A new food experience – Etles Uyghur Restaurant

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We’re always up for trying something new, and Etles Uyghur Restaurant is definitely that. Recently opened in the former Ming Chinese restaurant on Hoe Street, close to Walthamstow Central station, this is one of the first Uyghur (or Uighur) restaurants in London. For another taste of this cooking you’d have to go to Silk Road in Camberwell.

A few weeks ago we reviewed the new Taste of Sichuan restaurant; now another regional Chinese cuisine has arrived in Walthamstow. Chinese cooking in the UK is now exploring beyond the westernised versions of Cantonese food. This is not a typical Chinese restaurant, there’s no sweet and sour chicken being served here. China is a big country, and cuisines vary in different provinces.

According to a quick Google search, the Uyghurs are a Turkic speaking Muslim minority group living in the Xinjiang province, bordering countries including Mongolia, Russia, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. There’s complicated religious, cultural and political issues here that I can’t even begin to understand, so we’ll stick to what we know – food. Traditional Uyghur cooking is a mix of influences from the old Silk Road trading routes including Turkish, Mongolian, Persian and Chinese.

Etles is a fairly basic cafe place, warmed up with rugs on the walls, a painted ceiling and bright tablecloths. The menu offers pictures of the Uyghur specialities including some rather scary offal stuff like tongue salad.

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After a quick discussion with the waiter we ordered lamb skewers (£2 each) – grilled chunks of lamb marinated with chilli and cumin reminiscent of Turkish kebabs. These were meaty and juicy, although quite chewy. More adventurous were the kidney skewers (£4). I’m not really a fan of offal, but these were tasty, spicy and probably the best kidney dish I’ve been persuaded to try.

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Next we tucked into the recommended typical Uyghur dish ‘Ganbian Chaomian’ (£9) – hand pulled Lagman / Leghmen noodles, stir-fried with gently-spiced beef and peppers. It was a hearty version of the more familiar Chinese chowmein, and good as a sharing dish.

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But our favourite dish was the unpronounceable ‘Ququre’ (£8) – hand made wonton dumplings in a delicious, light meat stock soup. This was pure comfort food. Delicate, soft dumplings filled with lovely tender beef.

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Etles is a halal restaurant, with no pork dishes and no alcohol – we had coke and tea. Service is friendly, advice is given if you ask and the food was served quickly as we were the only diners mid-week. Next time I’m going to try the Polo which further research tells me is rice dish similar to a pilaf with carrots and slow cooked lamb. So, while it’s not a date night place, it is a chance to try a new Chinese food experience.

Etles Uyghur Restaurant, 235 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 9PP

Daily, 12 – 9pm, take away available
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Our Top Takeaways in Walthamstow – updated March 2017

Walthamstow has more eateries and takeaways than ever before – of course we don’t claim to have tried them all. There’s now rumours of a Chicken Town, a new Turkish restaurant and BoxPark! So we’ve updated our Top Takeaways list again: Top Takeaways

These are our current favourites (in no particular order), and you don’t have to agree, but they might inspire you to try out somewhere new on Friday night.

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The Big Pink Pizza Oven – a sneaky peek at Yard Sale Pizza, Walthamstow

 

 

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This week we were invited to the press preview night of Yard Sale Pizza’s new adventure in Walthamstow. Like nosy neighbours, we’ve been peeking in through the windows of the Old Glass Factory on Hoe Street for a few weeks now so it was good to finally get inside and snoop around. In a relatively small space they’ve squeezed in tables to seat about 24 and a bar with stool-counter seating at the front, plus a few outdoor tables for the over-spill in the warmer summer months. The decor has the feel of a pop-up restaurant; exposed brickwork, original factory windows, stacks of tomato and olives tins, orange plastic chairs and blue formica tables – but there’s nothing temporary or subtle about the big pink pizza oven dominating the kitchen!

We kicked off the evening with a cocktail then launched into a bowl of nutty, green Spanish Gordal olives. We’d been warned by the neighbouring table about over-ordering on the starters but the cheesy garlic bread was too hard to resist. I can’t wait for the weekend brunch idea of a Marmite and cheese pizza bread with dippy eggs!

We picked out two toppings for a massive 18 inch pizza to share. One half was a no-tomato pizza topped with the classic Italian combination of ‘Salsiccia e Friarelli’ – crumbled fennel sausage meat, wild sprouting brocolli and chilli flakes. The other half was a cheesy ‘Cour Blimey’ with fresh courgette ribbons and salty slices of pancetta bacon. We under-estimated how big this pizza would be – it would easily feed 3 people, but hey, there’s always the take-away pizza for breakfast option! The thin, stone baked pizzas are really tasty with generous toppings and plenty of oozy cheese heading towards an American style pizza. We tried the homemade Chimichurri dip – I don’t think I’ve come across the idea of pizza and dips before but it was delicious.

The handmade pizzas made with double fermented dough were flying out of the kitchen all night. They use some local ingredients including Cobble Lane pepperoni as well as boasting authentic Italian stuff like Fior di Latte Mozarella and Nduja sausage. Along with these meaty toppings there’s plenty of veggie options including the ‘TSB’ – tender stem brocolli with manchego and pesto, the garlic roasted ‘Aubergine’ or the ‘Kool Keith’ with kale, olives and artichokes. They offer a few weekly specials, and for a few quid extra do a gluten-free base and also a vegan cheese option which will be a  long-awaited hit in Walthamstow. I’ve already got jealous friends coming from as far as Watford for a vegan pizza. 

Finally, with half a pizza boxed up for take-away, we made room for desserts. The warm chocolate brownie with coconut and white chocolate pieces was a delicious chocolate treat. The brownies are home baked so they change the recipe every few weeks. We also tried mini tubs of Nonna’s Gelato ice cream all the way from Highbury and highly recommend both the Five Points Porter & Chocolate Ripple and the Salted Toffee Apple.

Drinks include cocktails, craft beers, Borough Wines and San Pellegrino lemon and pink grapefruit soft drinks. The restaurant officially launches next week, with online ordering, take-away, E17 delivery service, weekend brunch and an early morning pop-up coffee shop following in the next few weeks. If the Finsbury Park and Clapton shops are anything to go by they’ll be open 7 days a week, noon or 5pm – 10/11pm. Get you table booked soon!

Yard Sale Pizza: The Old Glass Factory, 15 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 4SD

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Happy Chinese New Year at Sheng High

 

Happy Chinese New Year – welcome to Year of the Rooster!

Have you tried Sheng High at the E17 Village Market? Felix Tse has been cooking outdoors every Saturday since October, and he’s still there braving the freezing January temperatures to warm up the folk of Walthamstow with his ‘Shengjian Baos’ Chicken Soup Buns.

Felix is an ex-Yauatcha and Hakkasan chef. After stints travelling and cooking in Hong Kong and China he returned home and started working on the London street food scene and in 2016 launched ‘Sheng High’, offering homemade Shengjian Baos.

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Shengjian Bao dumplings  are an authentic snack eaten for breakfast on the streets on Shanghai, washed down with warm soya milk. The handmade little buns are pan-fried to form a crispy base at the same time as being steamed so the rest of the dumpling is soft and light on top. The doughy dumplings are traditionally stuffed with pork mince and broth, but Felix is playing with flavours and offering a Chicken Soup and hopefully soon a veggie Tofu and Shiitake Mushroom version.

On a cold winter’s day these hot buns of slurpy, meaty deliciousness were very welcome. Felix serves a portion of 4 dumplings for £6, topped with black sesame seeds and sliced spring onions, a fiery homemade chilli dipping oil and dark, sweet Chinkiang rice vinegar. He’s also planning a regular pop-up evenings in the Froth & Rind cheese shop offering wonton noodle soup and pork or mushroom buns if you fancy a warm seat indoors!

If you’ve not been before visit the E17 Village Market, Saturdays from 10.30am-3.30pm at the Community Hub on Orford Road. It’s a fantastic little community market run by the traders and residents showcasing local artisan produce, street food and home ware including Cyprus Kitchen, Elderflower Cakes, Blomst Flowers, Smoking Salmon, the Greek Café, Flour and Spoon bakery and Perky Blenders coffee roasters.

Sheng High can be found every Saturday at The E17 Village Market, Waltham Forest Community Hub, 18a, Orford Road, London, E17 9LN. 10.30am – 3.30pm

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Taste of Sichuan, Walthamstow

Following various fiery experiences at London Sichuan restaurants including ‘My Old Place’ and ‘Sichuan Folk’ in Spitalfields, this peppery Chinese cooking was a cuisine I wanted to explore but was slightly scared of. A few months ago, Taste of Sichuan moved into Walthamstow High Street  and we’ve been fans ever since.

They offer the same kind of dishes as at sister restaurants The Sichuan in Old Street and Tian Fu in Shepherds Bush, but at more affordable east London prices. The cool thing is that leading the culinary team at The Sichuan and Tian Fu is an award winning, cook book writing Chinese chef – Zhang Xiao Zhong. He’s worked in Sichuan restaurants across London including Bar Shu in Soho and Hutong in the Shard. And I guess this explains the quality of the food at the Taste of Sichuan. I’m not saying he’s here in Walthamstow cooking in the back kitchen, but you can see the same influence in the dishes on offer.

Sichuan cuisine is based around dried red chillies (lots of them!) and the tongue numbing Sichuan peppercorns. The shiny red, laminated menus are the size of a book; full of helpful pictures and descriptions of every dish. Some of it I remain too afraid to try, such as the ‘Husband and Wife’ offal slices, pigs ears and feet, red braised eel or mouth-watering frog – and what is Bear Paw Bean Curd? This is authentic, provincial Chinese cooking. But don’t be scared off, there’s also some more familiar dishes including dim sum, crispy duck, king prawn with mixed veg, chicken in black bean sauce or beef with spring onions.

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From the starters we’ve sampled so far we love the fried salt and pepper squid which is fresh and light and served among a mountain of sliced red onion and  green chillies (no naff sweet-chilli dipping sauce here). More unusual, but equally addictive is the blanched spinach, served cold with a sesame sauce (both about £6.50). If you’re feeling really naughty go for the sweet and sour spare ribs which left us in a happy but sticky mess. There’s also a whole page of soups and Hot Pots and a ‘choose your own ingredients’ Chengdu Mao Cai which can be tailored to meat, fish or vegetarian tastes.

