to a fiery chilli.

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We love the traditional Cheddar from Batch Farm, but also keep a look out for their mis-shapes bags which are a bargain for cooking – grate and freeze the cheese so it’s ready to go straight onto pasta, gratins and so on.

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The mozzarella produced from organic raw buffalo and cow milk by Alham Wood Cheeses is another excellent cheese from Somerset. It’s £4 for a hefty lump of cheese. The buffalo milk makes it higher in calcium and protein and lower in cholesterol than standard mozzarella. They have other buffalo cheeses based on traditional Romanian recipes including one with cumin seeds.

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Giovanni, of Walthamstow-based The Seriously Italian Company puts passion and enthusiasm into producing a range of hand made pastas, sauces and pestos. We particularly like the Spelt Casarecce – meaning ‘homemade’, which are loosely rolled pasta tubes that work nicely with chunky sauces.

DSCN6139Pick’s Organic Farm and Shop from Leicestershire bring a range of meat and sausages to the market. These include venison sausages, Dexter beef and salt beef plus some more exciting meats such as wild rabbit and squirrel!

DSCN6141Today Wild Country Organics had Claytonia, also known as Winter Purslane or Miners Lettuce. This is an unusual winter salad rich in vitamin C.

DSCN6151Getting good quality, sustainable fish in the Stow isn’t always easy so we like the Seafayre stall, selling fish from Dungeness, off the Kentish coast. Seafayre is a family affair operating from two boats using static net fishing, which is more environmentally friendly fishing. The fish each week depends on the weather and the season. Helpfully they send out a weekly email to let you know what they’ll be bringing to the market – send them an email and I’m sure they will add you to their email chain.

DSCN6156Pasture Farm Poultry bring free range poultry including chicken, duck, geese, turkey and guinea fowl to the Farmers Market – invaluable at Christmas. They sell chicken carcasses for £1 each, which make a fantastic stock. The meat is dense so a bird will often make us 2 or 3 meals.

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We like bread from North London’s Aston’s Organic Bakery stall. They have loaves of all different varieties – mixed, slow fermented and shaped by hand. But more importantly they have homemade filled Crodos!

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Ham & purple sprouting broccoli spelt tart

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Pie time!

I don’t know where I picked up my pastry making skills but it’s something that I’ve always been able to do. It’s a good job really as I was put to the test last year when we were on a cookery course in Croatia. We were being taught how to make all sorts of dishes including Croatian fuzi pasta, but our teachers seemed a little stumped when it came to dessert. They asserted that because we were British we should be able to make the pastry for a sweet custard tart – not sure that logic follows. The pressure was on – no weighing scales, no recipe and my phone wasn’t picking up the internet, I only had my instinct to rely on. I’ve only ever made savoury or plain pastry so having eggs and sugar passed over for inclusion did make my anxiety levels rise. It turned out well in the end – but I’m not sure if it wasn’t more luck than skills that saved the British culinary reputation that day!

Anyway back to pastry. This recipe is really easy and quick to do but is a wholesome and healthy take on a classic quiche. You can change the filling to include whatever is in your fridge but our favourite combinations include fig and blue cheese, sun-dried tomato and leeks or salmon and Swiss chard. If you follow our blog you’ll know that we are fans of spelt flour, it makes this pastry crisp and tasty.

You need:

For the pastry:
250g spelt flour
150g unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)
2/3 tbsp water

For the filling:
300g of bacon pieces
handful of purple sprouting broccoli
100g creme fraiche
150g milk
3 eggs
50g of grated hard cheese
salt & pepper

Method:

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the butter. Rub together until you have very fine breadcrumbs. You need cold hands! If it starts to stick to your hands cool them under cold water and then carry on. Next add the water slowly until you have a ball of dough. Cover the dough in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6). Flour a surface and roll out the pastry to fit a 22cm spring form tart tin. Prick the base with a fork then line with greaseproof paper and baking beans (or you can use dried chickpeas) and bake for 15 minutes. Leave to cool completely then remove the paper and baking beans. Turn the oven down to 160°C.

Fry the bacon until slightly brown and remove from the pan. Add the purple sprouting broccoli with a couple of tbsp of water. Cover and allow to wilt over a low heat for three minutes. Drain and leave to cool.

Mix together the milk, cream and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Put the bacon and broccoli into the tart and then add the milk mixture and sprinkle on the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Leave to cool before serving.

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Lovely!!

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Clam, chorizo & butter bean Portuguese stew

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Dinner tonight!

With early spring daring to peer through the grey days it put me in a rather optimistic culinary mood  – memories of warm summer days came flooding back. A trip to Davies Fishmongers in Bakers Arms, Walthamstow this week resulted in a large bag of fresh clams… and this made me think of the delicious Portuguese clam and chorizo petisco we had in Lisbon recently.

So here is my take on recreating those flavours (and happy summer lazy days): Clam, chorizo & white bean Portuguese stew.

You need:

500g clams, cleaned
100g cooking chorizo, diced
1 white onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 mild red chilli, finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin of butter beans, drained
300ml fish or vegetable stock
a large handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1 fresh lemon
salt / black pepper to taste

Method:

Fry the chopped cooking chorizo in large heavy based pan over a low heat until it starts to release its oil.

Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the crushed garlic, chilli, fennel seeds and coriander and fry for another couple of minutes.

Pour in the stock, tomatoes and sherry vinegar and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, add the beans and simmer for a few minutes to let the sauce thicken.

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Add the clams…

Meanwhile wash and pick through the clams, discarding any that are broken or open. Scatter the clams over the tomatoes, cover with a lid and steam for 3-5 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally until the clams open.

Check the sauce, if needed add salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Serve with rice, crusty bread or a fresh salad with sherry vinaigrette dressing.

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Exploring the Turkish bazaar – the International Supermarket

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Fruit salad anyone?

I’m not sure how long the International Supermarket has been in business (about 15 years ago it was an antique’s shop) but it’s a great place to buy bargain priced fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices, olives and oils, bread and baklava, cheese, honey, jams, teas, you name it really! This is where we head to when we’re hunting for inspiration or ‘hard to find’ ingredients. Every time there’s a new food trend – date molasses, pomegranate seeds, dried mulberries, fresh garlic… the International is the place to start.

It is a treasure trove of Turkish and Mediterranean foods, here’s some of the exciting ingredients we found today…

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Spanish Padron peppers – fry in olive oil for a few mins, sprinkle with sea salt & grab a beer

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Kohlrabi – peel, grate and dress with mustard mayo for a fresh coleslaw

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Fresh green garlic – crush into yogurt for a healthy alternative to garlic aioli dip

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A wall of pulses and grains

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Roasted red pepper sauces – great for soups and stews and to serve with BBQ grilled meats

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Pides and other Turkish breads

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Trays of Baklava

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Sour pomegranate molasses – great salad dressing with walnuts, feta, rocket and red onion

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Fig jam – try it on a pizza or crispy flatbread topped with gorgonzola or goat cheese, basil and proscuitto

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Date syrup – a tasty alternative to maple syrup for Pancake Day

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Poppy seed puree – I’m thinking lemon and poppy seed cake

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Jars of nuts & honey – perfect topping for thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt

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Sweet Greek dried figs – probably the healthiest snack food

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Tea spices – still working out what to do with these!

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Spicy sucuk Turkish sausages – use like chorizo, in bean and vegetable soups and casseroles

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Yufka Turkish pastry sheets – like filo pastry, use for making spinach or mince meat burek pastries

The International Supermarket
15-17 High Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 7AB

Open daily, 8am -9pm

Also at: 146-150 George Lane, South Woodford, London, E18 1AY

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Eat like a local in Lisboa

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Designer sardines – Portuguese style at Conserveira de Lisboa

To celebrate one of the foodies’ birthday we headed to Lisbon, Portugal last week for a few days. It’s  a culinary heaven where you can discover the traditional and the bang on-trend within a few doors. Below is our list of Lisbon restaurants and bars that we really loved – thanks to the lovely staff at the boutique guesthouse Casa do Patio for recommending a few of those mentioned.

Embaixada Portuguesa – Calcada do Combro 87, Bairro Alto, Lisboa
Newly opened bar / restaurant, look out for the clogs in the window (it’s sister restaurant Taberna Portuguesa is just down the street). Specialises in Portuguese fine wines, cheeses, ham and toasts. Not cheap but excellent quality and quirky. 2 x glasses of wine, ham, cheese & bread = 18.50 Euro

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Presunto ham & Azeitao cheese at Embaixhada Portuguesa

Vale Do Rio – Largo Alfredo Dinis, 12-14 Almada, Cacilhas
As a birthday treat, we took a 15 mins ferry ride from Cais de Sodre across the river to the unpromising waterfront town of Cacilhas. This is where Lisbonetas come to eat seafood. A 40 Euro platter for 2 included a whole crab and lobster, king prawns, hot garlic prawns and clams in white wine.

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Fantastic seafood platter at Vale do Rio

Le Jardin – Praca Principe Real 26, Lisboa
Surprisingly inexpensive coffees, cakes and lunches in a Morrocan palace opposite the Principe Real gardens. The building also houses unique designer shops and a gallery around an atrium. 2 x galao (latte) coffees = 2.20 Euro

The Decadente – Rua de Sao Pedro de Alcantara 81, Bairro Alto, Lisboa
We ran into The Independente luxury hostel to get out of the rain, but the menu sounded so good we stayed all evening. Either make a reservation or there’s a waiting list for tables from 7.50pm. On-trend food including an ox heart salad, wild boar tagliatelle and a chestnut creme brule. Decadent ingredients and cooking techniques at a decent price. 2 x 3- courses, wine & coffee for 56 Euro.

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Oxheart salad at The Decadente

Xapuri Bistro – Rua Duques de Braganca 5G, Chiado, Lisboa
Innovative and unique flavours are used to create fusion-food petiscos (Portuguese tapas). Quality wines, extensive weekend brunch menu, knowledgeable but rather formal service.

Restaurante Principe Calhariz – Calcada do Combro 28, Bairro Alto, Lisboa
Simple Portuguese dishes in a traditional tiled restaurant. Open grill for meat and fish in the front window. Menu changes daily with dishes from 6 Euro including veal, rabbit and saltcod. House wine 5 Euro a bottle. Amazing ‘Farofias’ dessert of soft meringue in cream.

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Chilled boiled gambas at Casa da India

Casa da India – Rua Loreta 49, Bairro Alto, Lisboa
Another busy, traditional Portuguese restaurant, crammed with office workers, policemen, fire fighters and grannies; the kind of place where people eat lunch every day. Cheap and fresh ‘doses’ (portions) of prawns and clams; tasty grilled chicken and carapaus mackerel. Daily specials for 6-9 Euro, house wine is only 1 Euro a glass. Lunch for 2 = 22 Euro.

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Lunch at the bar at Casa da India

Povo – Rua Novo do Carvalho 32-36,  Baixa Chiado, Lisboa
Great place on Pink Street for hearty portions of grown-up petiscos. The game croquettes Bolos de Alheira and tempura-battered green beans ‘Peixinhos da Horta’ (little fish of the farm) were our favourites.  There’s free live Fado every Wed and Sun night, where they showcase up and coming singers – this isn’t a tourist show. Wine & 5 petiscos = 45 Euro.

Sol e Pesca – Rua Nova do Carvalho 44, Baixa Chiado, Lisboa
Quirky little bar /cafe in an old fishing bait and tackle shop. The walls are lined with the retro designer tins of fish and that’s all they serve; just tapas of bread, olives and tinned sardines, tuna, octopus etc. A wide range of drinks, fishy snacks and local hipster vibe.

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Fishing tackle shop / bar – Sol e Pesca

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Pear & stem ginger pudding-cake

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Pear & stem ginger pudding-cake

Comfort food was the order of the day – rain, no sleep & a nagging headache could only be soothed by one thing: Cake!

I flicked through a few recipe books, but to be honest concentration was not going to be my strong point today. I decided on an apple & almond pudding-cake recipe from the River Cottage Everyday cookbook which is a household favourite; but this soon became a pear & stem ginger pudding-cake. In the end it turned out so well (and having made a similar plum pudding-cake a few times) that I’m being bold and sharing it. Usually I like to test a few times before posting but I’m convinced this is great & you’ll love it.

You need:

4 comice pears
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 stem gingers, finely grated

For the cake batter:
150g unsalted butter
125g granulated sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
40g self-raising flour
40g spelt flour
75g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground ginger
an extra tablespoon of sugar

Method:

Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the bottom with baking parchment. Peel and core the pears, slice into wedges. Melt the 25g of butter in a frying pan, add the sugar and heat until it starts to bubble. Add the pears and grated ginger and cook for a few minutes on low until caramelised. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Next for the cake batter. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Stir in the vanilla extract.  Add the first egg and beat again, then add the second egg and beat into the mixture. If you add a tablespoon of the flour at this point it will help stop the mix separating. Once you have a smooth mix again, gently fold in the ground ginger, mixed flours, baking powder and ground almonds.

Spoon the cake batter into the cake tin, smooth over with a pallette knife. Lay the sliced pears onto the top of the batter in circles. Sprinkle the extra tablespoon of sugar over the pears. Bake for 45 minutes at 170 degrees C / Gas Mark 3, use a skewer to test, if it comes out clean then it is perfect. This pudding-cake can be eaten warm or cold, serve with yogurt, ice-cream or cream.

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A tempting slice of comfort!

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Sumo Fresh – Japanese restaurant & bar, Wanstead

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Sumo Fresh

Eating in Satsuma in Soho many years ago, I was introduced to Japanese food and boy was that an experience!  I learned the hard way (crying, coughing and spluttering) that the green lump of plasticine in my Bento box was wasabi, and that this horseradish paste should not be consumed in one sinus-clearing fiery mouthful – which is of course what I did. Once the tears had subsided and my taste-buds recovered I got quite a liking for sushi and Japanese food in general. So when I heard that a new Japanese restaurant had opened in Wanstead to rave reviews, I really wanted to visit. On this basis on Saturday we parked at the Snaresbrook Station end of the High Street and walked along – of course it’s right at the other end near Wanstead tube station.

Sumo Fresh has a modern, industrial feel in the main restaurant with a sushi conveyer belt and an open kitchen. We chose instead to sit in the warmer, wood-panelled room at the back which they bafflingly call ‘the second station’. We ordered Pumpkin Korokke (croquettes) and Takoyaki (deep-fried squid balls with bonito fishflakes) for starters. Two portions of the Korokke arrived instead of the one we’d ordered, but the staff were sweet and insisted we ate them anyway.

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Pumpkin Korokke

Next a couple of plates of sushi – 5 pieces of hand rolled Spicy Tuna Hasomaki (being chilli lovers we opted for spice level 3), and the Vegetable Roll Futumaki (vegetarians beware they include prawn and fish flakes!). The sushi was fresh, though the rice wasn’t quite sticky enough. They were stuffed full of crunchy baby vegetables, tofu and Japanese omelette or the raw fish, with generous portions of pickled ginger and wasabi on every plate.

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Spicy Tuna (level 3) Hasomaki

Finally we each had a Katsu curry rice bowl – one prawn and one chicken, Japanese comfort food. We’d ordered far too much as always happens when we skip breakfast and arrive hungry.

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Chicken katsu curry with rice and pickles

The service was efficient and attentive, bringing extra chopped red chillies and more water for the teapots. But it’s welcoming and friendly, not as intimidating as the West End sushi restaurants or as cold as the conveyor belt formula chains. It’s child-friendly too with plenty of kids happily tucking in to handfuls of sushi and edamame beans and bowls of miso soup. The bill was less than £35 including drinks – definitely worth a weekend trek to Wanstead; but if you’re feeling too lazy don’t worry as they do deliver to Walthamstow, free on orders over £20.

Sumo Fresh – 141 High Street, Wanstead, E11 2RL

Tel:020 8530 7500
Twitter: @sumofresh
Web: http://www.sumofresh.com

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Thursday – 2pm-10pm
Friday & Saturday – 12 noon-10:30pm
Sunday – 2pm-10pm

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56 St James – lovely new coffee shop, E17

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56 St James

We were slightly annoyed that a new cafe has just opened in the St James’ area of Walthamstow. Why? Well we lived just a stone throw away for thirteen years and now just when we have moved out, they move in! It was rather odd visiting our old stomping ground yesterday but we were planning a lovely walk in the sunshine over the marshes, which we have neglected since our move up to the top of town so decided to linger in the ‘Coppermill village’ as the estate agents have now dubbed this area.

’56 St James’ opened on Thursday to much Twitter excitement as intrigued Walthamstowers rushed to check out the new kid. The cafe is situated on the corner of Station Road and St James’ Street, it used to be an old fashioned accountants office, but now the the decor is modern vintage, with soft lighting and a friendly, laid back atmosphere. Their coffee is sourced from Nude Espresso so is bang on trend and is well made by the barista with a smooth taste. They have a small but good selection of cakes, salads and sandwiches. My cheese, ham & tomato sandwich on sourdough bread was tasty and I was envious of the baker’s achievement – why can’t I get those kind of holes in my bread? Must practice more!!

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Nude espresso coffee

It isn’t cheap at £2.50 for a Flat White coffee, but you are paying for good quality ingredients in a Hackney hipster environment. Another positive is that it is very child-friendly with a large black chalk wall for creative tots and budding graffiti artists. We hope that it does really well and from the queue yesterday it is already in demand. We’ll be back to try the cakes!

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so tempted!

56, St James’ Street, E17 7PE
@56stjames

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