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

Posted in Foodie Travels, Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Foodie Finds, Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A whirlwind of restaurants

 

20160117_114712

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.

20150918_190037

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.

20160429_212235

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.

 

 

 

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17, Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walthamstow Wild Garlic Pesto

WP_20160508_14_50_13_Pro

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!

Posted in Foodie Finds | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Diwana Bhel Poori House, Euston

WP_20160202_12_53_10_Pro 1

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!

WP_20160202_12_40_44_Pro

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

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

E17 Cook Book Club

 

IMG_8292

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…

WP_20160121_09_25_20_Pro

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.

Posted in Foodie Travels | Leave a comment

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

WP_20160210_12_41_03_Pro

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.

 

Posted in Restaurants in E17, Shopping in E17 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Sodo Pizza Cafe E17

20160116_140728

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.

 

Posted in Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

E17 Cook Book Club goes monthly!

cheese

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
Posted in E17 Cook Book Club | Tagged | 1 Comment

And now the other end of the market – St James’ Street food stalls

WP_20160107_10_20_35_Pro 1

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…

Posted in Markets, Shopping in E17, Streetfood | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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).

 

 

 

 

Posted in Foodie Travels, Shopping in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

WP_20151112_21_24_46_Pro 1

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!

Posted in Recipes | Leave a comment

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.

image1 20150726_143805

DSCN4440

Posted in E17 Cook Book Club | Leave a comment

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

20151122_132620

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.

20151122_135705

20151122_135325

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).

20151122_132709

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.

WP_20151122_14_06_54_Pro20151122_144241

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.

20151122_140924

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

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

Posted in Cafes, Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yakamoz, new Turkish restaurant, E17

WP_20151101_12_13_33_Pro

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.

WP_20151114_12_25_35_Pro

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.

20151114_123336

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.

20151114_125024

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.

20151114_133226

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.

20151114_140025

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

 

Posted in Restaurants in E17, Takeaways | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do we want to be the next Brixton?

WP_20151013_18_22_40_Pro[1]  WP_20151013_18_16_51_Pro[1] WP_20151013_17_59_34_Pro[1]

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.

WP_20151013_18_14_40_Pro[1] WP_20151013_18_21_35_Pro[1]

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)

DSCN5968DSCN5971DSCN5969DSCN5965DSCN5950DSCN6144 Sri Lankan spring onion flower DSCN5931

DSCN6590Fantastic hot salt beef salad

20150516_19133720150418_16464620150926_13302320151003_102553

 

Posted in Foodie Travels, Shopping in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

 

Posted in Foodie Travels, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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…

Posted in Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

6

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.

20150802_163515

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!

5

Posted in Foodie Finds, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ezo Gelin Corbasi – Turkish red lentil soup

20150726_143805

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.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

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?

2

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.

IMG00876-20150420-1759

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).

1

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.

IMG01075-20150720-2103

Prawn Bun Bo Hue in spicy lemongrass soupat SiN

IMG00829-20150329-1407

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

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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.

20150624_130017

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!

DSCN8476

Posted in Foodie Travels | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Copita del mercado, Petticoat Lane

IMG00977-20150522-1901

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.

IMG00971-20150522-1846

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!

IMG00981-20150522-1908

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!

IMG00979-20150522-1904

IMG00980-20150522-1907

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.

IMG00982-20150522-1939

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

Copita Del Mercado on Urbanspoon

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fancy a burger?

20150523_163421

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).

IMG00991-20150523-1613

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)

IMG00208-20130527-1414

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)

20150504_151149

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).

IMG00782-20150307-1610

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)

IMG00297-20130926-1344

Eat 17 Cheeseburger

 

 

Posted in Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Village Kitchen Restaurant, E17

IMG00937-20150513-2055

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.

20150513_201530

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.

20150513_202819

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

Posted in Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

DSCN8172 DSCN8178

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.

DSCN8179 DSCN8184

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.

DSCN8185 DSCN8188

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!