 

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The specialty dish, which easily feeds two people, is a crispy grilled whole fish (sea bream) served in an oven-roasting dish, sizzling in a fiery oil infused with dried red chillies, spring onions and Sichuan peppercorns. Included in the price, you can choose three additional items from a list of vegetables such as fungus, mushrooms, broccoli, sweet potato vermicelli, various types of tofu, bamboo shoots and lotus root, all for only £18.

Other recommends include the dry-fried green beans with or without a topping of salty, garlicky minced pork with three kinds of chilli – fiery and delicious (£7.80). The whole crab with ginger and spring onion is a bargain at £13.80 and the dry wok lamb ribs (£9.80) taste amazing. Also a delicate dish of sea bass steamed simply with chopped red chilli was so delicious I wanted to order it again straight away (£12.80).

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The lunch menu (also served at weekends) includes a range of dishes for less than £6. These seem to work out as half portions with rice or noodles included and make a fantastic quick lunch if you’re out market shopping. As the food is cooked to order, loads of the dishes can be tailored to vegetarian or spicy/non-spicy choices, though I’m not so sure about vegan options.

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The portions are generous, the quality of ingredients is good and MSG free. The young staff can be sometimes quiet and shy. With massive mains around £8-£13, go with family or friends and try a few plates to share. This also makes it easier to manage the staggered arrival times of the dishes. This place deserves to do amazingly well, go now before everyone else finds out – just don’t take my favourite Saturday lunch time table!

Taste Of Sichuan: 167  High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7BX
020 3583 8864. 10am-10pm.

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Behind the scenes at Yard Sale Pizza Walthamstow

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It’s probably quite well known that Clapton’s Yard Sale are bringing their artisan pizzas to Hoe Street, Walthamstow next month (February 2017). They already have two other branches and were the winner of Time Out’s ‘Most Loved Restaurant’ in the 2016 Love London Awards.

The restaurant will be housed in the ground floor of the Old Glass Factory on Hoe Street, Walthamstow (towards The Bell). The building is owned by a local, family stained-glass business which opened in Walthamstow in 1920; they used the workshop for 17 years until moving to bigger premises on Byron Road. The space is being interior designed to retain the original brickwork and windows. They have plans for a dining room with booths, stool-counter seating at the front, plus outdoor ‘yard’ tables for the summer. We live close by so we’ve been watching the building works take shape and Yard Sale shared a few very early behind the scenes shots…

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So if all goes to plan, in just a few weeks they should be ready. We’re hearing promises of handmade pizzas, double fermented dough, stone baked, and toppings like Cobble Lane pepperoni, Napoli piccante, n’duja, or veggie options like broccoli, parmesan, pine nuts and garlic, and a cheesy smoked cacetto, gorgonzola, mozzarella, ricotta with walnut pesto. They also plan to serve a weekend brunch including Marmite pizza bread with a dippy egg. Bring it on!

Yard Sale Pizza: The Old Glass Factory, 15 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 4SD

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A night of Mirth! (Marvel & Maud)

 

After a recent review in Time Out, and one year after their pop-up opening nights in December 2015, it’s time to post about Mirth, Marvel & Maud – for any non-locals, this is a renovated old 1930’s cinema in the heart of Walthamstow.

We first visited for the free New Year’s Eve party in 2015, and since then we’ve wandered in and out for the E17 Designers Markets, beer festivals, birthday parties, random drinks, meals, and finally the newly opened theatre venue.

‘Maud’ – Theatre: We really enjoyed the press night performance of Around the World on Christmas Day – “a brand new off-beat comedy celebrating Christmas tales and traditions from all over the globe”. The interactive show mixes comedy, theatre performance, lots of singing and live music with festive elves and bizarre Christmas traditions. It runs until Christmas Eve. The new theatre space has only been open for a few months, housed in one of the smaller old cinema screens. This is the next stage in the restoration and conversion of this grand old cinema into a multi-purpose venue. Plans are to host music, theatre, film and comedy nights, adding to the Hoe Street alternative theatre scene.

 

‘Mirth’ – Restaurant & Bar: On the recommend of a friend we decided to try the restaurant. Every time we’ve ventured in before the atmosphere has just seemed too dark and moody to fancy eating there. This time (maybe because it’s winter) the woolly carpets and chintzy decor seemed more appealing and cosy, with a pianist ‘tickling the ivories’ and the spicy smell of mulled wine drifting from the cocktail bar.

The food received mixed reviews. The Devilled Potted Shrimp was so overly-spiced we had to send it back (and we both love chilli); and although it was taken off the bill, I got the feeling that no one ever tasted it or dared to tell the chef. However the Mussels in Cider were excellent and well priced at c.£6 for a starter size portion or £11 for a main, served with sourdough toast from Today Bread Bakery just across the road.

The mains were more consistent. The Hanger Steak was tasty, cooked rare as requested, and good value at £14, served with horseradish, chips and a handful of watercress. However the real bargain dish was the veggie/vegan Lentil and Pumpkin Curry with rice and onion chutney for only £7.50. But we got plate envy when we spotted the enormous homemade fishcakes being served to a nearby table… next time!
The drinks choice is vast, including the ticket-booth cocktail bar list, a decent -priced wine list and a range of craft beers including Antic exclusive Volden beer and a couple of non-alcoholic beers too. We’re making plans to return for the Sunday ‘Roasts + Jazz’ very soon.
Mirth, Marvel & Maud – 186 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 4QH
Tel: 020 8520 8636
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Fame at last!

 

We are thrilled that the E17 Cook Book Club was featured this month in the December EList – special thanks to Silvana Gambini for writing the piece and also to The Bell who continue to be our wonderful hosts.

Hopefully it will encourage even more passionate foodies to join us each month. Check out the Facebook page: E17 Cook Book Club

The themes for the next few dates in 2017:

Wednesday 25 January – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Indian’

Wednesday 22 February  – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Valentines – Food of Love!’

Wednesday 29 March – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Regional British’

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Bombetta – a little flavour explosion in Snaresbrook

Newly opened in August 2016 right next to Snaresbrook tube station Bombetta is already popular with critics, locals and foodies. Their Puglian small plates are pretty special. We booked for a Saturday lunchtime and the restaurant was packed, with only the counter running alongside the kitchen left for walk-ins. 

We debated the menu for a long time, wanting to order far too many dishes, settling for starting off with the grilled watermelon, red onion & oregano (£4) and the Barolo carpaccio with Pecorino Toscano (£6). Both delicious dishes were quickly served by the friendly and well-informed staff. The Pecorino cheese was divine and ensured we had a quick detour to the Chef’s Deli next door on our way home.

Then it was time for the signature bombette, these are traditional Puglian street food, a peasant cheesy-meatball ‘bomb’. Of course here they’ve been upgraded significantly using speciality ingredients such as taleggio cheese, duck speck ham, prosciutto San Daniele, scamorza, spicy pancetta, ‘nduja, deer morcetta and even porcini and truffle pecorino. The meats wrapped around these tasty fillings include chicken, pork and lamb and range from £9 to £15, all served with grilled Breadstation bread and Organic Lea mixed leaves salad.

Along with the recommended Pork, prosciutto San Daniele, truffle pecorino & porcini bombette (£15) we ordered the grilled quail (£6) courgette fries (£4) and La Bombetta pepper chilli and garlic sauce (£4). It was all served on a sharing platter which makes good use of the small table space.

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The rich, strong flavours in the bombette are pretty heavy going, and the serving of three meatballs was definitely enough to share between the two of us. The quail was perfectly grilled and very more-ish. The courgette fries are fantastic and worth the trip alone, and the salad had a tangy dressing that complemented all the salty, strong flavours going on. 

At nearby tables the fennel sausage, steak and orecchiette pasta with chickpeas all seemed to be going down well with adults and kids alike. It’s a noisy, arty, trendy but family friendly kind of place.

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Dessert to share was a small but splendid slice of dark chocolate & hazelnut torte served with salted caramel gelato (£7) topped off with a couple of very dark Americano coffees.  For drinks during the meal we had a delicious Italian lemonade and a tasty but pricey glass of red wine.

In a nutshell, Bombetta is a small, local restaurant cooking up simple dishes, using high quality ingredients and making people happy. Open Mon- Fri from 7am for the early morning commuter coffee rush, weekend brunch from 9am, through lunch and on to dinner.

Bombetta, Units 1-5, Station Approach, Snaresbrook, London, E11 1QE
Tel: 0203 871 0890
Hello@bombettalondon.com 

Bombetta Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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E17 Cook Book Club – dates & themes for 2017

The E17 Cook Book Club has been meeting up for two years in November… so many happy memories, so much cooking, and so much cake!

It’s been lovely meeting new people and making new friends. We meet at The Bell on the last Wednesday of every month at 8.30pm. So if you’d like to come along, here’s the first few dates and themes for 2017: E17 Cook Book Club

 

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and now for Vilnius, Lithuania…

After a week in Latvia we boarded the Lux Express coach in Riga for a 4 hour trip across miles of farming countryside to Vilnius, the diminutive capital city of Lithuania. It’s a beautiful city, with lots of historical quarters, monuments and parks to explore. But you can read all about that on Tripadvisor, let’s get to the food. Traditional Lithuanian cuisine is a hearty affair often involving potato and pork, but also berries, medicinal fruit teas, rye bread and beer.

First, the famous Cepelinai potato and meat dumplings – known as zeppelins because of their shape. They are served with a choice of creamy sauces and toppings of fried onion, bacon or mushroom. Food for cold days which didn’t quite match our August shorts and t-shirts, but we had to give them a try in a traditional ex-soviet style canteen. You can try these and other Lithuanian treats in the cafe and shop at Lituanica (29-31 High St, Walthamstow, E17 7AD).

For something completely different we set off in search of modern Lithuanian cooking. More by luck than planning, we booked a 7pm table at Dublis Restoranas in the Old Town (Traku gatve 14, Vilnius). As we entered the swish, modern but empty brasserie I began to think of bolting, but then the staff ushered us through a large wooden door and it was like entering a different, secret, hidden world. Every seat was taken and the theatrical presentation of the set dinner menu was about to begin, how we ever got a table at the right time I’ll never know.

Without too much prior knowledge we had managed to book in for the 50 Euro, Chef’s Tasting Menu. The service was excellent, efficient but not stuffy – more tattoos and hipster beards than silver service. We hadn’t really grasped that the whole ‘named chef’ thing was going on, so we were happily guided through a few courses before we realised each course was being personally explained to us by Deivydas Praspaliauskas a young, famous Lithuanian chef. Dublis offers exciting, innovative Nordic cooking without the Noma price-tag.

In total we counted about 10 dishes including a welcome fizz drink, appetizers served in a pine cone, miniature licorice loaves, 2 soups, 3 fish dishes including oyster tartare, 2 meat mains and 2 desserts! Each dish was a creative new experience of flavours, techniques, textures and ingredients. As a special night out this was an amazing Michelin standard foodie experience that in London would be at least double the cost. We spent only 135 Eur0 and would return to Vilnius just to eat like this again.

Or other recommended Vilnius places:

Jurgis ir Drakonas: Pylimo gatve 22D, Vilnius
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n the edges of the Old Town this branch of the popular Lithuanian pizza chain is great for fresh pizza, pasta and salads. Excellent priced lunch menus and fantastically friendly, enthusiastic multi-lingual staff.

Kitchen: Didzhioji gatve 11, Vilnius

We booked on the basis of reviews for a mid week lunch. Walking in and seeing the smart, Skandi decor and design of the restaurant we were surprised by how cheap the ‘Business Lunch’was. Two courses – soup and tart, or salad, or beef stew or veggie pie was between 4 and 6.50 Euro. So with water, homemade bread and coffee included, with a few extra drinks we managed to run up a bill of only 20 Euro. It was such good value that went back for dinner on our last evening in Vilnius. Mackerel pate, bread, baked Camembert, rib eye steak, stuffed chicken breast, beer, coke, coffees – still only 37 Euro.

 

ZatarVokiechiu g. 9, Vilnius
Quick, cheap, healthy lunch in the old town. A nicely presented plate of 5 fresh and tasty falafel, hummus, 3 salads, sauce and pita bread for about 4 Euro. We added crispy carrots expecting some kind of fried carrot chips, but were happily surprised with the mini carrots to dip in the hummus! With drinks – lunch for 2 for 15 Euros.

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And finally cakes…

Sugamour: Vokiechiu gatve 11, Vilnius
For anyone with a sweet tooth this is heaven. A ‘ladies that lunch’ kind of place with a vast array of cakes, macaroons, etc and a whole menu of teas. 

 

 

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Latvian food experience – Riga restaurants & markets

When people asked “where are you going on holiday?” and we’ve replied “Latvia and Lithuania”, there’s invariably been a pause… then.. “oh… why?” and it wasn’t a simple question to answer. It all started with a TimeOut article about the world’s best undiscovered beaches and Jurmala in Latvia came high on the list promising 35km of unspoilt Blue Flag sandy beach, backed by sand dunes and pine forests. It sounded like heaven, plus the flights were cheap, and it’s a natural mineral spa resort. Why not?!

So, in August while London basked in a heatwave, we flew off to the Baltics. We only discovered later that during August in Latvia it typically rains – a lot! We had three spa days in a week avoiding the rain by soaking in a pool or baking in a sauna.

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Riga is a small city, easy to navigate and on the night we arrived it was the annual city festival with fireworks over the river. The Old Town is chocolate box pretty with numerous medieval churches and amazing Art Nouveau buildings for tourists to gawp at. But of course we were more into the food scene, looking for the taste of Latvia.

We loved the amazing Central Market in the old zeppelin hangers where locals jostle with tourists among the flowers, cheese, meat, fish and vegetable stalls and old ladies sell handfuls of homegrown and foraged fruit and mushrooms. Here you get closer to the typical Latvian products and flavours including hemp butter, kefir (used in the fantastic cold beetroot soup), sea buckthorn tea, rye bread, sauerkraut and pickles and mystery summer berries.

We were only in Riga for a couple of days, but in between dodging the rain showers we tried out these places:

Rocket Bean Brewery Kalēju ielu 21, Riga

Tiny coffee shop in Old Riga. Fresh coffee roasted in Riga, Aeropress and every other coffee-making gadget. Lovely looking cakes too. A coffee-geeks paradise.

Easy Wine: Audeju iela 4, Riga
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n the main drinking and eating out street in Riga. Great for late night nibbles and wine. Unlike their website, the menu is available in English, as is the case in most places in Riga. This is a wine sampling bar, you help yourself from wine chillers by the glass on a credit card system. Good quality tapas and appetizers including oysters, beef carpaccio and a fantastic buttery, chicken liver pate. Open til 2am at weekends

Domini Canes: Skarnu iela 18/20, Riga
Tucked away in
Riga Old Town behind St Peter’s church. Although it’s a very touristy area this place serves up good quality Latvian dishes at a reasonable price. We dropped in early hoping for a spare table on a wet mid-week evening and they were fully booked so we reserved for lunch the next day. We were then treated to a large table in the window. Their cooking and presentation is good although the service can be a little bit formal. Expensive wine prices so we stuck to the local beers and homemade lemonades. Delicious fish soup and enormous servings of roast pork ribs.

Valtera Restorans Msnieku iela 8, Riga
Modern Latvian cuisine based on seasonal and local ingredients, all beautifully presented. Their daily Business Lunch for only 6.90
Euros was impressive – a delicious beetroot and chicken soup, homemade bread and hemp butter, a choice of mains including veal, herring or veggie option, carrot cake & ice cream, and a homemade fruit lemonade. We added a glass of wine, water and coffees which came with profiteroles and only ran up a total bill of about 30 Euros.

After a few days in Riga we left the city behind moved onto the beach resort Jurmala just 30 minutes train ride away. Jurmala is famous for its Art Nouveau wooden beach houses dating from the 19 and early 20th century. Through AirBnB we stayed in a lovely modern seaside house and felt like locals walking to the beach, restaurants, parks, river and shops everyday. It’s a leisurely place – like a giant Center Parks experience. It’s green, fresh and healthy.

We’d  recommend these places if you ever find yourself in Jurmala:

Cafe 53 Jomas street 53, Jurmala
Our favourite on the popular Jomas Street, this cafe serves throughout the day. Breakfast includes a variety of porridges, and curd, pumpkin or potato pancakes. Lunch and dinners include BBQ meat and fish, pizza, soups and salads – or just relax with a beer in terrace garden.

Dukats Baznicas 12-14, Dubulti, Jurmala
Bakery and bistro open daily 8-7 a short walk from the beach or train station in Dubulti. This is the place for inexpensive local food and takeaway cakes and pastries. Salads, soups and traditional Latvian hearty mains served canteen style for 5-10 Euros per person. Large summer terrace.

Coffee + Concept Dzintaru prospekts 4, Jūrmala
Close to the Dzintaru concert hall this modern coffee and Baltic homeware shop specialises in designer eclairs, wine and good coffee.

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Mora – a local Sardinian love affair

True love was declared on a Saturday afternoon in Leytonstone. The object of affection is the Sardinian restaurant Mora situated just past Leytonstone Overground and the fantastically good Thai restaurant Singburi. I was a little disappointed that this announcement of amour was directed to food on a plate, but can fully understand the sentiment. The food at Mora is amongst the best we’ve ever eaten and you don’t expect to find that on Leytonstone High Road. The first time we visited since it opened in March this year – was with an Italian friend who gave her seal of approval despite loyalty to her Sicilian regional roots. We had the antipasti, burrata and the crisp Sardinian Carasau bread.

This time I was sold on the four specials on the board, but then the black truffle menu caught my attention – risottos, carpaccio, pasta and steak all with the king of foresty fungus. This was a dining dilemma!

We opted in the end to share so we could sample as many dishes as possible, starting with the Octopus Salad – delicately boiled octopus teamed with cold potatoes, carrots and celery in a light vinagrette (£9). But then next was the dish that lead to the declarations of love – Beef Carpaccio with Black Truffle (£12). It’s a simple enough dish but only when done with passion, and a generosity of ingredients does it work this magic. The wafer thin slices of raw beef were presented to the table then the black truffle was shaved all over. Soft, sweet beef and crunchy fresh truffle is a marriage of taste and texture that I will keep remembering and talking about.The pictures can’t possibly do it justice.

Mora specialise in small batches of homemade tagliatelle, pappardelle, gnocchi and ravioli pasta with speciality sauces including Italian sausage, wild boar ragu or bottarga – air dried mullet roe. This week we  loved the Hake and Ricotta Ravioli in prawn and leek sauce (£12), and the fiery Fregola Artigianale – Sardinian couscous with courgette and prawns (£14).

 

This was accompanied by a glass of well recommended Italian Chardonnay from a small producer and a local Hackney lemonade.

The deserts include a panacotta with myrtle berry sauce (£5), tiramisu or Italian speciality cheeses. This time we only had room saved for a scoop of the dark chocolate sorbet (£2) from Stratford-based La Gelatiera and a couple of espressos.

Mora 487 High Road Leytonstone, London, E11 4PG

Mon – Fri 5–11pm, Sat 12–11pm, Sun 12–9.30pm

020 8539 1731

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Little Saigon – Leytonstone

At the Green Man end of Leytonstone High Road, amongst the delights of Matalan, Wetherspoons and McDonalds, there are some great new foodie places including the Wild Goose Bakery for a delicious brunch, All You Read is Love – Danish bookshop cafe, and the Red Lion pub for a pint and a Sunday roast. But our most recent find has been Little Saigon and now we can’t stay away. In mid 2015 a dubious looking ‘eat as much as you like’ Chinese buffet was transformed into this modern Vietnamese canteen. It’s colourful and bright with loads of space for groups and families.

So what do we love about Little Saigon?…

They serve a vast, imaginative range of soft drinks for the non-drinkers, wines and Vietnamese beers for the alcohol-inclined, plus quality teas and addictively strong slow drip Vietnamese coffee. Friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable staff who help with suggestions if you ask but never seem pushy or keen to make you over-order not that we need much encouragement! We are always compelled to order their amazing Vietnamese crispy pancake (Banh Xeo) – wafer thin pancake stuffed with pork, prawn and shredded veg, that you wrap into lettuce leaves, add fresh herbs, and dunk into the chilli dipping sauce. We fight over this as a shared starter.

For hungry days after a walk around Hollow Ponds, their large plates of rice, roast and grilled meats (duck, chicken, char sui pork, Vietnamese sausages) with salads for about £8-9 are just the ticket. Satisfying Pho noodle soups – for when only Pho will do are the perfect choice to chase away a sniffly cold. The beef Pho Bo is deep, rich and delicious and only £8.50. The crispy fried whole Sea Bream with shredded mango, spring onions and fresh red chilli is another dish worth fighting over.And finally the speciality ice-cream in enticing flavours including nutella, tiamisu and mojito are not to be missed.

Leytonstone is changing quickly, we now have a list of places and foods to try including Amurg Romanian/Moldovan – a new one for us both, a return to one of our favourites the Sardinian restaurant Mora, the pides at Oven East, and homemade noodles at Panda dim sum, and its been too long since we had the crab at Singburi and Keraspice is getting good reviews too. Leytonstone – we salute you!

Little Saigon, 686 High Road Leytonstone, London, E11 3AA

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Foodie Heroes – lunch with Claudia Roden & Jose Pizarro

One of the first cook books we ever bought was a battered, old copy from Oxfam of Claudia Roden’s, ‘A New Book of Middle Eastern Food’. Published in 1968, it changed the way we ate in Britain by introducing humous, pitta bread, couscous, falafel, taramasalata and baklava for the first time.

We lept at the opportunity to meet Claudia Roden at The Guardian Members Sunday Lunch series last week. Spanish chef Jose Pizarro is hosting lunches with guest chefs and food writers at his new restaurant near Liverpool Street. You get a close-up with the chefs, welcome drinks and a lovely lunch. Jose was a friendly and charming host, explaining the provinence of the Spanish recipes and ingredients. Claudia gracefully mingled around the tables signing cook books, having her photo taken and telling culinary tales while the food and wine flowed.

After starting with drinks and prawn fritters in the sunshine, the Spanish menu featured Inky, black Squid Croquetas and a delicious fresh tomato soup with Jamon Iberico and Manchego – Jose couldn’t get the smokey Idiazabal cheese promised on the menu.

Claudia’s Andalusian Gazpachuelo was a light, saffron-infused fish soup with prawns, potatoes, hake, clams and mussels. I could have eaten it twice, but we had to move on to the star of the show – Jose’s Presa Iberica with Padron peppers and roasted potatoes. The Iberico pork comes from gourmet free-range pigs that live on a diet of acorns. It’s simply grilled and sliced ‘medium rare’ but in reality served somewhere between pink and red. It was meltingly soft, juicy and full of flavour, but the meat is so dense and rich there was no way we could finish it. A happy hound in Tottenham had a very tasty doggy bag that night!

We finished off with Crema Catalana, fresh cherries and mint ice cream – a perfect sunny Sunday afternoon Spanish feast. It was a great foodie experience and good value for money. Next dates in the Sunday Lunch series are collaborations with Tim Anderson in July and Vivek Singh in October, bringing Japanese and Indian influences – worth checking out.

José Pizarro, 36 Broadgate Circle, London, EC2M 1QS

José Pizarro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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A whirlwind of restaurants

 

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Recently life has felt like being caught-up in a whirlwind – we’ve been battered and blown along, and in the process eaten out far too many times, breakfast, lunch and dinner. So here’s a quick snapshot from our tour of some local eateries.

A new favourite place for a weekend breakfast: Pivaz – 34 Chatsworth Road, Hackney, E5 0LP. Modern Turkish restaurant open 8am-11pm. A great stop-off if you’re visiting the Chatsworth Road Sunday Market. Fantastic range of breakfast dishes including Avocado Dream (£5.95) – crushed avocado and poached eggs on sourdough toast, extra £1.50 to add smoked salmon, chorizo, bacon, or parma ham. Or their very satisfying Menemen (£5) – a sizzling dish of tomatoes, scrambled eggs, peppers and onion served with fresh flatbread. There’s the more familiar Turkish meze and grills on the evening menu. Excitingly they’re opening a new place in Epping soon.

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Vegetarian Indian Dalston style: Gujarati Rasoi – 10A Bradbury Street, Dalston, N16 8JN. Unusual opening hours: Wed, Thur, Fri & Sat 6pm – 10:30pm; featured on Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation. A small but beautiful, weekly changing menu following seasonal vegetables and Hindu festivals. We are totally in love with their Papdi Chat (£7.50) a chickpea salad, street food dish. It’s the kind of menu where we end up saying ‘I want it all!’ Helpfully the mains come in half portions so we usually share a few dishes.  Just around the corner is the Vortex jazz bar or other uber-cool Dalston bars for late night drinks. White Rabbit across the street is another amazing restaurant with a great value tasting menu.

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Great burgers and a secret basement bar: Breakfast Club Cafe 12-16 Artillery Lane, Spitalfields, E1 7LS. We’re late in getting round to trying this place – tucked away opposite Liverpool St Station, the queue has always put us off. But recently we needed burgers and at £11 including 2 sides the Double Cheese Burger with all the toppings was a  jaw-stretching, finger-licking mess that met that need. The ‘soon to be world famous’ Beef Chilli needs some more chilli heat adding to meet up to that claim. All in all a fun diner-style night out. There’s a basement bar entered through a Smeg fridge door, funky staff, good music, pricey beer but great smoothies. Slight caveat, we felt a little old for this trendy youth club!

Vegan and alcohol-free salvation: Redemption  320 Old Street, London, EC1V 9DR. Probably London’s healthiest restaurant – fresh, super-healthy, vegan, sugar-free, wheat-free food including raw desserts, and an exciting alcohol-free drinks list! We love the Maki Rolls vegan sushi platter – filled with red and black quinoa, avocado and enoki mushrooms. But for me the real reason to go back is the raw cheesecake made from cashew nut cream on an almond and sprouted buckwheat base, topped with fruit – simply amazing. From the cocktail list the Espresso Remolacha, a twist on an ‘espresso martini’ – espresso, beetroot juice and date syrup shaken over ice is always a Walthamstowfoodies favourite. It’s not a cheap night out, but you come away buzzing and virtuous! We recommend this place to our vegan friends for a real treat!

 

 

 

Fried chicken with a conscienceChicken Town, The Old Fire Station, Town Hall Approach Road, Tottenham, N15 4RX. I’m not really a chicken and chips kind of girl so the other foodie had to make several attempts to convince me to venture off to Tottenham for junk food. But this isn’t just any old chicken shop. Chicken Town is surrounded (apparently) by 34 fast food places, but they’re offering a healthier steamed and flash-fried chicken version. It’s a non-profit social enterprise  so their profits go towards serving an affordable healthier chicken lunch to under 18s in the daytime for just £2.

The buttermilk free-range chicken comes classic southern style, smokey & spicy or rosemary & lemon crumb. There’s veggie options including seasonal vegetable stack, mac ‘n’ cheese, tofu in a spicy sauce with mushrooms and onions and a mushroom and blue cheese sandwich. I had a side of kale – so not just your average fried chicken shop! The setting is light, bright and airy. There are plenty of soft and alcohol drinks including craft beers. A great place for a kids birthday party or a lazy weekend lunch.

and finally… Bulgarian garden restaurantDeja Vu Garden, 52 High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7LD. Open daily from 10am to 11pm, part of the local Deja Vu chain of bakery, coffee shop and hairdressers. We’ve only been to Bulgaria once, but this place brings back Sunny Beach memories – loud euro pop, smokey air, good coffee, cheap beer, and a warm garden full of olive trees. They have an outdoor fire for spit-roasting lamb at the weekend. The food is similar to Turkish – meze, grilled meats, shopska salads, pasta and homemade burgers.The portions are generous and well-priced, the staff are lovely, the WiFi connection is fast –  well worth a visit and quicker than a flight to Sofia.

 

 

 

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Walthamstow Wild Garlic Pesto

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What’s this? Wild Garlic!… well, I say wild, it grows in pots in a shady corner of our little back garden in Walthamstow annually from March until about June. After a bit of googling to make sure I wasn’t poisoning us I have found there are two types of wild garlic and this is Allium Triquetrum also known as three-cornered leek or onion weed.

Wild garlic can be used when you want a delicate, fresh green onion and garlic flavour, similar to chives. The leaves and flowers make a pretty addition to salads, sandwiches and dips. It can also be cooked in sauces for pasta, curry or soup.

All of the wild garlic is usable – leaves, stems and flowers. The bulbs are also usable once the leaves have died down, but course, if you eat all the bulbs then you don’t get plants again next year. Wild garlic, especially the more common ransoms, can be foraged for in shady woodland areas and are easily identified by their pungent garlic smell.

This weekend I’ve cut back the leaves and flowers, and after washing them carefully, wizzed them with olive oil in my shiny new Kitchen Aid food processor into a fine bright green pesto sauce. This will sit happily in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Tonight it’s going to be roast sweet potatoes with wild garlic, rosemary and parmesan. Yum!

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Gökyüzü Chingford – Turkish restaurant

 

We love Turkish food, however on a cold, dreary Monday night as we pulled the car off the roaring North Circular into a dark, pot-holed carpark, one of the Walthamstowfoodies expressed concerns that we were going to be the only ones in Gökyüzü Chingford. But in the new, shiny, mammoth 300-seater restaurant sat at least 90 people wolfing down kebabs like it was a night out in Istanbul.

This is the latest branch of a long established Green Lanes Turkish restaurant. With its roadside views of the A406 this is not a scenic place, but we’ve been lured there once or even twice a week ever since by the food and atmosphere. It’s always loud and busy, and the music, service and food is authentically Turkish. Customers range from quiet couples to big groups of family and friends, and it always seems to be someone’s birthday celebrations.

As soon as you settle at your table, the generous free plates of food start to arrive; fresh chilli and garlic sauces, a big plate of mixed salad with pomegranate sauce, Cacik – a thick, rich yogurt and cucumber dip, and a basket of warm bread to mop it up.

Meze Starters (£3-4.50): the Lahmacun – thin, meat-topped Turkish pizza bread, and Yogurtlu Patlican Ezme – grilled aubergine, tahini & yogurt are delicious. The Calamari was a bit chewy but the light and fluffy Falafel and Humous is better and the cheesy Borek are dangerously addictive. There’s a few mixed meze and full grilled meat platter options for groups which work out about £10pp.

Mains (£8 or £14): All the kebabs we’ve tried have been excellent – the mixed platter for two (£23) including chicken shish and wings, chicken and lamb doner, lamb cubes, spicy minced adana skewer and ribs is easily enough for three; nearly everyone seems to leave with a take away box. The lamb ribs are amazingly juicy and the chicken shish has a great marinated flavour, and they’re all charcoal grilled to perfection.

The big surprise was the smoky Levrek – grilled sea bass, eating this reminded me of being back by the sea in Turkey. All mains are served with fresh salads, grilled chilli, onion and tomato, buttery rice, tomato-infused bulgur and more bread. There’s a good-looking veggie kebab option and we’ve not even started on the Pide Turkish pizzas, and Iskender and Beyti specials yet.

There’s desserts on the menu but we’ve never made it that far. We settle for a Turkish coffee, fresh mint tea or a free glass of Turkish tea. They’re open every day 12noon – 11pm and fully licensed with a range of wine (£4), beers (£3) and raki (£4) from Turkey and beyond. There’s even dinosaur crazy golf next door; so go and pretend for a few hours you’re on holiday by the beach, instead of a night out on the North Circular!

Gökyüzü Chingford, Southend Road, Chingford,London E4 8TA
Gokyuzu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Diwana Bhel Poori House, Euston

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The Diwana Bhel Poori House restaurant on Drummond Street in Euston is an Indian institution, loved by locals, tourists, vegetarians and bargain seeking students and cheap-eaters. It’s been years since I last visited, but a couple of weeks ago I was at a conference nearby. Surrounded by the station offerings of chain coffee shops and street food outlets I fancied something different.

It’s not changed. The lunchtime veggie buffet is still fantastic value, offering eat as much as you want for about £7. In the evening they’re known for the South Indian dosas.  The service varies between forgetful, chaotic and grumpy. The decor  is basic wooden furniture, and metal plates and water jugs. But it’s the food that everyone comes here for. It’s not clever or flashy, it won’t win any Michelin stars or impress a first date, but it will satisfy, fill and comfort you with a massive range of healthy hot and cold veggie dishes.

Taking my metal plate and a sharpened pair of elbows, I set off round the salads and snacks – plates of poppadoms, bhajis, little idlis, and chutneys then at least 7 or 8 different salads including lots of bean salads and red and white shredded cabbage salads. I could have happily stopped there, but next was the vast array of hot dishes to try.

There’s a feast of veggie curry favourites including lentil dhals, sag aloo (spinach & potato), paneer muttar (cheese & peas), pumpkin, cauliflower, channa (chickpeas), bhindi (okra), aubergine, Bombay potatoes plus some vegetables I couldn’t name, and of course rice and chapati breads. I just had to have a taste of it all.

Finally it was time for a clean plate and to hit the desserts. There was a range of sticky Indian sweets which I steered clear of, but I happily tucked into the massive fruit salad platter of 3 types of fresh melons, pineapple, apples and lychees and a little sweet dollop of kheer – Indian rice pudding. Delicious!

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So, three courses, eat as much as you want, loads of healthy choices and all for only £7. If you’re waiting for a train, bored of the chains in Euston at lunch time, or starving for a curry, Diwana remains a bargain cheap eat in Central London.

Diwana Bhel Poori House, 121-123 Drummond Street, Euston, London NW1 2HL

Diwana Bhel Poori House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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E17 Cook Book Club

 

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The E17 Cook Book Club is a foodie social evening, everyone brings some food to share and their cook book inspiration (plus a £3 contribution to cover costs). We eat, talk and have fun. The themes, chefs and recipe books change each time.

We’ve come a long way, our themes so far have been: Americana, Delia Smith, a Park Picnic, Seasonal Ingredients, Indian Summer, Holiday Memories, Bonfire Night and Mexican Christmas.

In January 2016 we kicked off the new year with ‘French Cooking’ to create a warming, wintry feast. We dined bistro style at the Vestry House Museum on classics including: Beef Bourguinon; Chicken with lentils; Toulouse sausage Cassoulet; Chicken liver pate; Roux brothers’ ‘Flan aux moules au perfume de thym’ (mussel and thyme flan); Chestnut soup; Caramelized garlic tart; Brousse homemade cheese; Tomato Fougasse bread; Duck confit; Tarte tatin; Macarons and Apricot & almond tart.

In February we welcomed more new members as we were exploring ‘Middle Eastern’ cooking. Think Ottolenghi, Honey & Co, Moro, Claudia Roden, Sally Butcher, Persia, Morocco, Algeria… It was a feast of meatballs, pitta breads, and pomegranate seeds.

The planned themes for the next few dates:

Wednesday 30 March – 8.30pm at The Bell, we’ll be celebrating a ‘Greek Easter’ Καλό Πάσχα (Kalo Pascha!). A menu of Meze, Greek salad, Olives, Dolmades if anyone’s brave enough, Spanakopita, Spring lamb dishes, Baklava, Tsourekia Easter bread and Easter biscuits…

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and  Wednesday 27 April – 8.30pm at The Bell, ‘Spring Time Vegetarian’. A chance to experiment with seasonal vegetarian or vegan dishes celebrating the end of the wintery comfort food months.

Newbies, couples, singles, everyone is welcome to join us – it’s informal, delicious and fun! The group each evening varies from 6-10 people. Bring a dish and maybe the recipe or cook book. You don’t have to be a masterchef, just share a love of cooking, eating and experimenting and meeting new people. Sign up to the Facebook page so we can discuss in advance what everyone’s planning to cook.

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Wok a week! A visit to Hoo Hing & new cookbook from Ching-He Huang

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TV chef and cookery writer, Ching-He Huang

It’s been a funny old week with a Chinese theme. It started with a Stow-at-home day on Tuesday when we decided to try out the restaurant in the Hoo Hing Chinese supermarket hidden on a trading estate in Leyton. Maybe not an obvious idea for lunch, but what a find! In this massive Chinese  supermarket that we never knew existed you can get every conceivable (and a few inconceivable) Oriental delicacy. We came away with fresh Thai holy basil, a variety of tofu, pickled seaweed, rice noodles and jasmine tea but there’s also tanks of live crab and lobsters, roast ducks, freezers full of frozen dim sum and seafood, and aisles of intriguing spices and sauces.

However tucked away upstairs is what we came for – the restaurant. The word ‘restaurant’ may be misleading, think more staff canteen with round decorative glass-topped tables and an industrial feel. It’s a one-woman show, you point at what you want on the laminated menu hung up by the till, she nods, writes it down and then cooks it and shouts ‘hello’ when it’s ready to collect. It’s not amazing food, but it’s cheap, fast, and fun. We had prawn toasts, 2 types of steamed dim sum (£1.99 each), ‘glutinous rice’ with chicken in banana leaf parcels (£2.25) which the other foodie declared to be “food for when the world ends”, a plate of roast duck and char sui pork on steamed rice (£3.95) and a pot of tea (50p each). With a total bill of just over £13 we were content and will be back on lazy weekend days when only dim sum will do but we can’t be bothered to go far. The supermarket is open every day except Xmas & Boxing day and the cafe serves food til 4pm.

Hoo Hing, 1 Dorma Trading Park, Staffa Road, Leyton, E10 7QX

The next Chinese event of the week was an invite to watch the TV chef Ching-He Huang launch her new Lotus Wok and cook up dishes from her ‘Eat Clean’ cook book. This is an East meets West book with easy and healthy soups, salads and stir-fries, and swapping processed, high-sugar foods for feel-good fresh veg flavours. So tonight I made my first dish inspired by this cook book. I had to tweak it to the ingredients I had in the fridge but it worked out well, so I’d recommend getting the book. It has to be one of the easiest and quickest dishes I’ve ever made.

Tofu & Kale stir fry

Ingredients:

3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
A massive handful of kale (I used a mix of Cavolo Nero and Red Kale), chopped roughly into 1 inch peices
100g mushrooms, sliced100g Tofu – (Chinese 5 spice marinated tofu is great, Ching recommends smoked tofu) chopped into cubes or slices
1 tsp mirin – sweet rice wine
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
juice of 1 lime or lemon

Method:

Get all the ingredients washed, chopped and prepared so you are ready to go, this is a quick dish.

Heat a large wok (there’s a lot of greens going in!) and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When it’s smoking hot add the garlic, ginger and chilli and fry for a few seconds. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes.

Now throw in the kale and a small splash of cold water to help it steam and wilt, cook for another minute or two. Then add the  tofu and toss all the ingredients together, fry for a couple of minutes.

Add all the sauces – mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil and the lime juice and stir through. Take it off the heat and serve straight away on a bed of rice or noodle. Delicious, nutritious and so simple.

 

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Sodo Pizza Cafe E17

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We usually wait until a new restaurant has gone through their teething problems before we step over their newly polished door step. But we threw out the rule book when it came to Sodo Pizza Cafe who opened on Friday, just a couple of minutes walk from our home. They’ve refurbished an old warehouse building on Hatherley Mews behind the old Granada Cinema that used to be La Ruana Colombian restaurant, aka The Grove Cafe during the day. They’ve knocked down walls, created big windows to let in the light and got rid of the dodgy polystyrene ceiling tiles to create an industrial-styled 45 seater restaurant.

As expected it was still being finished; apparently it took four days to install the pizza oven, the heating needs sorting and the excellent Nude Americano (£2) arrived in a paper cup … but the pizzas are great. They brought their sourdough starter over from their other restaurant in Clapton, but it didn’t like the change so apparently it will be at optimium performance in a few weeks. The dough is fermented for 48 hours then baked at over 450°C. As a gluten free alternative they offer the pizza toppings on cannellini beans baked in the oven. Over the next few weeks they will hopefully also be serving brunch at weekends.

We went for the Winter Goat pizza (£8) and loved the combination of the goat’s and mozzarella cheeses with the toasted walnuts, caramelised onions and black olives. Our chosen meaty option was the surprisingly light Cured Meat pizza (£10) – salami Napoli, salami Calabressi and Parma ham with fresh green chilli. They promise to have their homemade chilli oil ready soon to add some extra heat. Drinks include a range of London craft beers and natural wines.

The choice of antipasti, salads, Nocellara olives and creamy Burratina mozarella make delicious starters or sides, but I hope they’ll start using E17 OrganicLea salad leaves rather than the Hackney Growing Communites salad soon.

Sodo Pizza Cafe, Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, E17 4QP
Opening times: Wednesday – Sunday, 12noon-10pm *taken from their website but subject to change at the moment.

 

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E17 Cook Book Club goes monthly!

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We have some very exciting news about this year’s E17 Cook Book Club. We are going monthly! The last Wednesday of every month to be precise – starting February – not the next one which remains on 20 January.

Last year was so much fun and so popular that we have decided to make it more frequent. We were really touched by the response that we have received and how it has been described as the highlight of people’s year and good for those new to the area. Everyone is welcome, whatever your cooking skills, as long as you like good food.

We will kick off the first E17 Cook Book Club of the new year at an absolutely fabulous venue in the village. We will be exploring French Cuisine in the beautiful setting of The Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, E17 9NH on Wednesday 20 Jan from 8.30pm to 10.30pm. It is BYOB and a French dish plus a minimum of £3.

Also we have planned the dates for the whole year – so get them in your diaries now!! We have a E17 Cook Book Club Facebook group where we chat as a group and plan our dishes there – please join the group!

Last Wednesday of the month (except the Jan one) from 8.30pm – 10.30pm

  • 20 Jan at The Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, Walthamstow, E17 9NH – theme is French cooking
  • 24 Feb at The Bell, 617 Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4NE – theme is Middle Eastern cooking
  • 30 March at the The Bell, 617 Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4NE – theme is Greek Easter
  • 27 April – venue: The Bell
  • 25 May – venue: The Bell
  • 29 June – venue: The Bell
  • 27 July – venue: The Bell
  • 31 August – venue: The Bell
  • 28 September – venue: The Bell
  • 26 October – venue: The Bell
  • 30 November – venue: The Bell
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And now the other end of the market – St James’ Street food stalls

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After writing all about the changes on Hoe Street, this week I took a walk down the market to St James’ street and discovered some exciting foodie stalls I can’t wait to check out.

It was too early for lunch and the stalls weren’t quite up and running, so I decided to take my morning coffee at Husvagn. From a little blue caravan they’re serving fantastic Yallah Coffee Roasters single origin, ethically sourced coffee from only £2. This week it was from Guatamala and was a fruity and slightly spicy caffine fix – not sure I got the fudge and almonds.

Along with the mighty fine coffees they also serve sausage rolls, cinnamon buns, chocolate brownies, marmite toast and homemade soup. Husvagn is on the market Wed-Fri 8am-4pm and Sat 9am-4pm.

There’s a whole load of other stalls also in the St James’ St area including Bobayumm bubble tea, an amazing-smelling jerk chicken BBQ, and a Polish bigos and hot dog van. Plus a sausage and burger stall and two Turkish street food stalls selling Gozleme (stuffed pancakes) and Lahmacun (a delicious salad-stuffed, rolled-up meaty pizza). Go try them all and let me know the verdict…

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The changing face of Hoe Street E17

 

Hoe Street has for a long time been a bleak, bus-choked thoroughfare, famous for a disused cinema and numerous estate agents, Algerian coffee shops, indistinguishable fried chicken shops, working men’s clubs, hairdressers, tattoo shops and Turkish supermarkets. It’s a hard working, ethnically diverse street; open all hours providing Walthamstow with late night takeaways and cheap coffees and linking Leyton and Chingford.

Hoe Street’s name comes from the Old English hōh, meaning a ridge and at one time part of it was known as Green Leaf Lane – sounds like it’s changed a lot since then! The area devel­oped in the late 19th century and at one point it boasted two rival cinemas, Hoe Street railway station and the shiny, modern 1960s Central Parade with its flats, shops, lecture hall and clock tower.

And now Hoe Street is changing again at a rapid pace. From chocolate shops and fancy cakes to craft beer and art galleries – who’d have thought it!

Aura Rosa Gio’s cake shop offering bespoke cakes, designer cupcakes, posh patisseries & afternoon tea.
84 Hoe Street, E17 4QS

Anie’s Sewing Service Dressmaker and tailor service including bridal wear & alterations.
77 Hoe Street, E17 4SA

Clapton Craft Voted the Best Shop in Hackney 2015 by Time Out and now they’re bringing their craft beer bottles and growlers to Walthamstow opening in early 2016.
74 Hoe Street

E17 Art House Picture framers and art gallery, great selection of affordable art, greetings cards and gifts by local & London designers.
54-56 Hoe Street, E17 4PG

Hermanos Mexicanos Fresh Mexican street food, takeaway and delivery including cheesy quesadillas, spicy habanero soup & big, bad burritos.
58 Hoe Street, E17 4PG

Mirth, Marvel & Maud 13 years after the EMD cinema closed this bizarrely named Pop-up Pub opened in the old Grade 2 listed cinema foyer, serving local ale, craft beer, cocktails & sharing boards.
186 Hoe Street, E17 4QH

 

No 70 collaboration between two local businesses Menagerie Makes and Bella Quail offering reloved furniture, gifts, cards & home ware.
70 Hoe Street (obviously!)

Rocket Barbershop Ok, so it’s not exactly on Hoe Street, but it’s close by. This independent men’s barbershop has recently opened for Hackney style hair and beard clipping & trimming.
611 Forest Road , E17 4PP

Sodo Pizza Again, just off Hoe Street in Hatherley Mews behind the EMD cinema. The third restaurant from our favourite Clapton based pizza chain is due to open early 2016. Amazing stone baked, sourdough pizza using local suppliers.

Saw Chocolate Small batch, high quality, handmade chocolates, caramels and truffles from this tiny, new shop.
72 Hoe Street

The Italian Delicatessen of Walthamstow A big range of Italian cheese, charcuterie, olive oils, fresh local-made pasta, breads & fine wines.
38 Hoe Street

Yum Yum Thai Tasty, authentic Thai cooking arrived in Walthamstow from this award winning, Stoke Newington restaurant and takeaway last month. Great value £8.55 two course set lunch.
202 Hoe Street, E17 4BS

But finally, as everything changes, let’s not forget some of the old Hoe Street favourites: All-day cafe Le Delice (114), Brazilian butchers Boi Na Brasa (40), Turkish supermarket & foodie treasure trove Akdeniz (147-149), Algerian butchers & deli Maghreb Food Store (222), complimentary therapies & massages at Ashlins (181), comedy nights & fringe theatre at the Rose & Crown, and our favourite Chinese takeaway next door New Dragon Inn (57), long standing local coffee & cakes hangouts L’Hirondelle and  Oasis (160 & 152),  Turkish gozleme & baklava bakery Niyazi Usta (254).

 

 

 

 

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Baby it’s cold outside! … quick Thai sausage stir-fry

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When it’s cold, wet and dark outside it’s time for comfort food, the stuff that warms you up with a big foodie hug. And for me that means chilli and sausages! So a trip to Parsons butchers lead to this recipe… it’s simple, cheap and versatile. Use whatever greens or veggies you have in the fridge. If you don’t have stem ginger grate in some fresh ginger.

Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 onion
1 or 2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp vegetable oil
500g sausages
1 or 2 aubergines
2 fresh chillis
1 ball stem ginger
1 bunch fresh coriander
a handful Swiss chard leaves or spinach
soy sauce
black pepper

Method:

If possible get a butcher to remove the skin from the sausages or buy sausage meat. If not possible, start by doing this job yourself – it’s simple but messy, so it’s just easier if you can get someone to do it for you!

Chop the onion and crush the garlic, heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft. Then add the skinned sausages. Now really rub and stir, break them down unto little sausagey chunks.

Next finely chop one ball of stem ginger and add to the pan, along with the aubergines (diced), finely chopped fresh chillis, the chopped leaves and stem of the bunch of coriander, and the sliced up Swiss chard leaves. season with fresh black pepper and a shake of soy sauce.

Turn up the heat, stir and fry for about 5-10 mins until the greens wilt, the aubergine softens and the meat is thoroughly cooked.Meanwhile put a pan of rice on to cook, serve with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon or lime, and a sprinkle of red chilli pepper flakes. Enjoy!

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E17 Cook Book Club – It’s Christmas!

20150318_202418The concept for the E17 Cook Book Club is simple: it’s a foodie social evening, everyone brings some food to share and their cook book inspiration (plus a £2 contribution to cover costs). The themes, chefs and recipe books change each time.

The next E17 Cook Book Club will be on Tuesday 8 December8.30pm at The Bell, Chingford Road. The theme is:

‘Mexican Christmas’ – a fun and fiery night to kick off the festive season. This can be whatever you want it to be, let your imagination run wild, (we just thought it would be more fun than a tradtional Christmas dinner!)

Newbies, couples, singles, everyone is welcome to join us – it’s informal, delicious and fun! The group varies each evening from 6-10 people. Bring a dish and maybe the recipe or cook book. You don’t have to be a masterchef, just share a love of cooking, eating and experimenting and meeting new people. Sign up to the Facebook page so we can discuss in advance what everyone’s planning to cook.

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Two new openings in Leyton – Masak Malaysian Kitchen & Deeney’s Cafe

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After being held under house arrest by a college assignment that seemed to take over our lives and dining room table for the past few weeks, we escaped into the sunshine today. A walk was in order so we set off towards Leyton. Following a recommendation from Chef James Ramsden in Delicious magazine, we were off to try the famous Macbeth haggis cheese toastie at the new Deeney’s Cafe at 330 Leyton High Road.

But as is so often the case, we got distracted along the way. We fell across Masak Malaysian Kitchen at no. 434 and suddenly we were having Malaysian for Sunday lunch.

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Masak which means ‘to cook’ in Malay has only been open for 6 weeks. We skipped the appetizers and launched into the Roti Chanai (£4.99) and Nasi Lemak (£5.99). The Roti Chanai was a light, fluffy and flaky bread served with kari ayam – a rich, flavoursome chicken and coconut curry with coriander and red chilli. The Nasi Lemak is a really traditional but unusual Malaysian dish. Coconut rice presented with marinated and fried chicken, roasted peanuts, fried mini anchovies, boiled egg and fiery chilli sambal. We added the suggested side portion of Beef Rendang (£3.99) which was one of the best I’ve tried with spicy, deep caramelised onion flavours and lean chunks of slow-cooked meat. In my opinion beating the famous Roti King Malaysian restaurant in Euston. We’ll be back for a full portion and to try out their other sambals, curries and the intriguing ‘burnt fish’ dish – Ikan Bakar (seabass grilled in banana leaf).

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Service was efficient and friendly, although we were the only people there on a cold Sunday afternoon. The interior decor is pretty, the dishes are served quickly and at bargain prices, we spent less than £20 for two. It’s alcohol-free and halal, but there’s a large choice of drinks including a Malaysian version of hot chai tea. If you’re looking for new dishes and flavours then it’s worth a try.

Finally, we made it to Deeney’s Cafe for coffee and cake. After building up a following at Broadway Market in Hackney and Chatsworth Road market in Clapton, Deeney’s were voted No.2 in Timeout’s ’50 best street food stalls in London’ this year. With their Scottish Flavour cooking including Haggis Balls, Cullen Skink (smoked fish) and Tattie & Leak soups they have set up home in a 20-seater cafe in Leyton since October 2015.

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It’s a trendy, hipster cafe serving great Allpress coffee along with some lovely cakes. We opted for the rhubarb crumble slice. A fitting end to a lazy, foodie afternoon.

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Masak Malaysian Kitchen, 434 Leyton High Road, Leyton, London, E10 6QE

Deeney’s Cafe, 330 Leyton High Road, Leyton, London, E10 5PW

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Yakamoz, new Turkish restaurant, E17

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***UPDATE – NOW CLOSED: MARCH 2017***

Yakamoz is a Turkish word with no English equivalent, meaning something like ‘the reflection of the moon on water, the ocean or the sea’ and was once voted the most beautiful word in the world. Well now Yakamoz BBQ restaurant & meze bar has arrived in beautiful Walthamstow at the St James’ Street end of the market.

They only opened at the beginning of November so it feels like they’re still finding their feet – sorting out the card payment machine, website and alcohol licence, but we decided to try it out on this wet and wintery weekend. Yakamoz is authentically Turkish – the food, the staff, and the slightly bizarre decor combination of exposed brick walls, kebab shop charcoal grill, chandelier lighting and bright blue flowers on the tables.

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The Humus Kavurma (£5.50) is a tahini rich, cold chickpea humus topped with finely cubed fried lamb, pinenuts and spices. We wolfed it down with the fresh hot homemade bread until we were fighting over the last swipe of the plate. We wanted to try the Pasa Meze a kind of beetroot, yogurt and feta dip but it wasn’t ready as everything is homemade, so we had Zeytinyagli Cali Fasulyesi (£4) instead – string beans in tomato and olive oil. These simple but less common dishes make a change from the standard Turkish kebab shop repertoire.

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The front window houses the daily stews and baked dishes, like in the traditional Turkish lokantasi restaurants. For only £7 (including a drink) I had an aubergine slowly baked until meltingly soft, stuffed with a tomatoey minced lamb served with a simple boiled rice and orzo pilaf. It was divine. The other foodie went for the Kaburga (£10.50), succulent chargrilled lamb ribs served with the pilaf rice plus a spicy bulgur wheat. There was complimentary extras of a generous plate of salads and pickles to share and homemade Cacik (yogurt dip) and Antep Ezmesi (chilli sauce / salad) and warm roasted onions in pomegranate molases, and another basket of that moreish bread.

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We saved just enough space to share dessert, Kadayif (£3.50) – fine shredded pastry wrapped around a buttery pistachio filling, oven baked and then soaked in a sugary syrup. With a Turkish coffee it was a sticky but satisfying end to our lunch. We went to Yakamoz because the weather was so wet, grey and depressing, but left with a much warmer glowing feeling inside.

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If they keep the standards up this place is a welcome addition to the growing Walthamstow restaurant scene. Once they’ve sorted the licence out it will a great place for a local night out. There are other Turkish options around town, but lunch today was definitely worth the walk down the market (it’s near Lidl’s). We were impresed by the dishes from the kitchen and the grill – the waiter proudly said “our chef is amazing” and told us that everything is handmade in the restaurant. Certainly there was an army of staff in the kitchen and the food tastes good and the portions are generous. We’ll be back to try the impressive fresh fish displayed on ice in the chill counter very soon.

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We recommend this place if you want a taste of simple Turkish cooking, really well done at a reasonable price, our total bill was just short of £35. The friendly and efficient service, comfortable surroundings, and wide choice of dishes are a winner – this could become one of our favourite places.

Yakamoz, 18 High Street, Walthamstow, London, E17 7LB
Tel: 020 3305 5202

 

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Do we want to be the next Brixton?

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I went to Brixton this week for the first time in over a year and couldn’t believe how fast the place has changed. Brixton is racing through it’s gentrification, as shops, market halls and houses are redeveloped, bringing increasingly affluent folk to this once dilapidated urban area. There’s the cafes and bars in Brixton Village indoor food market, the funky Pop Brixton ‘pop-up community’, the Railway Hotel old boozer pub transformed into a Wahaca Mexican restaurant, and the new Brindisa tapas bar and food rooms under the railway arches. These exciting changes sent me dizzy with foodie night out possibilities.

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But then also I felt a sadness for the things that Brixton is losing too – the traditional fishmongers, the Portuguese deli under the arches that’s been there for ages, the iconic Town Hall. Everywhere you look there’s graffiti protesting how disgruntled some Brixton locals feel.

I love some of the changes that are happening in Walthamstow. Now we can get good coffee and cakes in lovely cafes, there’s more places to eat out in an evening with more on the way when Yum Yum opens, and there’s great pubs offering Sunday roasts, craft beers and comedy nights. We’ve got a well established Farmers’ Market and a growing Saturday street food market. We’ve even got a cinema again at last! And I’ve just heard that Clapton based Sodo Pizza are beginning work on The Grove cafe which is great news for us as we love their antipasti and pizzas, but again another small business closes.

So if we do head down the Brixton route and the small local businesses go, there’s some little shops and places I’d definitely miss. I’m still craving the amazing Thai curries that Kitty and her husband used to serve at the old-time Chequers pub. The main reason that we moved to Walthamstow, like so many did years ago, was because we could just about afford to live here – to eat and pay the rent. It worries me that Walthamstow will soon become yet another gentrified area for the better-off, and those on low incomes, the young and the old will be pushed further out of London. We stayed here because we fit in, such a diverse mix of people live here and I believe we are stronger as a community for it.

So here’s our list of just some of the things we’d miss if they went – I guess the message is shop local and maybe they won’t disappear:

  • Fresh curry leaves, banana flowers, Sri Lankan spring onion flowers from Abina Supermarket (132 Hoe St, E17 4QR)
  • Merguez sausage, marinated liver, fiery harissa and North African spices from Maghreb Food Store (222 Hoe St, E17 3AY)
  • Nan bread and lamacun pizza wraps from the little Fresh Nan Bakery opposite Sainsbury’s (143A High St, E17 7DB)
  • Slabs of baked cheesecake, cured sausages and sauerkraut from the Polish delis
  • Algerian cakes and French patisseries from L’Hirondelle (160 Hoe St, E17 4QH)
  • Plantain, okra, turmeric & tamarind from Super Grows Foods (235 High St, E17 7BH)
  • Pomegranate and date molasses, figs and fresh garlic from Akdeniz (147 Hoe St, E17 3AL) or International (15 High St, E17 7AB) Turkish supermarkets
  • Mugs of tea and salt beef bagels and salads from the old school Copperfield Cafe (212 High St, E17 7JH)
  • Salt cod, Pastel de Nata custard tarts and Portuguese wine from Made in Portugal (171 Shernhall St, E17 9HX)
  • Gozleme Turkish pancakes and baklava from Niyaza Usta bakery (254 Hoe St, E17 3AX)
  • Fresh pasta, jams, game, fish, bread and cheese on the Sunday Farmers’ Market
  • and finally The Bell’s amazing homemade Scotch Eggs! (617 Forest Rd, E17 4NE)

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Tenerifan tapas – Papas Arrugadas and Mojo sauces

20150902_144328‘Papas Arrugadas’ are small, salty, wrinkled Canarian potatoes in their skins. Along with the red spicy pepper and milder green coriander mojo sauces they are served across the Canary Islands with meat and fish dishes or as tapas. Traditionally the potatoes are boiled in very salty water or even seawater, drained and sprinkled in yet more sea salt in case they weren’t salty enough. This is hypertension inducing cuisine. When we were in Tenerife last month we ate them so many times we were getting fed up of them, but once back home we began to miss them (along with the sunshine) so decided to find a more healthy way to recreate this classic holiday memory.

For the potatoes:
Put the washed but unpeeled potatoes in a large, deep pan and fill with enough water to cover them. Salt the water well, (traditionally for every kilo of potatoes add 250g of salt) and bring to the boil. Cook the potatoes for between 20-30 minutes until soft. Pour away the water and drain the potatoes without taking them out of the pan. Throw a handful of salt over them and dry them out while shaking them inside the hot pan for a couple of minutes.

20150902_141955Next it’s time for the Mojo sauces. The green Mojo Verde is commonly used for fish, made with green pepper or coriander. The more fiery red sauce – wonderfully named Mojo Rojo – is made from tomatoes, red peppers and paprika and is usually eaten with meat. Mojo is also commonly served in Tenerife with fresh bread at the beginning of a meal.

Red and Green Mojo Sauces

Ingredients: Mojo Verde

2 large green peppers
1/2 bunch fresh coriander
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 slice bread

Method:
To make the Mojo Verde sauce, simply put all the ingredients into a blender and blend into into a thick sauce. Taste it and add more salt if needed. Store in the fridge for a few days.

Ingredients: Mojo Rojo Picon (hot)

6 cloves garlic
4 small chillies
2 tomatoes
2 red pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 slice bread

Method:

To make the Mojo Rojo, again put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste the sauce and add more salt, herbs or spices to taste. Store in the fridge for a few days.

Every Canarian family, town and island has their own recipes, the sauces vary in flavour, spiciness and texture. Local variations include:

  • Almogrote, by adding grated hard cheese turns the Mojo Rojo into a spicy cheese spread served with toast
  • Saffron Mojo, often served with fried cheese
  • Garlic Mojo, a punchy sauce ideal on pasta or pizza
  • Herb Mojo, a blend of mixed herbs ideal for dressing a salad

 

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Grillstock Festival E17

image1(1)We were gutted to miss the Grillstock festival, but a hol in Tenerife compensated well! So we sent along our guest foodie writer Raz Ahasan who describes himself as ‘friend of the foodies & native east Londoner, enjoying what’s to be seen in E17’. Here’s his review…

Picture this: a field of tipsy and raucous revellers, the waft of beer and cooked meat hanging in the air, people in pricey wellies and the Fun Lovin Criminals’ bringing their own brand of laconic Brooklyn cool to a large stage. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was Glastonbury, Latitude or some such. But no, this was a well-manicured bit of grass behind Waltham Forest College – the home of the inaugural London edition of Grillstock BBQ and Music Festival.

Grillstock started out as a festival and smokehouse in Bristol in 2010. Jon Finch, founder/ MD said it’s about cooking meat with fire and smoke, chowing down together on a big table with family and friends, kicking back to great music. And with 6 smokehouses and 3 festivals around the country, including in our very own Walthamstow, he’s definitely onto something.

Over 35,000 people flocked to E17 over the first weekend in September and yours truly was sent out into the field by the Walthamstowfoodies to report back. I met Tom and Gareth, the BBQ Barons and their ProQ Excel Bullet Smoker – the Rolls Royce of smoking. These chaps were serious, being one of 26 teams slicing and roasting it out for the King of the Grill title. You can check out the BBQ Barons on Twitter @BBQ_Barons.

image3I came across Simon, the Chilli Jam Man from Yorkshire. He’s been making jams for six years using tomatoes, cane sugar, organic balsamic vinegar, ginger, and of course lots of chillies. Everything from the mild & sweet for cheese and biscuits, through to Scotch Bonnet or ghost pepper infused sauces for those seeking a challenge on the upper reaches of the Scoville Scale. He’s won Britain’s Best Chilli Sauce twice at Firefoods, the national chilli awards. I sampled the Garlic and Ginger Chilli Jam, the original chilli jam that started it all – just the right mix of heat and sweetness from the garlic. Simon says it’s a sauce or a marinade.

image6Faced with so many options for a meaty feast, I decided upon the Prairie Fire BBQ. Setup by Michael Gratz who, missing the authentic, slow-smoked Kansas City style BBQ from his home town, started making his own sauces for friends and family. They all said it was so good they could drink it and, luckily for us, he decided to bottle the stuff and sell it. I tried the brisket with the Prairie Fire Original BBQ sauce, a zingy, sweet and smoky number that Michael spent six months perfecting. It paid off, with the sauce winning a Great Taste Award, the only BBQ sauce in the UK to have done so. You can find the Prairie Fire BBQ at various markets around London and online.

If you missed Grillstock, but want a piece of the slow-cooked, smoky-sweet BBQ action, head to its Walthamstow Grillstock Smokehouse restaurant at 198 Hoe Street, London, E17 4BF, Tel: 020 8520 9108.

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Best Sunday Lunch – our favourite places in and around E17

A classic British Sunday roast is one of our favourite meals of the week – it’s comforting and satisfying and marks out the weekend as special. And this must be a shared passion as it’s such a frequent search on this blog. So here’s our Walthamstow (used as a broad, sweeping geographical area anywhere around E17) ‘Best Sunday Lunch’. Maybe you’ll disagree with the order, and the inclusion of some places, or the ones you think are missing – but this is our list:

The Bell This ranks as our number one. It’s our local pub and the portions are really generous at a decent price. The Sunday roast today was lovely, 6 vegetables including fantastic parsnip crisps, Cyprus potato roasties and enormous homemade Yorkshire puddings. A choice of beef & horseradish, pork loin, garlic & thyme chicken supreme, roast lamb or veggie nut roast – all for £10 to £13. In the past they’ve been more adventurous – hopefully the venison will be back again this winter. They serve roasts all day on a Sunday but they also have burgers, pasta and sharing board options. There’s a vast range of draft and bottled craft beers, wines by the bottle or glass, and soft drinks. There’s a choice of puds and a cheeseboard. The place is packed by 12.30pm including the lovely garden area in the summer. (617 Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4NE Tel: 020 8523 2277)

20150823_135145Eat17 Gets packed on a Sunday but they don’t take reservations so it’s best to get there early – there’s always the bar area for hanging around with the Sunday papers. The beef is served pink and comes with all the trimmings, and the pork loin with crackling is always excellent. A roast costs around £12 to £14. Starters include lovely homemade fishcakes. Good wine and drinks list, and a choice of teas and coffee. (28-30 Orford Road, Walthamstow, E17 9NJ Tel: 020 8521 5279)

20130224_130817The Castle Another good option in the village. Bustling with Sunday drinkers and diners, they take reservations but save some tables for walk-ins, lunch is served 12 to 4pm. The Sunday options often include roast beef, pork, stuffed half chicken, nut roast with lovely tomato gravy or a tasty fish option. Roasts cost between £10 and £14 and come with a massive homemade Yorkie. Starters include soup or pate, and for those going for the full 3 courses there’s a range of desserts. Wines start from £15 a bottle with a great choice of real ales too. Loads of Sunday papers, log fires in the winter or a sunny backyard in the summer. (15 Grosvenor Rise East, Walthamstow, E17 9LB Tel: 020 8509 8095)

20150531_121624Marmelo Kitchen in Leyton is one of our new favourite restaurants for weekend brunch, Sunday roasts and a Friday & Saturday dinner menu of small plates with a Mediterranean slant. Modern, stripped back decor and communal table dining with quirky mismatched crockery. Sunday lunch (£11-14) offers innovative meat dishes such as braised beef in red wine, lemon & oregano chicken, and salt cured belly pork. But more exciting are the excellent fish and veggie options served up with Yorkshire puds and all the trimmings. We loved the roast pollock fillet and this baked butternut squash stuffed with quinoa, green beans, asparagus & sunblush tomato creme fraiche. Bottled local craft beers and soft drinks; wines by the bottle or glass. It gets really busy so booking is essential. Lovely desserts including slices of homemade lemon or chocolate tarts. (69 Francis Road, Leyton, E10 6NT Tel: 020 3620 7580)

20150705_132844Hornbeam Cafe We’re throwing this one in as the wildcard alternative for Sunday lunch. It’s fantastic for vegetarian and vegan bargain dishes. Open on Sundays 12-4pm, this local organic cafe, serves up a comforting bowl of lentil dal, rice & onion pickle for only £3.80 or this bean, mushroom & nut burger with flatbread and seasonal salad for £6. They offer a fantastic local Glider Cider, organic wine and beers and a range of coffees & teas. You should also try the famous vegan Saturday brunch. Lovely cakes often including vegan and gluten free options. (458 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 9AH Tel: 020 8558 6880)

20150712_150519Mussel Men in Dalston Junction serve the perfect Seafood Roast Platter. A monster tower including mussels, clams, prawns, langoustines, tempura-battered soft shell crab and cheesy Rockefeller oysters. It’s served with Sunday roast trimmings of fat chips, mini Yorkshire puddings and veggies. £20 pp for min 2 people and outrageously delicious! (584 Kingsland Road, London, E8 4AH Tel: 020 3490 9040)

20140525_141532The Rose & Crown Finally with no illusion of being a gastropub, this Sunday roast is a proper home-cooked plateful served up by the landlord Bun ‘nearly every Sunday’ (according to their website). A choice of pink roast beef, lamb, chicken or nut roast with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puds and buttered veggies at a decent price of around £10. An excellent choice of real ales, ciders and wines. (53 Hoe Street, Walthamstow, E17 4SA Tel: 020 8509 3880)

20150614_131523So there you have it – this is our list. There’s others we could add, Le Delice cafe do a bargain Sunday roast for less than £7 which is always popular. We’ve heard good reports about the Village Kitchen and the Queen’s Arms too, but we’ve not tried them out yet. Wherever you go, if you find somewhere we’ve missed, let us know…

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Wild Walthamstow Jam

2 We love foraging – or “scrumping” as a friend still calls it. Free food, endless recipe possibilities, a chance of food poisoning if you get it wrong and the reminiscent childhood thrill of adventure! I’ve always got a carrier bag with me when we’re out for a walk ‘just in case…’ Collecting wild foods is still a popular afternoon family outing in some European countries as we found out when vising Croatia where locals go out for wild asparagus and garlic. But sadly what to pick and where to find it seems to have fallen out of common knowledge here as life gets ever more pre-washed, wrapped and packaged.

So while crossing the Walthamstow Marshes on our walk back from the Olympic Park this weekend we did a spot of foraging. The sloes and rosehips look like they’ll be ready in a couple of weeks, but right now the blackberries are fruiting abundantly and we also found apples and early pears. We decided to try making a wild hedgerow jam and I’m very proud of it. It’s set very well and is delicious with a strong blue cheese and dark sourdough bread.

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Ingredients: (makes 6-7 jars)
1.5 kg apples & pears
500g blackberries (or any other seasonal berries)
About 1.5 kg sugar

Method:
Wash all the fruit, removing any stalks, leaves and bad bits. Roughly chop the apples and pears, but there’s no need to peel or remove the core – these contain the pectin to make the jam set. It’s not pretty and it spits and bubbles like a hot red jam volcano – so stand back!

4Add all the fruit to a large jam pan with 1.5 litre water. Bring slowly to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook gently until the fruit is soft and mushy. Take it off the heat and let it cool a little, then pass the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl.

3Weigh the pulp, then transfer back into the rinsed out pan and add an equal amount of sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Beware – more spitting and bubbling. When the jam reaches a rolling boil keep on boiling for 10 minutes.

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Meanwhile sterilize your jam jars and lids by putting them through a dishwasher hot wash cycle. Put the jars in a roasting tray in the oven and set the oven to warm up to 200 C, warm the jars for 10 minutes.

9Carefully pour the hot jam into the hot jars and seal immediately. Store the jars in a cool, dark cupboard and use within a year. Once opened the jam should be kept in the fridge and eaten within a month – if you can make it last that long – hot buttered toast and homemade jam, what can beat that!

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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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