Hummus with lamb & sumac

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

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

Hummus with lamb & sumac

You need:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

For the lamb topping:

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Morrocan beef & date stew

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

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

DSCN6138You need:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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Date & walnut black bread triangles

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

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

You need:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve warm with stinky cheese and a fruity chutney!

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Pheasant schnitzels

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

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

Pheasant schnitzels

You need:

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

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

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

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Walthamstow Sunday Farmers Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ham & purple sprouting broccoli spelt tart

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Pie time!

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

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

You need:

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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Lovely!!

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Clam, chorizo & butter bean Portuguese stew

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Dinner tonight!

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

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

You need:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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Add the clams…

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

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

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Exploring the Turkish bazaar – the International Supermarket

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Fruit salad anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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A wall of pulses and grains

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

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Pides and other Turkish breads

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Trays of Baklava

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

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

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

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

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

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Sweet Greek dried figs – probably the healthiest snack food

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

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

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

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

Open daily, 8am -9pm

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

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Eat like a local in Lisboa

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Designer sardines – Portuguese style at Conserveira de Lisboa

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

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

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Presunto ham & Azeitao cheese at Embaixhada Portuguesa

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

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Fantastic seafood platter at Vale do Rio

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

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

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Oxheart salad at The Decadente

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

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

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Chilled boiled gambas at Casa da India

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

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Lunch at the bar at Casa da India

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

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

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Fishing tackle shop / bar – Sol e Pesca

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Pear & stem ginger pudding-cake

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Pear & stem ginger pudding-cake

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

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

You need:

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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A tempting slice of comfort!

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Sumo Fresh – Japanese restaurant & bar, Wanstead

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Sumo Fresh

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

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

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Pumpkin Korokke

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

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Spicy Tuna (level 3) Hasomaki

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

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Chicken katsu curry with rice and pickles

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

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

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

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

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56 St James – lovely new coffee shop, E17

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56 St James

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

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

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Nude espresso coffee

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

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so tempted!

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

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Gluten-free chocolate cake

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Yummy chocolate cake – it won’t be around for long
(First published March 2013, re-issued Jan 2014)

I’ve been testing a wheat-free and butter-free chocolate cake over the last few weeks. I’ve really enjoyed it – getting up at 7am on a Sunday morning in the quiet of the house and cooking chocolate was a magical and special ‘me’ time. I’ve made versions of this  cake; too sweet, too moist – think fondant not cake, too dry and with too much chilli at one point! This cake recipe has finally been agreed – thanks to all my neighbours and friends for their willingness to try, patience and feedback.

You need:

100g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids (broken into pieces)
30g Hazelnuts (double amount if not using walnuts)
30g Walnuts (optional)
40g caster sugar
1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil
3 organic eggs
optional – sprinkle of chilli flakes, or nutmeg or cinnamon

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of hot water, simmer slowly. Let the chocolate melt gently and don’t be tempted to stir. Once melted stir in the olive oil. I prefer to use 60g of hazelnuts but if you wants a slightly bitter taste use a mix of walnuts. Add all the rest of the ingredients and the chocolate mixture to a food processor and blend – it doesn’t need to be super smooth actually some texture from the nuts is better.

You will need a cake tin with a removable base so it is easy to get out. I used baking paper to line the base – draw around the base with a pencil and cut it out the circle. Grease the sides of the tin with some olive oil but not too much otherwise the cake will be too oily. If your tin is like mine when you put the base back into the cake make sure you have it the right way up – the ridge edge needs to be underneath the cake tin – lesson learnt the messy way!

Pour the cake into the tin and pop into a preheated over at 175 degrees for 20 mins until a skewer is clean when inserted and removed. The cake should be moist and slightly gooey, it goes very well with ice cream, a well deserved coffee or a naughty liquer. Please note that this cake will not rise like a wheat flour cake would do – think more chocolate brownie than birthday cake!

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Oven-baked celeriac & swede croquettes (vegan)

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Celeriac & Swede Croquettes – ready to bake

Every week we get overly excited at the prospect of what we’ll find in our OrganicLea veggie box. Last week it included a gigantic swede and a small but beautiful celeriac. These croquettes, inspired by a recipe in the OrganicLea newsletter, were such a hit with our veggie and gluten-free friends that we promised to post the recipe. The recipe can be easily adapted – you could use potatoes, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, basically any root vegetable.

You need:

1 Swede, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 Celeriac, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Cloves of garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tsp ground cumin
1 Tsp ground coriander
2 Tsp mustard seeds
1 Tsp ground ginger
1 Tsp turmeric
A sprinkle of Turkish chilli flakes
Juice of 1 lime
A handful of chopped fresh coriander
A handful of (gluten-free) breadcrumbs
More breadcrumbs or coarse polenta to coat
Salt & pepper

Method:

Heat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the swede and celeriac. Cover and simmer until the veg is soft and mashable, about 15/20 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add the spices – cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, ginger, turmeric, chilli flakes plus salt and pepper. Cook for a few more minutes. The amount of spice you use depends on the size of your swede.

Drain and mash the swede and celeriac. Thoroughly mix in the onions.

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Mix the herbs into the mash

Season with salt and pepper and the lime juice. Fold in the chopped coriander and breadcrumbs until the mixture will form balls.

Roll a tablespoon of the mixture into balls, it helps if your hands are wet.

Pour the remaining breadcrumbs or polenta onto a plate and roll the balls in them to coat. Flatten them into croquettes.

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Roll into croquettes

To cook, oil a baking tray, bake until crisp for about 20 – 30 minutes.

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The finished product – oven baked croquettes

Delicious for lunch with a salad or as a starter, serve with a dollop of yoghurt, chilli salsa or fruity chutney.

*Submitting this seasonal post to Simple & In Season

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Sunday Roast in and around the Stow

DSCN4835We’ve been eating our way around the Stow’s Sunday Roasts and writing about them in this evolving post. It’s a tough mission, but someone’s gotta’ do it! One reason for this is that ‘best Sunday Roast’ is such a frequent search on this blog.

Here’s our current favourites:

We’ve been to The Bell a few times over the last couple of weeks and have really noticed that they’ve upped their game in the food they’re offering. The Sunday roast today was lovely – 5 veg including parsnip crisps, roasties, homemade yorkies, a good portion of beef and fiery horseradish – all for £12.90. In the past they’ve not been afraid to try more than the usual options – hopefully the venison will be back again this winter. They serve roasts all day on a Sunday. They also have burgers, pasta and sharing board options if you’re not in the  mood for a roast dinner. There’s a good range of draft real ales, bottled craft beers and wines by the bottle or glass, as well as a decent choice of soft drinks. A roast costs around £12/13 and they do kid size portions. There’s a choice of traditional puds too. The place is packed by 12.30pm including the lovely garden area in the summer. (Nov 2014)

617 Forest Road, Walthamstow, E17 4NE
Tel: 020 8523 2277

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This place gets packed on a Sunday but they don’t take reservations so it’s best to get there early around 12.30pm or later about 3pm. There’s a bar area for waiting with the Sunday papers. Again the beef is served pink and comes with all the trimmings and sometimes a contentious sprinkle of rocket! The pork is always excellent. A roast costs around £12/14 but there are other choices too. Starters include homemade fishcakes, soup and nibbles. For desert there’s ice creams by the scoop, homemade puddings or a cheeseboard. Good wine and drinks list, and a choice of teas and coffee. (Dec 2013)

28-30 Orford Road, Walthamstow, E17 9NJ
Tel: 020 8521 5279

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The Castle has been under new management since August 2013. After successfully trying out their mid-week menu we decided to check out the Sunday Roast today. It was bustling with Sunday drinkers and diners, but we found an unreserved table by the fire. Lunch is from 12noon and they were still serving when we left about 4pm. The roast options included beef, pork, chicken and a tasty nut roast with tomato gravy. There was also a sea bass fish option. Roasts costing between £9.50 and £14, all come with an enormous homemade Yorkshire pudding. The beef is advertised as rare but perhaps better described as served pink. Starters include soup, pate or a salad, and for those going for the full 3 courses there’s a range of desserts or a cheeseboard. The wine list starts from £15 a bottle but there are plenty of choices by the glass plus real ales, lagers or soft drinks. (Dec 2013)

15 Grosvenor Rise East, Walthamstow, E17 9LB
Tel: 020 8509 8095

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Ok, I know it’s not in the Stow but this is one of our favourites. An Antic pub so you know the formula – salvaged, rickety furniture, bare-brick walls and an open fire. Real ale and craft beers. Sunday 12-8.30pm, no bookings on a Sunday and it gets busy early on. Roast Topside with fresh horseradish, roast chicken breast both £12 – with Yorkshires, roast and parsley pots, carrots, cabbage and swede. Kids roast £5.50-6.50. We really like the cheese platter with plum chutney too £6.50. (Jan 2014)

231 Lower Clapton Road,Clapton, E5 8EG
Tel: 020 8985 8124

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Another place just out of the Stow down on the banks of the River Lea near the ice skating centre. Recent refurbished pub. Pizza and pasta is made everyday in house. On a Sunday the roasts range between £13-14.  The pork belly was great – served with  roasties, veggies and Yorkshire pudding. Food served Sunday 12pm – 4pm / 5pm – 8pm. (Feb 2014)

146 Lea Bridge Road, Clapton, E5 9QB
Tel: 020 8533 3463

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So where next? We’ve been told that the Warrant Officer in Highams Hill and the Hare & Hounds on Lea Bridge Road, Leyton are worth a visit.

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Tayyab’s restaurant – Whitechapel E1

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The famous Tayyab’s restaurant- no queue yet!

We’ve been saying for ages how much we love Tayyab’s restaurant in Whitechapel. This is our favourite place for tandoori meat grills and we’ve been visiting for years, ever since we first moved to East London. But every time we visit either the lighting isn’t right to get any decent photos or we forget to take any before devouring everything. Well this time we remembered – but only just!

Tayyab’s has been serving Punjabi food in a backstreet of Whitechapel, East London since 1972. The family-run business has grown from a small cafe to the current 3 floor mega restaurant. The queue for a table is as legendary as the lamb chops, but it’s easy to understand why – the quality of the food is so good, it’s cheap and it’s BYO alcoholic drinks. At this time of year that can only mean lots of office Xmas parties with a box of beers!

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The famous lamb chops

Tables are set with 3 chutneys –  tomato & chilli, sweet mango and yogurt & mint, plus a plate of salad and a large jug of water. Poppadoms, spicy and plain, arrive quickly. They offer starters including vegetable pakoras and samosas, but we always head straight for the sizzling tandoori meats – 5 pieces chicken or mutton tikka for £3.20, the famous lamb chops (x4) or our favourite masala fish both cost £6.40, or lacto-free paneer tikka. Often people around us order a tandoori mixed grill. We’ve never felt flushed enough to try the grilled king prawns at nearly £10, but the minced meat seekh kebabs are more accessible at about £1 each. We love the lentil and beef shami kebabs but for some unknown reason to us, they are only available on Wednesdays and sell out quickly.

The tables are packed in so space is tight plus everything tends to arrive at once, so we always only order our tandoori meats and a couple of fresh brown roti first. The meat all arrives piled high on a sizzling, scorching hot platter complete with smoking onions that sets everyone off coughing and spluttering. It’s  all well spiced, marinated and cooked expertly so that it’s still juicy and tender.

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Sizzling mutton tikka

Once we’ve cleaned up on the tandoori we order again. Depending on how much space we’ve left, we then tend to opt for a vegetarian curry. They offer some interesting combinations of dhal and chickpeas with bhindi (okra), spinach or baby pumpkin for around £6. However if you want even more more meat or fish there are karahi lamb, chicken, keema (mince), prawn or fish curries served in a variety of ways all about £7. We ask for ours to be cooked with less oil. There are also daily specials including a slow cooked lamb nihari (Mon), an unusual batara (quail) curry (Tues), prawn masala available on Saturdays and my favourite nutty, chicken biriyani only on Sundays.

As I said, it’s BYOB for wine and beer, but they have a range of soft drinks including lassis, sweet, salty or mango. For dessert there are kulfi ice creams, syrupy gulab jamun doughnuts, kheer rice pudding or a halwa sweets counter.

They do take table reservations and also do takeaway, but if you can’t face the queue the Lahore Kebab House nearby on Commercial Road or Needoo Grill on New Road are good alternatives.

Tayyab’s restaurant, 83-89 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1JU
Tel: 020 7247 9543 / 6400
Email: info@tayyabs.co.uk
http://www.tayyabs.co.uk

Open 7 days a week from midday and last orders at 11pm

Tayyabs on Urbanspoon

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Khoresh sharam & zereshk – Persian venison & barberry stew with jewelled rice

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Jewelled rice

This isn’t a typical Persian dish, so forgive me if the name doesn’t quite work in Farsi. But it is our adaption of a lamb and barberry khoresh (stew). It came about when we discovered a long forgotten piece of venison at the back of the freezer. After all this time it deserved a slow cook to tenderise the meat, so we scoured our cookbooks, and then during a shopping trip in Leytonstone we found barberries, safflower and dried rose petals and so this dish was created. If you can’t find barberries, you could use dried cranberries.

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Dried barberries

Khoresh sharam & zereshk
(serves 3-4)

You need:

500g venison, cubed (or you could use lamb shoulder)
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 handful dried barberries
1 handful yellow split lentils
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon dried safflower
1 teaspoon rose water
2 tablespoon rapeseed oil
water
salt and pepper to taste

Method:

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Chopped venison

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan, add the sliced onions and garlic and gently fry for 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the cubed venison meat, and brown for a few more minutes.

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Adding all the ingredients, including barberries

Next add the lentils, turmeric, barberries, safflower and tomato puree and stir well to combine all the ingredients. Add enough water to cover, pop in the cinnamon stick and season with salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer on a low heat for about 2 hours until the meat is soft and melting. Add hot water whenever it is needed. Just before serving, stir in the rose water.

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And after a couple of hours slow-cooking

Serve with Jewelled rice – barberry, pistachio, almond & rose

You need:

150g white basmati rice
300ml boiled water
1 large onion, finely sliced
2-3 tablespoons dried barberries
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons almonds, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons dried rose petals
a pinch of salt

Method:

Put the dried barberries in a bowl and cover with hot water and leave to soak.

Wash the rice a couple of times to remove the excess starch. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pan, add the washed rice and fry for a few minutes to coat the grains. Next add the water and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a dry frying pan toast the almonds and pistachios for 3 or 4 minutes then remove the nuts onto a plate. Add the rest of the butter to the frying pan and turn up the heat. Add the sliced onions and fry until brown, stirring frequently to avoid them burning. Drain the barberries, add to the onions and continue to fry for a couple of minutes.

When the rice is cooked and fluffy top with the fried onions, barberries, almonds and pistachios, and finally sprinkle with rose petals.

Shopping tips: we bought the barberries, rose petals and safflower from TFC Turkish supermarket in Leytonstone, near the overground station.

Venison can be bought in season from the Radwinter Wild Game stall on Walthamstow Sunday Farmer’s Market.

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Simple pickles!

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Pickled red cabbage

We are really lucky that our kitchen has been the drop off point for friends and neighbours excess fruit and vegetables this year. We’ve been busily turning cucumbers into chutneys, red onions into relishes, quinces into jams and green beans into piccalilli. But our favourite solution for dealing with a glut of veggies has been to make quick and easy pickles.

We love the Turkish pickles that we spotted this year while on holiday in Bodrum. They usually include whole hot chillis, random chunks and slices of turnips, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic and carrots all thrown into massive jars topped up with vinegar. They are only left for a few days to pickle so they add a crunchy bite to kebab wraps and balik ekmek (fish sarnies). With these pickles in mind, we decided to make our own version of red cabbage and beetroot pickles.

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Organic red cabbage and onions waiting to go…

Our simple pickle recipe:

Finely slice a small red cabbage and one red onion.

Mix the cabbage and onion slices and pack into sterilised jars.

Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar to each jar. You could add a bay leaf or dried chilli at this stage.

Top up the jar with red or white wine vinegar or grape vinegar. We used apple vinegar which is available from Turkish supermarkets or Mahgreb on Hoe Street, Walthamstow.

Seal the jars and leave for about 1-2 weeks before eating. The pickles will keep for a couple of months and should be stored in a cool, dark place, then in the fridge after opening.

We made jars of beetroot pickles following the same recipe, replacing the red cabbage and red onion with shredded golden, red and candy-striped beetroot.

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Veggies packed into the jar

 

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Cockney bhajis (spicy apples & pears)

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Apples & pears (stairs!)

This week we were given a lovely bag of home-grown apples and pears as well as a microwave by a generous Walthamstow Freegler – we have a kitchen crisis which is too long a saga to go into here. We’re all pickled and chutneyed-out, plus we don’t have an empty jam jar in the whole house – so what to do with a rather large bag of fruit?

Bhajis of course! One of the foodies absolutely loves all things fried – goujons, breadcrumbs, fritters and chips. These spicy apple & pear bhajis went down an absolute storm for breakfast. This recipe made 20 bhajis so we froze a large bag of them for mid-week snacks. We used gram flour which is made from chickpeas, it’s high in protein and gluten-free.

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Grated fruit ready to become bhajis

Cockney bhajis

You need:

600g of  apples or/and firm pears
125g of gram (chickpea) flour
1 tsp of grated nutmeg
3 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 tsp of chilli flakes (optional)
1 tbsp sugar

Method:

Peel, quarter and core the apples and pears. Grate in a food processor.

In a large bowl mix the gram flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and chilli flakes (depending if you want your bhajis to be spicy or sweet). Add the grated fruit and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes.

Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a heavy-based frying pan until it’s beginning to sizzle. Open  the windows and  turn on the extractor fan.

Once the oil is hot, roll the mixture into golf ball sized shapes, then flatten slightly into small patties.  Add to the pan and fry on each side for about three minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. Sprinkle with sugar and enjoy with a pot of coffee or a hot chocolate.

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Just need a coffee now….

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Singburi Thai Cafe – authentic Thai food in Leytonstone

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Squid and chives

This week we needed a place to eat in Leytonstone on Friday night as we had tickets to watch a friend ‘s performance in Pygmalion with the Woodhouse Players. A quick google search led us to Singburi (Royal) Thai Cafe. The name is grander than the restaurant looks – strip lights, veneer wipe-clean tables, kitch trinkets, potted plants, paper napkins and well-thumbed laminated menus. But I can forgive dated decor as long as the food sings and the reviews promised this was the real deal. The bright yellow, glowing frontage makes this place look like any other take-away along this stretch of Leytonstone High Road, certainly not the kind of place you’d need to book. But a reservation was advised, and when we phoned for an early table we were surprised to be told they needed it back by 9pm – that worked fine for us.

So we weren’t sure what to expect when we finally found the place at the far end of Leytonstone High Road from the tube, just past the overground station.  It’s near the Tesco express – which is handy as it is unlicensed and BYOB with no corkage charge.

The menu contains all the standard starters – fishcakes, chicken satay, soups, papaya salad, spring rolls and prawn crackers. Then about 10 curries, a range of stir-fries, Phad Thai noodles and veggie options.

But we overheard a neighbouring table ordering clams. A thorough search of the menu didn’t reveal any clams, where are the clams? I now really want clams! Then we spotted the specials scribbled on a white board at the back of the restaurant. Now we’re talking – soft shell crab, seabass, morning glory, green tea ice cream, durian fruit, mysterious Moo Krab and the clams.

Decison made, we ordered the clams of course (£6.50) as well as the Thai fishcakes, and then green chicken curry extra chilli (£7.50), and another special, the squid and chives (£8).

The clams arrived just after my quick dash to Tesco’s for a bottle of wine. These were described by the staff as medium spicy, now we love chilli but this dish has strips  of tongue searingly hot red and green chillis, plus loads of garlic and fresh Thai herbs. The flavours were amazing in this steaming seafood bowl.

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Clams!

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A decent serving of sticky boiled rice

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Thai green chicken curry – extra hot!

The green curry was certainly extra hot and contained plenty of chicken, aubergines and peppers. The rice was a generous serving unlike the usual Thai restaurants – we could have shared it between us and next time we’ll order an extra vegetable dish instead. The squid and chive dish was delicious, heavily-infused with the flavour of roast garlic.

It’s popular with locals dropping in and also ordering take away – 3 orders were collected in the hour we were there, and now I know why – we’ll be making another reservation very soon.

Singburi Royal Thai Cafe
593 High Road
Leytonstone
London
E11 4PA
Tel: 020 8282 4801

Tues-Sat 6-11pm, Sun 6-10pm, closed on Mondays.

Singburi on Urbanspoon

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Oat and banana ‘Breakfast Buffins’

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Breakfast Buffins

I have invented the ‘Breakfast Buffin’ – it’s half way between a biscuit (think flapjack) and a muffin. Well everyone else is doing it these days – the cronut, the doissant, the ramen burger…

The reason for this creation is that porridge is the breakfast I know I should eat – all those oats to lower your blood pressure and mean you’ll live to 100. But I just don’t get the whole porridge thing. I’ll eat it when someone makes it for me, but it’s not something I’m going to do in a rush in a morning before work. So here’s my alternative – no sugar, fruity, easy and better than those Belvita breakfast biscuity things. This is also a great thrifty way of using up those E17 ‘pound-a-bowl’ bananas lingering in the fruit bowl. The more ripe the better.

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Slightly past their best bananas – thrifty!

You need:

150g porridge oats
2 bananas (mashed)
30g dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, chopped prunes, figs, apricots… you get the idea)
a handful of seeds (I used pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
a splash of milk (if required)

Method:

In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Add the bananas and stir. Add a splash of milk if it’s needed to bring it all together into a sticky dough ball.

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This is so simple it doesn’t even count as a recipe

Drop into greased muffin tins, making 6 to 8 Breakfast Buffins. They’re not going to rise.

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Ready to bake

Bake at 180 C for 20 mins. Enjoy hot or cold.

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And they’re ready!

They are so simple. They only take 2 minutes to prepare, then you can stick them in the oven while you have a shower. However they are moreish – the other foodie had scoffed 2 and walked off with a third within a matter of minutes. Apparently they go well with a coffee on the go!

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Preserved Christmas pears

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Highams Park pears

Today has been a day of leisure, because we are still reeling from the effects of exhaustion after yesterday’s bottling, pickling and jamming extravaganza!

Our kitchen often seems to be a refuge for other people’s surplus fruit and vegetables. So this week we were absolutely amazed to take in a harvest of pears, grapes and over 4kg of quinces from Walthamstow village. We spent the day in a frenzy of activity, having a challenge on our hands to avoid waste and be thrifty and clever with this fresh and extremely local fruit.

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Couldn’t manage without her!

So reliant on a pile of cookbooks including a 1960’s copy of Marguerite Patten’s fantastic recipe book that cost 2/6, we made grape cheese, quince and apple jam, membrillo and  preserved Xmas pears. To say that we were busy is rather understated and I fear that the kitchen floor will forever be sticky despite constant mopping!

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E17 quinces

Preserved Christmas pears

We tasted the pears which were amazing – juicy but not too soft, so we decided to preserve them as a seasonal treat for Christmas. We made 3 average size jars and 1 very large one.

You need:

8-10 pears (peeled, quartered and cored)
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
8 green cardamom pods
2 cups of sugar
5 pints of water

Method:

Prepare the pears by carefully peeling and quartering them and removing the core. Add each one as you go to a bowl of water with the juice of half a lemon to prevent them discolouring.

Dissolve the sugar and water with all the spices in a large heavy-based pan or jam pan if you have one. Bring the syrup to the boil and make sure all the sugar has dissolved by scraping a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan. Remove the pears from the lemony water and add carefully to the jam pan. Bring the syrup back to the boil then simmer for five minutes.

Wash your jars and lids thoroughly then sterilize in the oven. Place the pears to the hot, sterilised jars and then fill with the syrup and spice pieces.

To try and preserve the pears for longer, we made our first attempt at sterlising again in a water bath. Take a roasting tin and put in a wire rack so that the jars won’t be sitting directly on the bottom of the pan. Put the jars with lids loosely-on onto the rack then add three inches of boiling water. Place the tray into the oven and cook for 40 mins at 80 C. These pears will last for up to 1 year, but the flavour of the spices will intensify with time.

You can use the pears in baking or eat as they are with ice cream or custard. You can also wash off the syrup or add more honey and other flavours.

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Pears poaching in the spiced syrup

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After a long day at the bottling factory!

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Spelt tray-bake pizza

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Tray-bake pizza

This is a big Saturday night tray-bake pizza and an absolute fav. There is nothing authentic or Italian about this pizza base! But it’s massive, wholesome, hearty, comforting and wheat-free.

For the pizza base you need:

500g spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 sachet quick action yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
300ml hand hot water
1 tablespoon olive oil

Toppings:

300g tomato passata, tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, or tinned chopped tomatoes (strained)
1 small butternut squash, cut into slices and roasted for 30 mins
1 red pepper, finely sliced
A handful of sundried tomatoes
100g smoked ham or pancetta finely diced
150g grated cheese

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Adding the toppings

Method:

In a big bowl mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.

Add the oil to the water and gradually mix into the flour,  bringing the dough together first with a spoon then get stuck in with your hands.

Once the rough dough is a lumpy ball take it out of the bowl and begin to knead on the worktop for about 10 mins until it feels smooth and stretchy.

Pop it back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave it somewhere warm to rise for about an hour. In this time it should double in size.

Heat your oven to 200 C. Lightly oil a large baking or roasting tray.

After 1 hour, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out the dough to roughly the size of your tray, then gently transfer the dough into the tray. Now stretch it out with your hands to fill the whole tray.  If you’ve got time leave it to rise again for another 20 minutes, if not press on with topping your pizza.

Cover the base with the tomatoes – use whatever you’ve got to hand. Then add your toppings. Again use whatever you fancy – but our favourite is: roasted butternut squash, red pepper, smoked ham and a strong vintage cheddar. Season with salt, black pepper, chilli flakes and a sprinkle of herbs – dried oregano or rosemary work great with the butternut squash.

Bake in a preheated oven for 20- 35 minutes.

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The best bit!

Top with fresh herbs and salad leaves and serve with home-made, spicy oven chips and lots of dips. Enjoy in front of the TV as that’s what Saturday nights are made for!

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How to organise a street party

A neighbour and I organised a Big Lunch street party back in June, and yes, I’ve finally managed to write up our experience. If you find yourself living in a new environment and want to meet your neighbours then this post may help give you some ideas!

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Closed for our street party!

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Gluten-free bread workshop

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Bread to be proud of!

It was one of our Supperclub nightmares – a gluten-free guest! But I know now that we’d manage if it ever happened, because when one of the Walthamstowfoodies had to go wheat-free for a while, we decided to sign up for the gluten free and alternative flours bread-making course with the Hornbeam Bakers Collective at the Hornbeam Cafe in Baker’s Arms, Walthamstow.

At only £30 for an all day course including making three organic bread loaves to take home, the Hornbeam Bakers Collective courses are fantastic value.

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Rolling and shaping the dough

Starting at 11am, it’s a lovely, relaxed Sunday spent with a knowledgeable tutor and a group of about 12 others in a friendly, community cafe atmosphere. After an initial introduction to the various types of flours and the problems with both digesting gluten and baking without it, we tried out a simple wholemeal spelt dough. At the end of the day we shaped this into a variety of plaits and rolls.

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Plaiting the spelt loaves

After a vegetarian sharing lunch, we also made a delicious rye sourdough loaf and a 100% gluten-free flax-seed bread using buckwheat, rice, corn and potato flours. We came away with loads of recipes and ideas, sourdough starter instructions and a jar of homemade sourdough starter . Unfortunately after only one fantastic loaf I’ve managed to kill this again – but at least I know how to make a new one now. You would not believe how proud we were of our efforts.

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Spelt bread plait roll

The Hornbeam Bakers Collective is part of the Real Bread Campaign. They also offer a basic introduction to bread making, bread shaping, sourdough bread and pastry courses. The exciting news is they are moving into their own new premises with a cob oven and cafe in Blackhorse Lane over the next few months. They supply fresh bread to the Hornbeam cafe, the Organiclea Saturday stall at the Hornbeam cafe and the Stoke Newington farmer’s market. Their bread is also available with the Organiclea veg box scheme. For more information and bookings:

http://www.hornbeam.org.uk/groups/the-hornbeam-bakers-collective/

email: hornbeambakers@gmail.com

blog: http://hornbeambakers.wordpress.com/

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Simple fresh cheese making

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Beautiful, magical cheese!

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been so busy pickling and bottling chutneys, relishes, cordials and alcoholic delights that unfortunately the blog has been lower on the list of priorities. We’ve been rescuing over-sized, unloved marrows and cucumbers, dealing with bumper crops of tomatoes and foraging for elderberries, blackberries, sloes and rosehips – before the birds eat them all. The kitchen looks like a bottling factory and we even had to put a call out via twitter and freegle for more jars.

Now I’ve got a few minutes peace and quiet I think it’s time to post, but what about? so much has been going on. I could share with you the excitement of making piccalilli for the first time (maybe I should get out more) – but it won’t be ready for at least a month so I can’t tell you how it tastes or if it turned out fabulous!

So back to cheese! I guess this is a refresh of our first cheese-making post many months ago  Bulgarian Sirene cheese. Essentially cheese making is a simple thing. Milk is heated, the curds and whey are persuaded to part company, the curds are strained and drained, then the cheese is pressed into shape, seasoned and left to mature. It’s been done for years by frugal housewives and farmers wives across the world without the need for clever gadgets or complicated techniques. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not magical – somewhere in the process the milk becomes cheese – and to me that’s an amazing thing!

So here is the process in the simplest terms:

Heat 2 litres of full fat milk in a large pan to 38 degrees – hand hot blood temperature. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 tsp of rennet. Stir well and leave uncovered for 15 minutes. The milk will begin to set and separate into curds and whey.

Rescue the curds into a muslin-lined colander placed over a large bowl. Leave to slowly drain for about an hour.

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Draining the curds

Next tie-up the four corners of the muslin into a loose parcel and hang-up to continue draining. We find hanging it from the handle of a kitchen cupboard over the bowl works well – until you want a cup of tea and it’s the mugs cupboard that is!

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Tied up to drain

Leave it for a few hours, then tip the contents into a cheese mold if you have one (Lakeland sell them cheaply). This will shape up your cheese into a presentable and identifiable item that you can feel proud of.

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In the cheese mold

The result will be a soft, fresh cheese similar to ricotta or mozzarella which can be salted and eaten with crackers or sweetened and turned into cheesecake. Either way it is a thing of beauty, the cheese-making magic has happened and with a bit of time, patience and TLC you have transformed a £1 bottle of milk into real homemade cheese!

If you’re being really frugal at this point the leftover whey can be reheated to produce a ricotta by adding lemon juice. Alternatively the whey can be used as a stock for soups or cooking rice, adding a rich, creamy, slightly cheesy flavour. It’s high in protein but low fat. Finally any leftover whey can even be used as tomato plant feed. Not bad for £1.

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Grab the green tea: the Foodies go healthy!

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Beef and brown rice noodle stir fry tonight!

Over the last six months I’ve had a great time eating and drinking more or less just what I’ve fancied. But of course the pounds have crept on, slowly but surely and now I’m getting annoyed.

Annoyed at myself for not being more careful and for letting my earlier weight loss success be scoffed away. I know about a healthy diet; I’ve even attended a nutrition course for goodness sake, I should know better! Those who know me are well aware of my weight ups and downs over the years. The problem is that I really do love food – well I am a foodie after all.  I guess what has happened is that I’ve just had too much of the bad stuff. I really do believe that if you balance your diet you can mix and match, ‘a little of what you fancy does you good’ as they say, but you do need to be aware of what you eat.

So I declare the party is well and truly over, not because being a size 16 bothers me but just because I am happier at a lighter size. For me eating a healthy diet means stopping to have breakfast and avoiding the trap of rushing out of the door grabbing a coffee and a croissant at the station – I don’t even really like croissants. It means drinking green tea which I love, and it has the added bonus of speeding up your metabolism apparently. Lunch is a soup and spelt bread followed by a stir fry for dinner. I’m snacking on my favourites, apricots and almonds eaten together because the nuts reduce the sugar rush that you get from the apricots – as I said I know a bit about this stuff but yet I fall at the very mention of fish and chips!

What I have described is a routine, and when I feel well then that’s absolutely great. But when I’m feeling depressed or anxious then I’d rather just do what I want thanks – even if it isn’t what’s good for me or deep down what I really would like.

So I’m now on the healthy eating programme – not a diet, I don’t do diets. Kicking off tonight with a beef stir fry. The veg is chopped and ready to cook and as it is the weekend I may have a glass of wine with it. Another rule I’ve made for myself  is that drinking on a school night is out. I need some discipline in my life courtesy of me, I’m taking back control of my diet and I’m looking forward to it. I will share some of my healthier recipes soon when I have perfected them!

P.S  I’m dragging the other foodie on this healthy eating journey with me and so I expect some sabotage along the way but I’m armed with green tea!

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A find in Leyton – Chinese food in Leyton, Woo Lot

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Woo Lot

So there we were, hungry and annoyed having just walked down to Bakers Arms one afternoon with the aim of trying out an Indian restaurant which turned out to be firmly closed. We wandered around getting increasingly dismayed at the volume of fast food chicken shops, then on the verge of giving up entirely we came across Woo Lot. It had an impressive 5 score food hygiene rating on the door, it was packed, we were now starvin’ Marvin so we decided to give it a go – to be honest by then I would have agreed to anything!

The interior is canteen-style with a massive counter in a large room full of outdoor dining furniture. You order at the counter – all rather cheap and cheerful.  It’s eat-in, take-away or delivery after 5.30pm.

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Taking orders at the counter

We quickly agreed our order and I was about to make my way to the counter when the opposite table’s food arrived. Well plate-envy hit, we just had to find out what the rather large plate full of lovely seafood was. We asked for ‘one of those’ – and plate quickly arrived brimming with squid, prawns, fish balls and fresh vegetables on a bed of noodles.

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Mixed seafood with fried noodles

We also ordered a plate of Barbecued Pork with rice. It was all fresh, quick, filling and cheap (between £4 & max £7 per large plate depending on what you select). There is something for everyone including loads of vegetarian options, seafood and fish, and my favourite crispy duck with pancakes.

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BBQ pork and rice

We really enjoyed our lunch and would recommend you give it a go if you live near or find yourself in Bakers Arms. Just writing this post makes me want to return there and eat lots of salt and peppered squid, oops forgot to say we had this as a starter – yes piggy, but did I say we were rather hungry! Go on – try it, it’s fab!

Woo Lot, 592 Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, E10. Open daily from 12 noon til 11.30pm, midnight on Fri & Sat (Sunday 4pm – 11pm) Free local delivery from 5.30pm

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A little local knowledge goes a long way – Quattro Stagioni

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The local pizza shop

Local knowledge is an amazing thing – at our Big lunch street party back in June we were privileged with a local secret – take-away pizza shop is ‘good for grills’.  On Sunday, tired out after a long drive back from Norfolk involving hours stuck in the weekend traffic outside Cambridge we just had to grab a takeaway. You know the feeling when you just can’t face cooking and all you want is a decent plate of food? We decided to venture in. After skillfully avoiding her snobbery and getting the ‘pickiest foodie ever’ through the door we managed to order.

A quick perusal of the fridge and the decision was made to go for the grilled meat rather than a pizza. The cheery chap at the counter made a bit of a gaff by asking the now ‘easily irritated’ foodie how she knew about merguez sausages! I was amazed that we didn’t suddenly bolt to the door but I think the fresh liver kebab was calling so we stayed and ordered. Options were negotiated – salad or chips, baguette or homemade bread – ‘irritated foodie ‘was so impressed that she declared this could be the start of a very beautiful friendship!

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liver kebabs in a pitta

For £9 we had two large fresh pitta breads – made in front of your eye, one stuffed with three skewers of liver and one with a massive slice of kofta (seasoned minced lamb) cooked fresh on the grill, plus a portions of chips, a tomato, cucumber and feta salad, and two cans of diet coke! We were impressed – they tasted fab and were freshly made. The hot homemade pitta bread was a winner!

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Kofte kebab

You can eat in or take-away, there’s even a garden area at the back. They also do delivery and special offers on their pizzas. Next time ‘irritated’ foodie said she fancies trying the unusual ‘Algeriana’ – tomato, mozzarella, mincemeat & merguez sausage pizza!

Pizza Quattro Stagioni – 402 Forest Road, E17 5JF (near William Morris museum) open midday until midnight.

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Kale crisps – a tale of E17 food swapping

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Loads of fresh E17 kale!

I did my first food swap this week with someone that I’d never met before. Armed with a warm loaf of bread, a bunch of homegrown herbs and a bag of dried chillies we arranged to meet at The Bell.

In return, I got a massive bag of kale and other lovelies including gooseberries, artichoke, squash, baby marrow, potatoes and a courgette. Plus the real bonus was meeting Joanne who has an allotment in Walthamstow. That night I made a quick gooseberry fridge jam which married well with the loaf I’d made for us. I also decided to make healthy crisps with my stash of kale.

Kale crisps

Wash the kale, remove any really thick stems and dry the leaves. Put the kale onto a baking tray in a single layer. Spray with veggie/rapeseed oil – don’t pour your oil onto the kale otherwise it gets too oily. Bake in a hot oven – 220 degrees. After 5 minutes check with a spoon that the leaves are not sticking to one another, then back in the oven for another 7 minutes. Season with – well choice is yours – Turkish chilli flakes, sea salt, paprika, black pepper or even sugar. Get the next batch ready and into the oven – they’ll disappear fast! They’re a bit like crispy fried seaweed from the take-away, really more-ish and a healthy nibble with a drink.

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kale crisps – not easy to photo, but they taste great

E17 food swapping is great – who wants to join in? I’m offering homemade bread! I set up a twitter account just to kick it off!
Twitter: @E17foodswap

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Our top 10 places to eat in Tarragona and Reus, Spain

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Arroz Bogavante at Meson Andaluz

The Catalan city of Reus is actually where you arrive on a cheap Ryanair ‘Barcelona’ flight. It is the gateway to the Costa Dorada resorts of Salou and Cambrils, but Reus and neighbouring coastal city of Tarragona are often over looked in the rush to the beach, the bright lights of Barcelona or Europe’s largest theme park PortAventura.

Having bagged a couple of really cheap flights we decided on a foodie sunshine break, aiming to get off the tourist routes and explore the backstreets and local specialties. I’ve selected the restaurants or foodie experiences on this list based purely on our personal taste, value for money, quality of the food and overall experience.

Starting with Reus:

1. Antiga Casa Coder (Mercadal 16, Reus) – Set on a large square opposite the Gaudi Museum with a large outside seating area, great for people watching.  Set menu del dia (14 Euro pp.) available at night for an additional 5 Euro included a bottle of good quality local wine, water, bread and a wide choice of 3 courses including this amazing starter of ‘huevos y foie’ – the ultimate egg and chips!

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Huevos, patates & foie

2. Peixateries 8 (Peixateries Velles 8, Reus) – good quality seafood restaurant in the shadow of the Priory of Reus. Amazing open fridge displaying all the seafood and shellfish. Helpful staff guide you through the options. Not cheap, but good value for really fresh seafood including clams in meat sauce (a Catalan surf ‘n’ turf), spider crabs, local red prawns, and octopus with potatoes and paprika. 

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Polpo (octopus)

3. Patates Laurie (Mecadal, Reus) – we loved this retro homemade crisps shop! Constantly busy with locals queuing for big bags of fresh potato crisps.

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Crisps! well it would be rude not to try them…

Moving on after a couple of nights to Tarragona we discovered:

4. El Tiberi (Martí d’Ardenya 5, Tarragona) – in the lower part of the town just a 5 mins walk off the tourist trail, this is an eat-as-much-as-you-want buffet restaurant – serving good quality, local Catalan dishes. There are salads, gazpacho, hams and cheeses, and a multitude of oven cooked dishes from pasta and paella to slightly scary unidentified offal. The highlights were fresh grilled meat including rabbit and quail, and the delightful raciones made to order including baked fish, calamari and mussels.  It was between 12-14 Euro depending on the time of day.

5. Sol-Ric (Avenida Via Augusta 225-227), Tarragona) – recommended by our hotel this is an out of town restaurant near Arrabassada beach, popular with locals. Old school Spanish, quality seafood and classic dishes especially the paella and marisco arroces.

6. Raco de l’Abat (Carrer de l’abat 2, Part Alta, Tarragona) – We were looking at the menu of this restaurant after wandering around the Old Town getting increasingly hot and grumpy at lunch time.  Husband and wife team, serving a menu del dia for 15 Euro. All the ingredients were local and seasonal, including Tarragona wine and the best vermut that we have ever tasted, local sardines, and amazing homemade cannelloni stuffed with hake.

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Fresh local sardines

7. Bar Toful (Arc de Sant Bernat 4, Tarragona) – Bistro vibe with a large outdoor eating area. Busy with locals for reasonably priced tapas and enormous steaks easily big enough for 2 to share.

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Monster T-bone steak!

8. Cal Marti (de Sant Pere 12, El Serrallo, Tarragona) – having walked backwards and forwards past all the seafront restaurants in this fishing port area of the city we were hot, bothered and confused. We stumbled into this cool back street oasis after looking at their menu del dia. It was full almost exclusively by locals. We had fish soup, fideua and paella portions, followed by fresh fish and squid then desserts. Simple regional dishes in a friendly atmosphere and great value for money.

9. Meson Andaluz (Pons d’l Cart 3, Tarragona) – we tried this backstreet bar out of desperation as we found most of Tarragona closed on Monday. They were offering a 4 course menu del dia for 7.90 Euro including wine. It was full of older locals tucking in seated in a cool, tile-lined dinning room. On taking a closer look at the menu we found for a supplement of 8 Euro person we could upgrade to a lobster rice – so our super cheap lunch just doubled in price! we should have probably upgraded on the house wine too. Anyway – fruit juice, a paella pan full of rice and a whole lobster and other seafood, roast rabbit main, and dessert for only 16 Euro each! During the week the menu price drops to only 6 Euro.

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Arroz Bogavante – lobster rice – worth the upgrade

10. Quattros (Placa de la Font, Part Alta, Tarragona) – immensely popular tapas pinchos bar with a good wine list. Patates Bravas was a particular favourite of ours whilst watching the parade of weddings at the town hall on the square.

 
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Our top 5 favourite cook books

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The Walthamstowfoodies LOVE cook books. We have hundreds – one of the reasons we moved was to re-house all these books in a bigger kitchen space. A perfect summer Sunday morning is lazing around in the garden with a pot of fresh coffee, a pile of cook books and croissants – planning and drooling over what to make for a late lunch for friends and family. So we thought we’d share our 5 favourite cook book recommendations with you. In no particular order these are:

The New English Kitchen: Changing the Way You Shop, Cook and Eat by Rose Prince (2005) – A modern-day manual for ‘making the most of what you have’,  using local and seasonal food to make stocks, sauces and store cupboard basics as well as frugally making the most from cuts of meat and dealing with vegetable gluts.  This is one of our absolute favourites.

At Elizabeth David’s Table: Her Very Best Everyday Recipes by Elizabeth David (2010) – A cookery bible collection of the most inspiring, yet everyday recipes from the woman who changed the face of British cooking after the war. From tasty soups and starters through to meat, fish, desserts and baking.

A New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden (1986) – The ultimate collection of recipes from the grand dame. Taking inspiration from her childhood in Cairo she brings together recipes and anecdotes from the varied cuisines of the Middle East and North African cultures. Authentic and easy to follow recipes which will lead you on a hunt for interesting, and maybe unfamiliar ingredients across the food shops of E17.

Real Cooking by Nigel Slater (2006) – This book is not about making fancy, fiddly food, it’s about real cooking. Using the best quality ingredients to make fresh, simple food that is a pleasure to eat at home with family and friends.

Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2 by Pam Corbin (2008) – Part of the fantastic River Cottage Handbook series, this is an indispensable, comprehensive guide to preserves, cordials, sauces, vinegars, chutneys and pickles. Easy and rewarding recipes and techniques for making the most out of seasonal gluts of fruit and vegetables – everything from a simple raspberry jam to sloe gin or nettle pesto.

What’s your favourite cook book?

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Teras – new Turkish BBQ restaurant on Wood Street

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The beautiful lamps at Teras restaurant

We have been poked and prompted to go and check out Teras restaurant on Wood Street since it opened – but it’s only been open 8 days and there is such a stir, what are they doing!? We decided to go as soon as possible – which turned out to be ‘tired-on-a-Tuesday’ this week.

Bold branding on the front makes the place look like any other E17 kebab shop. However on entering we slipped back to the ocakbasi BBQ restaurants in Istanbul. The takeaway counter is dominant at the front, but beyond that it is a small, friendly local restaurant, beautifully decorated with lanterns imported directly from Turkey by the owners. This former cafe was owned by the same guy for 15 years until he retired and his family have transformed it into a Turkish BBQ restaurant.

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Working the BBQ grill

Unfortunately they had run out of the red mullet barbunya pilaki, apparently it’s made daily and we missed out. We ordered a couple of hot meze instead – arnavut cigari (grilled liver with onions) and karides (prawns with peppers.) Both dishes were fresh and well cooked, the olives, fresh bread, homemade chilli and garlic sauces arrived without asking too. The sumac sprinkled around the prawns was astounding – I’ve read about this spice being an alternative to fresh lemons but never realized why until we tasted this – the owners import it fresh directly from Turkey in small batches and it was amazing!

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Arnavut cigari

For the mains we’d ordered, ali nazik – grilled chicken served on a bed of roasted aubergines with a yoghurt sauce, and sarma beyti – a spicy minced lamb kebab wrapped in bread and served sliced on chilli and yoghurt sauces with orzo rice – beautifully presented. We had to remind them about the salad which was our only criticism of the meal.

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Lamb sarma beyti

Teras is especially good value at the moment with a BYOB until they get a drinks license. We had 2 courses and a coffee each for less than £30. It’s lovely food, cooked freshly to order. The staff, of which there were many, were friendly and welcoming. The owners are new to the restaurant business and keen to build up a local following – with food this good it won’t be difficult. Verdict –  a great new local Wood Street restaurant which transports you to a night out in Istanbul – while a lot cheaper than a trip on Easyjet, enjoy!

Teras Turkish BBQ Restaurant, 117 Wood Street, London, E17 3LL

Twitter: @TerasBarbuku

Teras on Urbanspoon

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Chilled gazpacho soup – E17 style

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It’s too hot! So it’s time for a chilled summer soup.

Gazpacho is the famous Spanish cold tomato soup, designed like a drinkable summer salad to cool you down when the weather just gets too much. We have Spanish neighbours who we swap tasty morsels with over the fence – when a bowl of salmorejo (the thicker big brother of gazpacho) was passed over it was like being transported straight to Seville.

So this inspired us to try making a chilled gazpacho at our Supperclub. When the kitchen temperature reached 30 degrees, this was going to be the perfect chilled soup and it was easier than we expected. The veggie ingredients are available throughout the summer on the market and especially in the Turkish supermarkets in Walthamstow at bargain prices, plus it’s a fantastic way of getting your 5-a-day.

We found loads of fiddly recipes which suggested blanching and de-seeding the tomatoes, or sieving the soup at least three times – life’s too short for this in my opinion! Then there were versions with or without the peppers or adding bread as a thickener. We came up with this more simple version – it may be more E17 than Espana but we loved it.

You need: (serves 4-6)

1kg really ripe vine tomatoes – soft to the touch
1 red pepper
1 & 1/2 cucumbers, peeled
2 garlic cloves
3-4  spring onions
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar / red wine vinegar
salt / pepper to taste

Toppings (optional):

1 tomato
1/2 red or green pepper
1/2 cucumber
1 tin tuna in olive oil or water
or an egg chopped

Method:

Wash and roughly chop the tomatoes and pepper, blend quickly. Next peel the cucumbers, chop into chunks, add to the blender and whiz again until pretty smooth.

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In a mortar and pestle crush the garlic cloves with a sprinkle of sea salt. Add this to the blender and whiz again.

Slowly add the olive oil, then the vinegar. Sherry vinegar would be more authentic but it’s not easily available so we found that red wine vinegar and a splash of balsamic makes a good substitute (I’m sure we’re not the first to try this.) Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Blend the whole mix until as smooth as possible. Now chill it for at least 2 hours.

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When you’re ready to serve, finely dice the tomato, pepper and cucumber. Ladle the soup into bowls, pop in an ice cube, sprinkle with the crunchy veggie toppings and a small amount of tuna if you eat fish or crispy croutons. Enjoy!

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The Chequers under new management

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Well it has all been rather dramatic, sudden and a cut-throat business in the E17 pub world this week.

Our lovely local pub on the high street,The Chequers, recently refurbished and managed by Antic Ltd over the last six months, put out a twitter message on 13 July to say ‘due to unforeseen circumstances” it was closed for the weekend. Very mysterious! Thankfully the pub did reopen on Wednesday night much to the relief of #awesomestow twitterati.

So what really happened? Antic announced today that they had the lease and were promised the freehold but apparently were guzumped at the eleventh hour – what a real shame after all their love and effort. They remain committed to Walthamstow and are looking for a new premises but it needs to be ‘large, Victorian or older, be closed, full of character and in a great central location’. So if you know of another place similar to The Chequers then you can find them @Antic_London

Putting Antic’s really awful experience aside, we are excited about the pedigree of the new kids on the block. They own The Lock Tavern (Camden) – good memories of their Sunday lunches. Even closer to home, The Three Crowns (Stoke Newington) which is a favourite destination for a lovely Sunday morning walk over the marshes. They have a well selected wine list, seasonal food, and a good vibe. They also own Pub in the Park (London Fields) another fab on trend pub and The Shacklewell Arms (Dalston) which is the only one we haven’t tried – must add to our list to check out.

Of course we had to go for a nosy around on Wednesday after work just to check it was still there and was a functioning pub. Not surprisingly given they have only been kicking around for a few days we can report that very little has changed although not sure if the baby football machine was there before – maybe we missed it. All the previous Antic staff were sitting together in the beer garden.

So what about the food? Our foodie expectations are always high. But as the saying goes the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we headed over to sample their menu this evening.

Verdict? We shared a slate of potted Dorset crab with plenty of capers, lemon, salad leaves, chard and white toast. The ramekin was too large and shallow so basically you got loads of butter which is good if you like butter and 1cm layer of crab – it pleaded for seasoning but this will be a fab dish with a bit more attention.

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The grilled marinated lamb cutlets (£11) were amazingly tender and delicious but as a dish it was confused. Wasn’t sure whether they were aiming for Americana or Greek-style as the lamb was served with tenderstem broccoli, spinach, cubes of pumpkin and feta (not sure it really was feta) in a honey mustard dressing. The honey mustard with lamb and the cheese didn’t work together.

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The other foodie was happier with her fresh chicken Caesar salad (£8) – cos lettuce, Parmesan, croutons and anchovies.

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I know they are finding their feet so it’s probably unfair to visit early on in their first week, but we have to be consistent –  we did the same to The Bell! Rather than having a mean-streak we’re just eager to see what’s on offer and spread the word. If you live in E17 then be part of it, you don’t need to head to Dalston, Hackney or Soho for lovely food and great vibe – it’s here folks on our doorstep, really wanting to be here so we just need to support it! Once they sort out their menu this place will be a winner. All we can do is feed back, keep supporting and welcome them to the stow!

The Chequers, 145 High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7BX
Opening Times: Mon-Thurs 5-11pm, Fri 5pm-midnight, Sat 12pm -midnight, Sun 12-11pm
Food served 5-10pm Mon-Fri, 12-10pm Sat, 12-5pm Sun.

The Chequers on Urbanspoon

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Mulberry and spelt scones

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We bought a packet of dried dark mulberries from our local 24 hour shop on Hoe Street. We’re always up for trying new things and love a culinary challenge, so we started to research what wonders we could create with mulberries. Thanks to google and some persian cookbooks we found that they are predominately used in sweet things such as granola and cakes.

One of the foodies is wheat-free at the moment so we started dreaming up a spelt scone idea with mulberries replacing the sultanas. They were a bit heavy due to being wholemeal, but in the plus side lasted at least a week. The mulberries have a mild nutty, slightly earthy flavour which is a bit addictive. They are a great snack and a super food apparently.

You need:

220g wholemeal spelt flour
30g dried mulberries, chopped
1 tsp baking powder
90g butter or margarine
170ml milk (we used rice milk, almond milk would be great too)
1 tsp salt

Method:

Mix the spelt flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.

Next gently add the butter or margarine and rub it through the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually stir in the milk until the dough forms a ball, you may need to adjust the amount of milk slightly. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 20-30 minutes.

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Unwrap the dough and place it on a floured work surface. Gently roll out the dough to 2cm thick. Use a cutter to stamp out the scones. Arrange on a greased or lined baking tray. Brush with beaten egg or milk.

Preheat oven to 200 C / Gas 6. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with your favourite jam and thick cream for a lovely afternoon tea treat. 

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Sunday lunch at The Bell

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Last Sunday when the sun was shining we decided to treat ourselves to a well-deserved Sunday roast so headed to The Bell. We wrote a review of this pub back in the autumn when they first launched. You can’t reserve unless you are a table of 10+ and as they are very child friendly (children’s portions are half price) it can get very busy, so best to arrive early. They have now extended the garden area which is perfect for our lovely weather.

We chose a quiet table in the sunshine and ordered two roasts of sirloin, medium-rare. On our visit there was an impressive four choices of roasts (from £10.90-£12.90)  – chicken breast, leg of lamb, loin of pork and of course the sirloin. If you want something different they do serve a kedgeree fish cake or you can choose a beef and bacon burger. For vegetarians there is a nut roast or spicy bean burger which we can recommend from a previous visit. Thankfully our food arrived speedily as we were starving (although this is not something new) and came with lots of well cooked vegetables – chantenay carrots, spring greens, swede, turnip, runner beans plus roast potatoes, homemade Yorkshire pud, lashings of gravy and a fiery horseradish.  The beef was a tasty thick slice, served pink. Two empty plates headed fairly quickly back to the kitchen.

Their focus is obviously getting plates of roast dinners out to hungry Sunday E17ers as starters were absent from the menu but there is plenty for those with a sweet tooth. I was pleasantly full with my main but I did spy my favourite summer pudding on the menu with clotted cream, also panna cotta, choc brownie and a naughty cheese plate if you really wanted a lazy long Sunday lunch washed down with a lovely bottle of red!

The Bell on Urbanspoon

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Rosemary and garlic marinated goats cheese

Cheese pots

Cheese jars

One of the most popular courses at our Appetite Supperclubs was the marinated cheese in a jar. We knew we were onto a winner when an enthusiastic Twitter feedback included: ‘@walthamstowfood Had a lovely evening at your supperclub…would happily eat marinated cheese again for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner.’ @Gogginzzz (9 June)

The marinated cheese, served warm makes a great starter spread on hot toast or chunks of fresh bread bruschetta-style, or served with a salad it makes a lovely light lunch or supper.

We promised to post the recipe so here it is. It’s a bit fiddly and takes a while to prepare and marinate. For the Supperclub we were making 10-12 every week for 4 weeks – you get the hang of it after a while. But it’s impressive when served – just don’t tell everyone how easy it is.

To make 6 jars you need:

6 small jars, sterilized
1 small soft goats cheese log
1/2 litre bottle of olive oil (the best you can afford – it really will be worth it)
6 sunblush or sundried tomatoes
3 artichoke hearts in oil
6 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tbsp peppercorns (pink or black)
1 tsp sea salt
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

Method:

Start this process a week before you want to eat the cheese. You can use any small jars with tight fitting lids, we use pretty little kilner-style spice jars. Wash the jars and lids thoroughly and sterilize in the oven or in a dishwasher to get them as clean as possible.

Cut the goats cheese log into six equal pieces. Roll each piece gently in your hands into a small ball, then pop each ball of cheese into a jar. That’s the fiddly and sticky bit finished, the rest is simple.

We roasted our own sunblush tomatoes and preserved our own artichoke hearts in olive oil – but you can get them from the deli counter or supermarket shelves. The real advantage of making your own is with a bit of time and effort, buying the vegetables in bulk from ‘pound-a-bowl’ on the market and preserving them, works out much cheaper and they last for about a fortnight in the fridge.

Add to each jar one whole sunblush tomato, half an artichoke heart, a small sprig of rosemary, 3-4 slices of garlic, 5-6 peppercorns, and a tiny sprinkle of sea salt. Now gently pour over enough olive oil to cover the cheese.  Seal the lid tightly and pop them in the fridge for a week. The oil will solidify and turn cloudy – don’t worry.

Take the jars out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to serve them so they can return to room temperature otherwise they will crack and all your efforts will run away!

Put all the jars into a high sided roasting dish and place on the hob. Gently pour hot water around the jars and put on a very low heat under the roasting dish. Don’t let the water even simmer, you just want to gently warm the oil and cheese for about 10 minutes.

Serve immediately with fresh or toasted bread – your friends will love these little pots of hot garlicky cheese – guaranteed!

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vegan cheese-free version

You can play with the flavours or additions; change the vegetables or herb flavours, swap the goats cheese for feta, or even lose the cheese. As a vegan or pregnant-friendly version we replaced the soft cheese with extra artichoke plus a slice of roasted sweet pepper and a couple of olives. Equally delicious!

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Rhubarb and stem ginger sorbet

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At every Walthamstowfoodies Supperclub we serve a sorbet, or looking at this week’s version, maybe it was more of a granita. Any way, this sorbet recipe is an easy, adaptable but time-consuming dish. It is a light and fat-free dessert and amazingly refreshing when the sun’s shining.

You need:

500g rhubarb
125g sugar
1 whole stem ginger, chopped
1 tablespoon stem ginger syrup
juice of 1 lemon
150ml water
20ml Medenica / dessert wine / honey brandy

Method:

Wash the rhubarb and cut into chunks. Put the rhubarb with all the other ingredients in a pan and cook gently until soft.

Allow the softened rhubarb mixture to cool, then whizz in a blender until smooth.

Taste the mixture at this stage, if it needs a little more sweetness add either some icing sugar which will melt-in instantly, or some more sweet ginger syrup. If it needs to be sharper then add a squeeze more lemon juice.

Now if you’re going to be reserving this as an adult-only treat you can add a dash of something extra, we added Medenica which is a sweet Croatian honey raki.

Freeze in an air tight container stirring every few hours to prevent it setting completely. You can keep this dessert in the freezer, taking it out and breaking up the ice crystals with a fork every day or so. It will last at least 1-2 weeks. Alternatively use an ice cream maker -but you won’t get that ‘homemade’ satisfaction.

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Respect to the slow cooker – amazingly soft pulled pork belly

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Pulled pork belly

I’ve cooked pork before in the slow cooker, but not pork belly mainly shoulder, so this was a first. I love my slow cooker – it’s great for soups and stews plus it needs very little attention. From our experience make sure if you’re using onions in your recipe to first cook them on the hob then add to the pot otherwise they don’t stew down well but become really strong and overwhelm the dish.

Cooking pork in the slow cooker is so simple and easy – it’s a bit embarrassing to write about it really but I want to encourage you to pull that old box out from the lower cupboard, dust it off and find a place on your work surface for your slow cooker. This shouldn’t be a neglected gadget, it’s a really useful and time-saving device in a hectic London life. Instead of  cooking stuff in the oven or on the hob this extra piece of frugal kitchen kit keeps a dish ticking over nicely, you can moderate the temp from low to high and leave it in peace for hours. My soup for the Supperclub goes into the pot early on a Saturday morning on medium for 4/5 hours then later it is set to simmer on low until ready to serve, easy!

So – a simple pulled pork belly supper.

You need:

500g Pork Belly
Sprinkle of dried oregano
2 fresh sage leaves
2 bay leaves
Handful of fresh dill
Glug of olive oil
100ml of elderflower cordial (or something sweet like honey and water, maple syrup, sweet wine)

Method:

Pour the olive oil onto the bottom of the pot then add the pork with the skin side downward. Add all the herbs, pour over the elderflower cordial and cover with the lid! Cook on high for 3 hours then baste the meat with the juices and reduce the heat to medium for another 6 hours. The beauty is that it doesn’t dry up, it becomes softer over time and finally the pulled pork meat collapses under your knife.

I love cooking pork this way in my slow cooker as it is so easy and no fuss – the day continues without having to cook, watch, stir etc – this is working from home food, decorating the house food, gardening food, busy day food – you get the idea!

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A perfect summer supper

We bought our pork from Woodhouse farm stall at the Sunday farmers market in Walthamstow, I served it with this week’s organic veggies from Organiclea (community allotment in Chingford). It is an amazing time of year for broad beans, baby courgettes, spring onions and wild garlic plus fantastic new crop Jersey Royals and tasty salad leaves. Now off to wash the local strawberries for dessert – having a lovely day!

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Summer pears poached in red wine

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Pears poached in red wine

This week we were going to write about the Harringay Sunday market and a Green Lanes Turkish restaurant. But after a Saturday night Supperclub we were tired, we couldn’t find the market and when we got to the restaurant we forgot to take any photos!

So instead we decide to write about a light, fat-free pudding we made this week. This was a recipe born from necessity, we had bashed-up pears which needed to be rescued with some tender loving care – pears gently poached in red wine and spices.

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You need:

4 pears
1/2 bottle of red wine
500ml water
1 stem ginger plus a spoonful of ginger syrup
1 fresh bay leaf
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250g sugar

Method:

Peel the pears, but leave the stalks intact. Even if the skins are a bit battered and bruised, they’ll look better once they’re peeled.

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Add all the ingredients to a large pan, make sure the pears are covered. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Turn the pears occasionally to make sure they poach on all sides.

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Poach the pears for 10-20 minutes until they are tender. The cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the pears.

Remove the pears and set aside to cool. Continue cooking the wine liquid until it has reduced by half. Then pour the sauce over the pears and serve. The pears were delicious as they were, but you could add mascarpone, thick cream or chilled yoghurt to make this a truly luxurious dessert. Simple dessert but load of fun!

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Elderflower cordial

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Elderflowers on the marshes

Foraging on the Walthamstow Marshes is one of our favourite pastimes. This year the elderflowers are absolutely amazing, so aromatic and abundant. We picked two carrier bags full in only half an hour, our hands were turning yellow with the amount of pollen all over us –  but the great thing was we were stopped twice by curious folk wondering what we were picking and what we were planning to do with the flowers. We loved swapping recipes with a group from Holland.

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Foraging for elderflowers

So we decided to make a simple elderflower cordial.

You need:

1 bag of elderflowers
1 kg of sugar
1.5 litres of water
3 lemons
1 orange

Method:

Pick over the flowers – shaking off the insects and trimming off the leaves and stalks. Heat the water in a large pan, add in the sugar (we used naturally unrefined sugar from the 99p shop). Dissolve the sugar, then add the elderflowers (I’ve no idea how many it was – a big bowl full) and add the zest and juice of the lemons and orange.

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Adding the lemons and oranges

Cover and leave to cool and infuse for a minimum of 24 hours and a maximum of 5 days. Many recipes add citric acid as a preservative but we decided to go natural by relying on just the sugar and acid from the citrus fruit.

After 3 days we strained the cordial and bottled it into re-used, sterilised kilner top and screw cap bottles.

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kit for bottling

We’ve made more than 5 litres. It’s not too sweet and isn’t a thick cordial that will need a lot of diluting – but we’ll be adding it to cava, sparkling water, cake and pancake batters and poured over ice-cream over the next few weeks to add a heady taste of summer.

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The finished article

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Handmade noodles in Leyton, Dim Sum cafe – NOW CLOSED

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Dim Sum Cafe – Leyton

* April 2014, this restaurant in Leyton has now closed however the same people run Panda in Leytonstone.

We decided at the last minute to join some friends for the preview opening of the Leyton Technical pub, it is going to be a permanent Antic pub from November. A group of us went to the local Dim Sum cafe before heading to the pub, apparently it only opened in March this year.

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Dim Sum steamed dumpling

We ordered a few baskets of dim sum to share which were tasty but the handmade noodles were the real deal and totally unexpected. The chef makes his noodles in the open kitchen in front of your eyes – a real art form. He promised to turn a large roll of dough into noodles as thin as his hair – and he did!

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Stretching the dough

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Flinging it!

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Spinning & twisting the noodles

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Finished noodles – as fine as his hair

It’s good value with the dim sum costing between £2.50 – £4 and a large bowl of noodles with a choice of prawns, chicken, beef, duck, tofu bean paste or vegetables all cost £5.50 – £6. It is also BYOB – there is an off-licence next door.

The food takes time so don’t go for fast food, in fact this is definately slow food at its very best. The handmade noodle-making is a theatrical pleasure to watch and taste. A real find of a place – enjoy!

Dim Sum Cafe, 350 High Road, Leyton, E10 6QE.

Dim sum cafe on Urbanspoon

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Our 1st Supperclub as part of the Appetite food festival 2013

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And now all the washing-up…

There have been two momentous occasions this week for the Walthamstowfoodies. This is our 100th post; and we’ve survived the first of our Appetite 2013 food festival Supperclubs, so we thought we’d update on how we got on.

The day started well with a shout-out on Heart breakfast radio. This brought back happy memories of being a kid and my doting Gran getting my name read out on the local radio and them playing the birdie song on my birthday!

After that we started the cooking in earnest.  First we mixed up an enormous bowl of bread dough and set it aside to rise, ready to bake later in the day. Next was marinating the meats, slow roasting red peppers, preparing salad dressings … things were going great. It was 9am and we were feeling confident, everything was going to plan. So, time to hit the shops. And this is where it began to slip – we get distracted when we go shopping in Walthamstow by everything on offer – look at those boxes of mangos! do you need some new jeans, they’re only a fiver? Poundabowl man’s got asparagus…

By the time we made it back home it was 2pm. We hit panic mode – shouting, tears and fits of giggles followed, with one foodie only managing to make it into a pre-dinner shower 20 minutes before kick off! In the end it all went well, if not quite to schedule, there was plenty of food, fun and laughter. There was a debrief late on Saturday night and it took the whole of Sunday to clear the washing up and reclaim the kitchen. But we had a great evening – here’s to the next 3 weeks!

We will be sharing our recipes as promised on Saturday night at the end of June so they will be on the blog shortly along with foodie pics – but in the meantime we want to keep the element of surprise for those guests yet to come for dinner.

Special mention to our Saturday night guests – thanks for all your laughter and especially for all the empty plates – we hope to see you again.

We have now started our waiting list for July so drop us a line if you’d like to book.

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Zahraa – new Indian restaurant in Chingford

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Chutney anyone?

We never go to Chingford. It is 10 to 15 minutes drive or bus journey away yet we never go there, how ridiculous is that? We’re still confused by the difference between Chingford Mount, Hatch and North – and I thought they’d be closer together. Chingford for us has always been the place where you end up when you’ve fallen asleep on the train or the stepping stone into Epping Forest for a lovely afternoon stroll, but never a place for a night out.

But recently we went to Zahraa, an Indian restaurant offering free dinner to tables booked on their opening nights – as promoted in an article in the local Walthamstow Guardian newspaper. This was a bold and clever marketing strategy. Instead of spending money on adverts in the paper and junk mail flyers, they managed to get a newspaper article written about them offering food for gratis. And the word must have got around, the place was busy early on Saturday evening.

We were given a set menu with a few limited choices, but asked to select starter, main, vegetable side dish, rice or bread and an ice cream dessert. After the opening poppadoms and chutneys (not home made unfortunately) which although not included in the free meal were as usual irresistible to one of the foodies, we had the predictable onion bhajis and meat samosas. These were fine but nothing special – aimed at the typical Anglo-Indian tastebuds.

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Typical onion bhajis

So time for the main courses. We had selected a lamb madras and requested that England’s favourite curry – the chicken tikka masala be given an extra spicy chilli hit. Our expectation by now was that these would be ok but nothing exciting. But this is where things changed – the lamb madras was light, soft and bouncing with  flavour; the tikka was well spiced, delicious and nothing like the sticky orange mess of an average curry house. This was the kind of sauce to mop-up with the home made tandoori naan bread. The spinach and mushroom side dishes were equally well delivered.

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…But delicious curries

We ate, and ate, and struggled to finish it all. This was meant to be a freebie which we’d already consigned to being a luke-warm buffet affair which we’d have a quick try of and go somewhere else for the evening. But here we were downing a bottle of reasonably priced red and having a really good time.

The decor is contemporary Indian – soft lighting plus red velvet couch, the service was attentive and friendly, the bus stops nearby … we’ll be going here again … soon. A clever marketing ploy won us over initially, but well cooked Indian food made us happy all the way home.

Opening hours: Monday -Thursday 4-11.30pm, Friday -Saturday 4pm – Midnight, Sunday buffet 1-11.30pm including Bank Holiday

Zahraa, Indian Restaurant and Takeaway, 65 Old Church Road, Chingford,
London, E4 6ST

T:020 8529 7222

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Cafe Bonito – beyond the hot chocolate!

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Wood Street Market, E17

A trip to the now trendy Wood Street is a regular Saturday event for us. We love the indoor market – packed with local creatives selling a range of second hand books, records, vintage clothes, jewellery and antique/retro  furniture. But a Wood Street visit wouldn’t be complete without a stop-off at Cafe Bonito.

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Cafe Bonito – on the main square – mind the fountains!

It has to be said that Bonito’s do the best hot chocolate in the Stow. It’s true – try it if you don’t believe me or checkout Twitter, there is such a following for their luxurious, dark and thick Spanish hot choc which you can order with home made churros.

But what’s so special about Bonito’s beyond the hot choc?

I love the quirky deco of books, jazz and movies; there’s cakes made on the premises and a daily changing menu packed with classics such as Spanish tortilla, breakfasts, salads and specials. It has a great feel – kind of comforting but special.

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Inside Bonito’s

We choose the special of pork and fennel meatballs with gnocchi in tomato sauce. The gnocchi were filled with cheese and the fresh fennel in the meatballs was light and delicious. A really lovely plate packed with flavour and good value at £6.90.

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Leek and fennel meatballs with gnocchi

They are also running ‘ The Wood Street movie dining club.’  Enjoy a three course meal whilst watching a movie classic for £20.

Opening hours : 10am – 8.30pm Tuesday to Thursday, 10am – 9.30pm Friday & Saturday, 10am – 8.30pm Sunday. Closed Mondays.

Cafe Bonito, 162 Wood Street, London, E17 3HX
Mobile: 07868 728978
@cafebonitoe17
www.facebook.com/pages/CAFE-Bonito/133473410141440

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Local veggie box scheme

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Organiclea veggies

I’ve only recently started to understand why people use supermarkets and the benefits of a ‘one hit’ shopping experience  – I now get that it’s all about time and convenience. In the past I’ve dismissed this argument, preferring to happily go food foraging for hours in the local shops across the whole of Walthamstow.  I’ve found some gems over the years in the small shops and the market – the lifeblood of Walthamstow. However, now I’m getting a little stretched for time and sometimes more tired than I would admit. So I’ve decided instead of joining the carrier bag brigade to join the local organic vegetable box scheme, OrganicLea Community Growers, a co-operative based in Chingford.

As I’m increasingly thinking of becoming vegetarian I went for the large vegetable box, but we still supplement it with extra from the market – old habits die hard. The large box costs £15 a week. There are various pick-up points every Wednesday across the borough and the scheme is being expanded as we speak. We rummage happily in someone else’s front garden for our bag of freshly picked and packed vegetables and skip home wondering what’s in it – although one of the foodies has had to confess prior knowledge as they publish the contents on Twitter and their website before pick up! Wednesday night is like ‘ready, steady, cook’, arguing on how to use the veg, which recipes to try, what to invent.

So we thought we’d share the contents of our ‘large veg bag’. The first week included a salad bag with the now famous Walthamstow Yellow Cress. Last week we had … Kentish baking potatoes and rocket; onions, carrots and leeks from Norfolk; local Chingford kale and Dagenham spinach, and mushrooms from Suffolk. The excitement from this batch of veg was home-made spicy kale crisps. This involved washing the leaves, removing the stems, chopping into 3 inch pieces, laying out in a single layer on a baking tray, spraying with oil, sprinkling with chilli flakes and salt and baking for 15 mins at 180C.  A perfect, healthy and virtuous snack with an after work glass of wine.

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This week’s delights

This week we got the basics – pots, onions and carrots, then an oakleaf lettuce; spring garlic and broad beans from the Chingford allotment; asparagus from Woodlands farm, Lincs and spring greens from the Growing Communities, Dagenham starter farm – you can follow Sarah Green on Twitter.  We really enjoyed our broad bean and asparagus salad with spring garlic and a mustard vinaigrette.

Organiclea also have a market stall outside Hornbeam cafe, 458 Hoe Street (corner of Bakers Avenue, near Bakers Arms junction) on Saturdays 10am-3pm. They sell seasonal fruit and vegetables, local freshly made bread, jams, Walthamstow honey and chutney and local cider vinegar. They have another stall in Leytonstone every Saturday at St John’s Church, Church Lane.

OrganicLea Community Growers – http://www.organiclea.org.uk
Email box@organiclea.org.uk
Twitter: @organiclea
Hawkwood Nursery, 115 Hawkwood Crescent, Chingford, E4 7UH
Telephone: 020 8524 4994

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Walthamstow’s first food festival

Appetite Food Festival 2013

Appetite Food Festival 2013

We’re really excited to be associated with Waltham Forest’s first food festival which kicks off in June. The Appetite Food Festival will be opened by Gennaro Contaldo, celebrity TV chef of Two Greedy Italians and Jamie Oliver’s mentor, on 1 June in Walthamstow’s Town Square.

If you haven’t seen the newspaper-style programme check it out – there are all sorts of foodie events including supperclubs, a tudor feast, pop-up poetry cafe, fairytale tea parties, edible bugs, real ale festival, gourmet food fair, food walks and a food trail.  Events prices  vary and many are free to attend; some require booking while others are drop-in. We want to mention a couple of our  friends – ‘Ecuadorian Delights’ offering an insight into Ecuadorian culture and cuisine and ‘Cocomero – pop up cafe’ promising real Italian street food.

We’re joining in with the Walthamstowfoodies Supperclub, opening up our house on four consecutive Saturdays – 8, 15, 22 and 29 June. We’ve had loads of interest and bookings so have extended our capacity – basically by getting another table from the loft! Usually we just cater for six as this keeps it managable and fun, but I’m sure even with the bigger groups we’ll all have a great evening. We’re really looking forward to it and have been testing and re-testing all our recipes; especially as we’ve had the unexpected challenge of lots of vegetarian diners, so we’ve been exploring more veggie cuisine options. Check out the Supperclub page for an idea of the menu (we like to keep it secret) and more info, you are very welcome to join us.

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Amazing array of fresh veg!

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Handmade Croatian skampi ravioli with buzara sauce

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Pina making pasta rolling look easy!

While in Croatia we spent a couple of fun packed days with EatIstria who introduced us to some of the food specialities of the region including visits to various wine producers – it was a delight (more on the wine in a later post).

We spent a day foraging for wild herbs and asparagus, then cooking a variety of fish dishes, including an initiation into the art of fresh pasta making. Pina made pasta making seem simple and effortless.

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Basic egg pasta dough cut into tagliatelle and fuzi

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Pina cutting rezanci

There are specific types of pasta that can be identified as being ‘Croatian’. There’s ‘Fuzi’ from Istria which are little squares rolled into tubes, ‘Njoki’ – potato gnocchi often served with goulash meat stews,  the sweet baked ‘strukli’ pasta from Zagreb, ‘Pljukanci’ small hand rolled thin dumplings and ‘Rezanci’ super fine noodles, traditionally hand cut.

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Fantastic stuffed nettle and mushroom fuzi (Konoba Vrh, Croatia)

So, once home, we couldn’t wait to have a go at making Croatian-style pasta, but of course we had to add our own twist. We decided to make a ravioli based on the popular Croatian Skampi (prawn) Buzara dish. We were bought an authentic Italian pasta machine a few years ago but it’s not really done much hard work – so it was time to dig around under the stairs, drag it out and put us and it to the test!

Here’s our version: Croatian Skampi filled ravioli with a tomato buzara sauce.

You need:

Pasta:

  • 150g Italian ’00’ pasta flour
  • 2 medium eggs, 1 whole and 1 yolk

Ravioli filling:

  • 150g raw prawns (remove the heads and shells)
  • 2 tablespoons fish stock or white wine
  • 1 egg white
  • Salt and black pepper

Sauce:

  • 400g tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 350g raw prawns (remove the heads and shells)
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml fish stock

Method:

Stock: fry the prawn shells with a chopped carrot and onion for a few minutes, then add 600ml of hot water and simmer gently for 30mins to make a fish stock. You can use a ready made stock, but this is more resourceful and tastier.

Pasta: mix all the ingredients together by hand in a large bowl or in a food processor with the normal blade. It’s a slow process, the dough will feel too dry and it’s tempting to add water to help it along, but this will weaken the structure of the dough and result in a sloppy pasta that won’t hold the ravioli filling. Stick with it and eventually the dough will become more firm. Once it forms a smooth ball, wrap it in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 mins to an hour while you get on with making the filling and buzara sauce for the ravioli.

Filling: remove the prawns from their shells. Pan fry for a few minutes in the fish stock or wine until cooked through. Leave to cool, then put them in the food processor with all the filling ingredients and whiz until smooth. Moist rather than wet is the consistency you need. Cover and set aside.

Sauce: heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the onion until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and the stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste. Set the sauce aside.

Now the fun begins …

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Our ‘still like new’ pasta machine

Roll out the pasta dough using a pasta machine working through the roller settings until it is as thin as you dare.

Next lay the long thin pasta sheet out on a floured work surface. Add a teaspoon of skampi filling at regular intervals along half of the pasta sheet.

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Add the filling…

And then fold the other half of the pasta sheet over, press firmly together around each mound filling to make sure you have squeezed out all the air and ensure a good seal. Using a ravioli stamp cut out your ravioli, making sure the edges are sealed.

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Hand cut ravioli

Lay out the ravioli on a baking sheet dusting with fine cornmeal whilst you repeat the process until you’ve used all your pasta or filling.

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The finished skampi ravioli

Boil the ravioli in a large pan of salted water for 3-4 minutes until they float to the surface, the prawn filling should be pink and still juicy.

Scoop out the ravioli, and serve with the hot buzara sauce. This makes a delicious light lunch or dinner … you’ll devour the lot in minutes after all that work!

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Croatian Skampi ravioli with Buzara sauce

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Street food in Walthamstow – Peppe’s Pizza

Amazing mobile wood-fired oven

Amazing mobile wood-fired oven

If you follow our blog you will know that the Walthamstowfoodies have no business even sniffing around a pizza due to various allergies and intolerances. But at the end of the day we do love an authentic, wood-fired pizza. Warm fresh bread topped with hot tomatoes, garlic and cheese – what is there not to like?

In the Stow we are lucky to have Peppe’s Pizza, a mobile wood-fired pizza stall which parks outside the Rose & Crown pub on Hoe Street on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 7pm. A stonebaked pizza is often a highlight for us at the end of a long week. Peppe has a good selection of classic pizzas from £5 and then some real gourmet choices at £8  for a large, handmade, authentic Italian pizza. A favourite of mine is asparagus, artichoke, speck ham, parmagianno and truffle oil.

Fresh ingredients

Fresh ingredients

Be warned this is not fast food – in fact this is slow food at it’s best. He gets extremely busy and it is not unknown to have to wait over 45 mins, but you can have a beer in the pub whilst you wait. Then it’s time to race off home and wolf down hot pizza slices with well thought out toppings, and comforting melted cheesiness. This is my Monday morning gift to the Stow, pop it in the diary – a perfect Friday night treat.

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Mamma Rosaria pizza

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