DSCN8209

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Provender – Wanstead, E11

image

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.

20150425_122330

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.

20150425_122629

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.

20150425_125422

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.

20150425_132555

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

Provender on Urbanspoon

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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…

Embedded image permalink

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

Posted in Cafes, Shopping in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinnamon Kitchen, Liverpool Street

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

DSCN7994

Appetizers – spiced lentil cake with tamarind relish

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

DSCN8003

Bengali spiced vegetable cake

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

DSCN7996

Kerala spiced sea bream grilled in banana leaf parcel

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

DSCN8004

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

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

DSCN8008

Stem ginger panna cotta

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

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

Cinnamon Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17, Special Occassion restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roasted red grape chutney

DSCN8060

Red grapes beginning to shrivel…

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

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

You need:

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

Method:

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

DSCN8077

Combine all the ingredients

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

DSCN8079

Shake occasionally to stop them burning

DSCN8087

Your finished sticky result

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

DSCN8090

Serve with your favourite cheese

 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our top ten+ takeaways in Walthamstow – updated Spring 2015

 

DSCN4362

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20130426_201737[1]

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

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

DSCN4395

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

DSCN4370

DSCN4368

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Restaurants in E17, Takeaways | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Froth & Rind – cheese and beer in the village

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

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

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

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

DSCN8023

DSCN8019

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

Posted in Cafes, Shopping in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

IMG00788-20150312-1043(1)

Birthday Banana Bread

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

You need:

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

Method:

Heat the oven 190 C / Gas Mark 5.

Set 1 whole banana aside.

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

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

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

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

Posted in Recipes | Leave a comment

Yoghurt waffles

DSCN7966

A cupboard full of gadgets

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

DSCN7963

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

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

DSCN7959

Signe Johansen’s Norwegian baking cook book

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

Yoghurt Waffles (makes enough for 3-4 people)

You need:

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

Method:

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

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

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

Embedded image permalink

Waffles for breakfast – they didn’t last long!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lazeez Lebanese Tapas – Marylebone

Lazeez Tapas – casual Lebanese dining

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

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

IMG00715-20150126-1924

Homemade houmous

IMG00716-20150126-1930

The mixed meze plate for one!

IMG00719-20150126-1931

Zingy pickled cucumber, turnip and chillies

IMG00720-20150126-1933

Rich aubergine moussaka

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

Lazeez Tapas, 29 Duke St, London W1U 1LH

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

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Turtle Bay – Walthamstow

DSCN7874

Turtle Bay’s Rum Bar

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

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

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

DSCN7871

Kitchen hard at work on a Friday night

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

DSCN7879

Trini Doubles

DSCN7872

Sauces & cocktails

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

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

DSCN7892

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

DSCN7889

Double Dipped Steak

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

DSCN7897

BBQ Pineapple

DSCN7899

Chocolate Pot

DSCN7900

Rum and coffee – happy days

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

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

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

Posted in Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dabbous – Whitfield Street, London

20141008_123155[1]

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

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

So, how good is it?

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

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

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

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

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

20141008_123219[1]

Shaved celeriac

Iced raw scallop

20141008_124622(1)

Acorn flour noodles in duck & fenugreek broth

20141008_130849[1]

Poached cod & warm potted shrimps

20141008_130834[1]

Roast veal fillet with autumn vegetables & a cheese broth

20141008_133633

Burrata & tamarillo

20141008_133624[1]

Fig & honey cake, with a chilled rice milk

20141008_134909[1]

Finally, chilli-infused, gold bullion bar chocolates!

Dabbous, 39 Whitfield Street, London, W1T 2SF

Dabbous on Urbanspoon

Posted in Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hipster hangouts – the changing food scene in Palma de Mallorca

DSCN7493

La Seu – Palma Cathedral

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

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

DSCN7614

Hostal Cuba in Santa Catalina

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

DSCN7628

La Molienda – Carrer de les Caputxines

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

DSCN7539

Veal ragu @ The Room

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

DSCN7476

Seasonal menu @ Bros

DSCN7485

Shrimp & Courgette risotto @ Bros

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

DSCN7564

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

DSCN7828

Hot Provolone cheese with mushrooms @ Toque de Queda

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

DSCN7590

Newly opened Can Trispol

DSCN7569

Mallorcan hand-made Pep Lemon

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

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

DSCN7469

Fibonacci coffee stall @ Mercat de l’Olivar

Posted in Foodie Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

E17 Cook Book Club – 28 January, Spanish theme

DSCN4440

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

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

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

Posted in E17 Cook Book Club | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Last minute Christmas food shopping in the Stow

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Shopping in E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pizza Express – Walthamstow

DSCN7426

Chefs at work at the new Pizza Express Walthamstow

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

digger

Start of the work on The Scene

arcade

Beginning to take shape

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

DSCN7420

Mare Rosa pizza

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

DSCN7427

Try and bag a booth table

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

DSCN7411

The antipasti platter for sharers

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

DSCN7421

Fiery Calbrese pizza with ‘nduja

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

DSCN7434

Figs & mascapone – dolcetti and coffee to finish

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

DSCN7408

Deals & vouchers!

 

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

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

Tel: 020 8521 8889

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

Posted in Restaurants in E17 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tassili – Algerian cafe on Hoe Street

IMG00624-20141120-1519

Tassili Algerian Cafe – Hoe Street, Walthamstow

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

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

20140803_124714[1]

Grilled marinated liver kebabs – £4.50

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

20140621_124321[1]

Snapper & chips

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

tasilli 2

Merguez sausages – c £5.00

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

tasilli (2)

The mystery meatball dish

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

DSCN6597

Tagine Djedj b’ Zeitoun – Algerian chicken with olives

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

DSCN6604

Good coffees too!

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

Open daily 9am – 11pm.

Tassili
134 Hoe Street
Walthamstow
London
E17 4QR

 

Posted in Cafes, Restaurants in E17, Takeaways | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

E17 Cook Book Club

DSCN4440

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

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

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

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

Posted in E17 Cook Book Club | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

North Gran Canaria restaurants – a different flavour

DSCN7289

Artisan ice cream in Arehucas

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

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

DSCN7344

Coffee & cakes at Panaria

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

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

DSCN7395

Tacos de Pescado with Mojo Verde

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

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

DSCN7276

Chocos Fritos – fried octopus chunks

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

DSCN7254

The poached egg disguised as a martini!

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

20141024_213514[1]

Vegetable powered clock at La Dispensa!

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

DSCN7207

Peruvian starter – Causa Rellena

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

DSCN7271

Fishy Gofio Escaldado

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

20141024_135543[1]

Simple fresh, local figs and tomatoes in a basil vinaigrette

20141024_141139[1]

Mexican inspired chicken tacos with guacamole for 5 Euros

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

DSCN7311

Cool hangout for coffee or cocktails

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

Posted in Foodie Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

DSCN6963

Canarian Rancho soup – with chickpeas, goat meat and sweetcorn

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

DSCN6977

Turron (nougat) cake

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

DSCN7091

Montaditos and tapas on the bar at Los Jose’s

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

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

DSCN6982

Homemade black pasta with garlic and fresh clams at Pizzissima

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

DSCN7082

Fresh tuna at Piccola Italia

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

DSCN7074

Homemade ice cream at Cacao

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

DSCN7009

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

DSCN7012

Amazing dessert – smiley lollypop!

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

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

DSCN6952

Rather fresh tuna!

DSCN6946

Puerto de Mogan

 

 

Posted in Foodie Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Culpeper – Spitalfields E1

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Culpeper
40 Commercial Street
E1 6LP
020 72475371

Culpeper on Urbanspoon

Posted in Pubs, Restaurants beyond E17 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Windfall Green Tomato Chutney

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

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

DSCN6691

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

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

You need:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

DSCN6701

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment