Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Students’ eating habits myths exposed...

In September, I ran a survey asking students about their eating habits, partly out of curiosity and also as a bit of market research to see which areas I need to focus on to appeal to more student readers. The results are in, drum roll please, and I can reveal that...
The small majority of students (34%) eat red meat once a week, closely followed by 2-3 times a week (21.7%) while 13% eat it 3-5 times a week, with another 13% consuming red meat only 2-3 times a month. 8.7% rarely eat red meat while another 13% say they never eat it. Quite a varied lot!
Poultry proved more popular, with 43.5% of students eating it 2-3 times a week and another 30.4% having it 3-4 times a week! One person even admits to eating chicken every day! Explains why Nando’s is so popular! 
Fish and seafood is another varied one, with the highest  percentage of 21.7% being once a week, while 2-3 times a week, 2-3 times a month, rarely and never all getting 17.4% each, with only 8.7% eating seafood 3-5 times a week and no-one answered every day!
I then wanted to see if students are following the 5-a-day government advice,  with 13% eating an average of 5 fruits and vegetables a day, another 13% eating more than 5 portions while the naughty majority of 47.8% percent admitting to only 3 portions of fruit and veg a day, and an even naughtier 30.4% only eating 2!  Tut-tut!
So are students as lazy as they are made out to be and turn to the ready meal?  Perhaps not, as only 4.3% claim to turn to the ready meal 3-5 times a week, along with 13% admitting to eating them 2-3 times a week and another 13% microwaving their dinners once a week. The majority (30%) claim only to eat them rarely and a further 21% declaring they never go near them!
So if ready meals aren’t as popular as I had imagined, does that mean students are spending more of their valuable time cooking? In a question asking how long students spend preparing and cooking their meals on average, half of my respondents dedicate between 15-30 minutes to prepare a meal, while an even more dedicated lot (36.4%) spend 30-60 minutes cooking!
Lastly, in an attempt to find out how often students eat out, I asked about their lunch and dinner habits. Lunch turns out to be a more popular time to eat out with the majority claiming to eating out 2-3 times a week at lunchtime, while the majority of dinner outings occur once a week.
Do the results surprise you? Apart from the fruit and veg situation, I was impressed by the responses, it’s not all beans on toast after all! But what can we do to improve? Perhaps you can take a look on Channel 4’s River Cottaicge mini-site for some creative veg-filled recipes which can be found here , so give those chickens a rest and start eating more veg!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Summer catch-up; a review of the Chilli Pickle, Brighton and a cupcakes recipe!

Well it’s official. The autumn equinox has come and gone, and I’m already preparing myself for the chilly season ahead (chillis- check. Root veg- check). While there are talks of a possible Indian summer, I feel it’s time to reflect upon my (rather English) summer, having published very little on this blog over the last few months!
The Chilli Pickle, Brighton
I spent most of my summer in Plymouth, and have therefore little to say on the dining out front! My gastronomical high point of the summer has to be a visit to Brighton’s ‘The Chilli Pickle’, where I indulged in some modern yet authentic Indian cuisine, in a vibrant and trendy environment. A typical curry house it is not, don’t go there expecting a korma or a vindaloo. The chilli pickle is a lot more adventurous than that! Expect the likes of a locally-reared braised oxtail curry served with cumin pilau and cucumber onion raita, or maybe you would opt for the venison seekh kebab with caramelised onion, plum chutney and cumin all served up on a butter naan.
Tom ordered the tandoori platter!

 As a seafood junky, I quickly ordered the  ‘Moilly seafood’, which was a fragrant and medium-spiced curry of crab claws (tricky to tackle but so worth it!), juicy king prawns, tender scallops and a fish that was new to my repertoire, known as huss. The flavours of the broth were perfectly layered with a mixture of spice and sweetness, while the samphire in the broth seasoned every bite. The coconut milk created a creamy and delicate base, while the additions of ginger, cardamom and curry leaf added that kick Indian food is so renowned for!

The side that my dish arrived with was an interesting coconut rice steam cake, a texture and taste not too familiar for my palate. Although I appreciated its authenticity and novelty, I decided to gobble up my curry with some fluffy pilau rice we all shared! As a big group, we ended up ordering all the items under the ‘nibbles’ section of the menu, and I found myself addicted to the deep flavours of the original chutneys that came with the poppadoms!

On top of the great food and the stunning decor, the staff were helpful and attentive;  the Chilli Pickle really does go that extra mile to fuse together the delicious flavours of India with the extravagant quirkiness of Brighton.

Chili Pickle on Urbanspoon

Birthday cupcakes!
I’ve wanted to post this for a while now and I finally got round to doing it! I made these for my 21st birthday for everyone to enjoy before a night out. My lack of scientific knowledge did give these cakes an unexpected look, but I love the quirkiness of them and felt they really represented my personality!
For the base
·         225g butter (softened for 20 seconds in the microwave)
·         225g caster sugar
·         225g self-raising flour
·         1 tsp vanilla extract
·         4 eggs
·         4 tbsp milk
For the icing
· 175g unsalted butter (slitly softened)
· 350g icing sugar
· 1 tbsp  condensed milk
· A drop of food colouring of your choice (my cakes were originally going to be pink but to my surprise turned orange when I added red colouring! woopsy) 

To decorate
This bit is entirely up to you! Be creative and let the cakes represent you! I used a combination of:
White, milk and dark chocolate chips, chocolate stars, coloured stars, edible glitter, edible silver balls, rainbow drops, sweets. You can also use desiccated coconut, nuts and jellied or dried fruits!

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place cupcake cases in muffin holders and set aside.
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until fluffy before beating in the eggs. Add the flour and fold in the milk. Spoon the mixture into cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until they are looking lightly golden and well risen!
For the frosting, beat the softened butter in a bowl and gradually sift in the icing sugar. Beat together until well mixed and stir in the condensed milk and the colouring.
When the cakes have cooled, you can start decorating. Either put the cream in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe the icing onto the cakes or spread the icing on the cakes and decorate the tops with chocolate chips etc.! Or you can mix the two methods by spreading the icing evenly on the cake and piping the outside in small concentric circles!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Quick Bites: Chimichurri dip

Chimichurri is a traditional Argentinean dip, kind of like their version of pesto! I discovered chimichurri when shopping in borough market one day and I was instantly hooked. It was a little pricey, so once I used up my first pot, I've had to learn how to make my own. I experimented quite a bit with it so only use this recipe as a guideline. Admittedly, it wasn't as good as the borough market version, and I still can't figure out why to this day!

You'll need:
·         1 cup of fresh parsley
·         1/2 cup of fresh oregano leaves
·         4 cloves garlic
·         Half a medium red chilli, roughly chopped
·         1/2 cup of good quality olive oil
·         1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
·         Sea salt and ground pepper
Using a blitzer/small food processor, add the fresh herbs and roughly chopped chilli and blend until finely chopped. Mince some garlic and add to the processor, season with salt and pepper and pulse again. Stir in the wet ingredients, and taste. If something is missing, add it. Sometimes just a squeeze of lemon can balance out the flavours perfectly!
I used this as a marinade for steaks and also reserved some to spoon over once cooked. It will give your steak that refreshing taste of summer!

Tarte tatin!

If you have this image of tarte tatin as being this complicated French pastry dish that you wouldn’t dare make at home, this recipe will change your mind!

You don’t need any fancy ingredients, although if you have a vanilla pod, throw in the seeds! Cinnamon is optional but I think it gives it that gastronomical edge!

·         200g puff pastry (plus some flour for dusting)
·         4 eating apples
·         A squeeze of lime
·         100g caster sugar
·         100g butter
·         1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll out and cut the puff pastry sheet to match the size of your pan, so that it fits perfectly over the top. Your pan must be suitable for use in the oven, so nothing with a plastic handle!

Peel, core and slice the apples in half. As soon as you’ve done each one, place in a bowl of water and lemon juice so they don’t go brown!

Melt the butter with the sugar in the pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks! Increase the heat slightly once its blended and simmer for a few minutes until the mixture turns a golden-brown caramel colour but this will remain fairly frothy in consistency.

Very carefully, place the apples in the pan as snugly as possible, as they do shrink! Leave to simmer in the caramel for 15-20 minutes.

Once the apples have shrunk slightly and turned a slightly golden colour, leave to cool for a few minutes. Place the pastry over the top, use a wooden spoon to even out the surface and tuck in the edges! Place in the oven for 20 minutes, or until it looks something like this;

Take out and leave for a couple of minutes before very carefully turning out the tart onto a big plate, preferably with edges so the caramel doesn’t ooze out! Be very careful when doing this and always wear protective gloves and have a tea towel over your arm to prevent splashing! Decorate with icing sugar or some grated nuts!

Et voila!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Gastro-pub-grub at the Tommyfield, Kennington.

The Tommyfield is the sort of place every neighbourhood should have, as I found myself too lazy to cook one evening, it proved to be a great little culinary hideout!
As you enter, the atmosphere will hit you straight away as bustling tables of happy diners (and winers!) and smiling staff come into view. We were welcomed warmly by a waiter who turned out to be very knowledgeable about wine and although suggested which bottle of wine we should have, it wasn’t in that pressurising manner that some pontsy restaurants do to get you to buy the overpriced bottle! We chose a light and summery bottle of Viognier as we both settled on scallops followed by poultry! We had just about made up our minds when we saw some gigantic pies march out of the kitchen and onto the tables next to us. My boyfriend at that point officially changed his mind and went for the chicken pie while I was still set on trying (for the first time ever) some guinea fowl.

Our scallops starters were well-cooked and tasted fresh as well as being very reasonably sized. I loved that they left the corals on, I hate seeing chefs let that tasty little treat go to waste! The parma ham it came with was a little dry in texture however, as I prefer it either uncooked or really crisp, so I felt that let the dish down slightly, otherwise it was a lovely starter!

As soon as the pie arrived on Tom’s side of the table he quickly delved in while my guinea fowl two ways was presented in a pub-grub manner, with plenty of jus and generously sized. The taste was certainly there and the simple elements of the dish came together very well.
All in all, the Tommyfield is a good excuse to get away from your kitchen and offers fantastic comfort food for all. I was also very pleased to see the Tommyfield support the fish fight, so next time I’m in the area, I shall pop back for some sustainable fish and chips!
The Tommyfield on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Irresistible honey and almond cake

This recipe is perfect for a rainy day, when you just want to snuggle up with a cup of tea and a good book (I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A short History of Private Life). I made this cake with my boyfriend last week after moving back to Cornwall for the summer, and it filled the house with that delicious aroma of ‘something sweet is baking’! Despite a couple of setbacks, the cake turned out perfectly moist and delicately sweet!
You’ll need
·         200g self-raising flour
·         150g butter (unsalted)
·         115g brown sugar
·         175g honey (plus 1tbsp more for glazing)
·         Juice from half a lemon
·         2 eggs
·         Some flaked almonds for the topping
Pre-heat the oven to 180C, and find a cake tin (about 8 inch) to line with baking paper and grease with some butter.
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, honey and lemon juice and stir over a medium heat until melted and smooth. Take of the heat for about 5 minutes, giving it time to cool slightly before beating in the eggs and sifting in the flour. Stir until fairly smooth (some small lumps are fine!) and pour into your prepared cake-tin.
Just before placing in the oven, scatter the flaked almonds generously over the cake. Leave in the oven to cook for 30-35 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Pierce the cake with a thin skewer through the middle to check if it comes out clean (meaning its set and ready). Drizzle over some honey while still warm and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before tucking in (it will be heard to resist, I know!).
 I enjoyed my cake with a generous scoop of honeycombe ice cream!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Getting creative with home-made burgers!

Continuing with the theme of summer (but somewhat moving away from the healthy), here are two burger recipes I tried a few months ago.

Now that its BBQ season I think it’s imperative that I put my view on burgers out there. I find burgers are not given the treatment they deserve; there’s more to them than just the patty, a bun and some ketchup so I’m genuinely hoping to inspire some of you stuck in the ‘maccy d’ rut and try these out!

A spruced-up classic

A great English burger with English cheddar and caramelised onions!
(makes 4 burgers)

·         500g Beef mince (not too lean)
·         One onion for the patty
·         Egg (lightly beaten)
·         1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
·         A bun of your choice (I love ciabatta)
·         4 onions for the caramelised onions topping
·         ½ tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
·         1 teaspoon demarerra sugar
·         75g butter
·         Mature English cheddar
·         1 beef tomato
·         A packet of rocket
·         Mayonnaise
·         A garlic clover
·         A small bunch of parsley

Finely chop one onion and combine with the beef mince and egg, season with plenty of salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce before mixing together to form patties.

Slice the tomato into rounds, the cheddar into thin slices and mix the mayo with some finely chopped garlic and parsley. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Slice the onions into rings and place in the pan of butter, stir for a minute or two to coat well. Turn the heat down slightly and cover with a lid for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Brush your patties lightly with some olive oil and place on the bbq (if using) or a griddle pan.
Cook for about 7 minutes before turning over.

In the pan of onions, add the vinegar and sugar and stir well. The onions should be nicely browned and shrunk by at least half.

One minute before serving, put the cheddar over the burger while it’s still on the heat to allow it to melt nicely. Toast the buns (you can do this on the bbq!), spread a teaspoon of parsley mayo on each one before placing the beef patty with cheese, followed by the tomato slice, a generous serving of the caramelised onions and a bit of rocket and topping off with the other bun to finish!

 Halloumi and chorizo burgers

For those wishing to create a more Mediterranean vibe, try this mix of pork, beef and chorizo topped off with grilled halloumi cheese!

(Serves 4)
·         200g Beef mince
·         200g Pork mince
·         100g Chorizo ring (not the sliced alternative)
·         1 egg
·         2 garlic cloves
·         1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
·         Burger Buns of your choice
·         A pack of halloumi cheese
·         A packet of Rocket
·         Beef tomato
·         Mayo, parsley and garlic (see above recipe)
De-skin the chorizo ring (slightly score it before pulling it off) before roughly chopping it and putting in a food processor with roughly chopped garlic and the chilli flakes.

 Pulse until it has a nice crumbly texture then mix in a bowl with the pork and beef mince and egg. Season well, form into equal patties, brush lightly with olive oil and put on the BBQ/pan for about 7-8 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, slice up your halloumi about 1.5cm thick and then the tomato into rings. About 3 minutes before serving, griddle the halloumi until golden (or starting to char if bbq’ing) and toast your buns! Serve the buns with rocket, a slice of tomato, a spoonful of parsley mayo and the patty topped with halloumi!

You’ve seen my ideas now it’s time to get creative! What about a Hawaiian-style burger by substituting the tomato with a ring of griddled pineapple? Or how about a Mexican burger by adding some fiery tomato salsa and a slice of avocado? Or just try different cheeses, maybe some melted stilton for a pungent kick or even some alpine cheese for a lovely crust!

Healthy summer gazpacho!

Ok so after 2 months of complete blog abandonment, I am back! I'll just quickly fill you in on what's been happening (excuses excuses!) before returning with a lovely summery recipe!

Since my last post, I have written over 20,000 words of essays (including my dissertation), finished my final exams and had a few fantastic restaurant experiences (another trip to One-o-One, the Chancery and the White Swan's tasting evening as well as a good find in Plymouth called the Fish Market).

I am now back in Cornwall, having a much needed rest (and detox) and I think it’s only right to kick off with this healthy summer gazpacho.

 Admittedly, cold soups are not everyone's idea of a perfect supper, but I was reminded of their charm in my visit to One-o-One last month, where we sampled an amuse bouche of a cold soup of halibut, salmon and fennel. It went down a treat but I decided to stick to the traditional Spanish recipe of gazpacho.

  • 1 long red romaro pepper
  • 500g of tomatoes, I used one beef tomato for sustenance, and 2 packs of sweet sunstream tomatoes for extra flavour.
  • Half a cucumber
  • Half a bulb of fennel (ok so not that traditional but I love the refreshing kick it gives!)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Day old bread (I used a white baton from tesco)
  • Plenty of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar (most recipes call for sherry vinegar but I didn't have any, this worked a treat!)
  • Salt and pepper to season

The preparation, you'd be glad to know, is minimal. Remove the crust from the bread and soak the rest in some water and drizzle with some olive oil. Meanwhile, peel your cucumber as the skin would add unwanted bitterness to the soup, slice your tomatoes (and peel if you wish) and deseed, cut and remove ‘the white bits’ from the red pepper. Chop up your garlic cloves and fennel. Put everything in a food processor until smooth then add the bread (use a sieve to drain it first), about 75ml of olive oil and the white wine vinegar. Season generously to taste! You can either put it in the fridge to chill or if you are not happy with the consistency, put it through a fine sieve for a smoother, more liquid soup. I tried the latter option first but felt I was wasting all of the nutritious pulp, so mixed it all back together in the end!

I enjoyed this soup with a few slices of parma ham, garnished with parsley and a generous drizzle of ‘Cinque Foglie’ extra virgin olive oil which I purchased from Borough Market!

Or you can serve it in a glass, a traditional way of serving Gazpacho!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Happy pancake day!

Pancake day, or shrove Tuesday, is definitely one of the days in my foodie calendar that I look forward to. Not only does it mean that spring has almost sprung, but it also means you can indulge completely guilt-free.
I woke up with an awful cold this morning, but was determined to make some breakfast pancakes. I won’t bother with a recipe as they are circulating the internet like crazy at the moment, but I spiced my batter up a bit by adding 2 tablespoons of coconut powder and of course, a whole lotta sugar! My toping of choice was the not-so-traditional nutella, but I never understood the appeal of sour lemon and a soggy pancake.
As shrove Tuesday marks the start of lent, pancakes were traditionally used as one last bit of indulgence for all things you were meant to give up, including butter and eggs! Seeing as I won’t be doing that, I substituted my butter for some olive oil and only used butter to season the pan before each pancake, which gave me the same flavour but less calories!
I enjoyed my pancakes with some freshly brewed Fortnum and Mason’s Countess Grey tea, which I received as a present from my boyfriend’s family a few months ago.

The perfect breakfast!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Curried butternut squash, sweet potato and coconut soup.

A while back, I promised to update my thai butternut squash soup post  but as I finally came round to doing so, I ended up tweaking the recipe so much it became a completely different soup altogether!
I was really pleased with the outcome of this soup as my spices came from a mix of Spice Mountain’s mild madras and vindaloo blends. Of course not everyone is as lucky as me to have access to borough market every weekend to get these, so experiment with different curry pastes and powders yourselves!

·         One large sweet potato (approx. 500g)
·         One medium butternut squash (approx .800g)
·         1 medium onion
·         500ml of coconut milk (I used the naughty powdered stuffed mixed with water!)
·         1 and ½ good stock cubes (chicken or veg)
·         1 garlic clove
·         A thumb sized piece of ginger
·         1 tablespoon of chilli flakes or 1 hot chilli
·         2 tablespoons madras powder (I used 1 tablespoon mild madras, 1 tablespoon vindaloo blend)
·         2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

Bring 1.3 litres of water to a boil and cut the sweet potato and squash (no need to peel but wash thoroughly!) into medium sized chunks, scraping out the seeds from the squash. Add to the pan of water and simmer for 20 minutes or until cooked through and the skin peels off easily. Drain using a sieve over a large bowl or other container, then add the stock cubes and mix well.
 Peel the sweet potatoes and squash once cool enough to handle then return to the pan. Roughly chop the onion, ginger and garlic before frying in a separate pan with some oil on medium heat. Once the onions are starting to turn golden, add the curry powders and chilli to form a paste, adding more oil if required. Add to the pan of squash and potatoes, before pouring over all the coconut milk and simmering for 10 minutes.
 Leave to cool for several minutes before pouring half the stock and half the coconut and veg mixture into a blender or food processor, repeat the process with the rest of the batch. Season if needed. Serve hot with some naans or warm bread of your choice!

Hint: If your pan is not big enough, try roasting the veg instead for a lovely smoky flavour before blending with coconut milk and 1.2 litres of hot stock.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Two-for-One at One-o-One

I have had my eye on this Knighstbridge restaurant for quite some time, as it has had a lot of critical acclaim in the press winning the title of the 9th best restaurant in the UK by the Sunday times. But where is your Michelin star, One-o-One?  
It’s difficult to be critical of a restaurant where they clearly know what they’re doing, and after all, I am just a food blogger! Irrespective of the brilliant time I had here, the meal was not without its imperfections and I’m here to give you an honest account of this highly acclaimed restaurant.
In all honesty, the only way I could ever afford a place like this is with my trusty tastecard, which gave us 50% off the food bill. Before I visit any restaurant I read and re-read the menu a few times because I am extremely indecisive and it could take me over an hour to be happy with a choice. To save the waiter some trouble, I had already planned out my meal upon arrival but as luck would have it, my chosen dishes were not on the menu! I had read a lot about Pascal Proyart’s petit plats menu but was surprised to find it was not available in the evenings. So for a la carte we settled.
With a warm but professional greeting by the maître d, we were led to the dining area which was a little under-occupied, with only 3 other tables taken. The decor was reminiscent of a cruise ship dining room, which is not completely unsuitable as this is a seafood restaurant but it could do with a little modernising! We skipped the wine menu simply because the cheapest bottle was nearing the £40 mark and we were there purely for the food. The waiter was very understanding about this and did not push us on the wine front (so many restaurants ask really, why, are you sure before giving up on you!) and we were quickly offered a selection of fresh breads which we enjoyed alongside a simple creamy butter and a more unique version of a seaweed butter which had my mouth tingling from the salty perfection that it was! While we waited, I must have had about 5 pieces of their bread, as the waiter kept on offering more as soon as the last crumb had disappeared and I was starting to panic that I will be too full from it to enjoy the food! Admittedly, we thought this was a ploy to get us full so we don’t notice the small portions (which is what we had expected from a place like this) but we later discovered they were just as generous with their courses as they were with their bread. We were offered an amuse bouche of a creamy fish soup with some parsnip crisps on the side, which my taste buds accepted as eagerly as I did, a fine combination of silky and crispy.
I chose the starter of red king crab legs from the Barents sea in a sweet chilli ginger sauce (there was the option to have them simply on ice with mayo and lemon or an Italian version with basil olive oil and sauce vierge.). My choice was easy, as the head chef is the ambassador for this incredible sea creature and was responsible for introducing it to this country, therefore he must know what to do with it! I’m a lover of shellfish and the meat of this was sweeter, more succulent and more satisfying than of any lobster or crab I have ever eaten.

My dish had a simple yet enticing presentation of six generous portions of leg and pincer topped with a lightly crisp cheese crust and garnished with a drizzle of the sweet chilli sauce and some coriander leaves (although looking lovely, I had to discard as I’m just not a fan!). On first appearance the legs look difficult to tackle, but I was given a lovely little device for scooping out the tender meat out of the shell and the whole dish was a delight to eat. The cheese topping was inspired and gave the dish a thermidor-ish feel but the sweetness of the sauce was a little overpowering if eaten too generously and I actually left most of the sauce on the plate and enjoyed the crab mostly on its own. Such a beautiful ingredient deserves to be celebrated but not out-sweetened!
I also managed to get a bite out of Tom’s starter of black truffle risotto with more of the king crab (although his portion was smaller than mine) but also had fantastic flavours.
Following on from the starter, was a farm roasted fillet of norwegian halibut on a bed of paimpol coco beans, truffle cassoulet, sauce bisque, parsley puree, carrot puree before being garnished with a butterflied langoustine and a slice of black truffle. Too. Many. Flavours!

As soon as the plate had landed in front of me, a soothing aroma of truffles enticed my senses and I happily tucked in. The halibut was perfectly crisp on top but the meat retained its smoothness. The first bite had me trying the halibut with the sauce bisque (from which the truffle aroma had come from as it was presumably generously drizzled with white truffle oil). Then I tried it with the green sauce, which I guessed was parsley puree, a refreshing twist to the dish. On my third bite I dipped the meat into the carrot puree which was sweet and delicious. But all together? Chaos in my mouth. Not a bad chaos by any means, a very delicious chaos but still too much for such a meaty fish to take on at once. The coco beans were a slight disappointment, I actually didn’t know what to expect from them but I didn’t think they would taste and feel like your regular haricots. Don’t be fooled by the innocent looking langoustine on the side, it erupted with flavour and richness with every (little) bite. I really enjoyed this dish, despite the epidemic of flavours, but I still believe that less is sometimes more. Trying too hard for that Michelin perhaps?
I only had a tiny bite out of Tom’s main, which was a creative combination of pan seared yellow-fin tuna (line caught don’t you worry, fellow fish fighters) and a generous chunk of meaty foie gras garnished with asparagus spears and fondant potatoes.
Although feeling very full, we couldn’t leave without sampling a pudding. We ended up sharing a slightly risqué dessert of white chocolate and juniper berry mousse with lemon sorbet and gin and tonic jelly.

The flavours both satisfied and tickled my palate, the scoops of mousse were delicate and sweet while the sorbet was tangy and refreshing. The chef did not skimp on the textures, giving is a crunchy white chocolate triangle as well as a light and crispy biscuit base and a dramatic topping of tuille. The gin and tonic jelly experience. A little bitter for my taste but luckily a little shaving of mint helped rescue my senses. All-in-all, an interesting dish.
So if your wallet is ever feeling a little heavy and you’re in the mood test your senses, give this one a go. I plan on returning for their lunchtime petit plats menu, come on, I’ve already chosen!

One-O-One on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Quick Bites: White chocolate brownies with dark, milk and white choc chips!

Brownies are everyones guilty little pleasure! This valentine’s day finally gave me an excuse to bake these calorific treats! As a cute little activity I thought it might be fun to bake them together with my boyfriend and I have to say I enjoyed the lack of mixing and stirring on my behalf!

You’ll need (makes 8-12)
·         400g of white chocolate
·         85g butter
·         1 pack of white chocolate chips
·         1 pack of milk chocolate chips
·         1 pack of dark chocolate chips
·         3 eggs
·         1 ½ cups of flour
·         2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
·         2 tablespoons of caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 190*C. Make a bain marie using a saucepan filled with boiling water and a heat proof bowl over the top. Add the butter and break apart the white chocolate bars into small chunks before melting it all together and stirring until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla essence before adding the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Stir well and sift the flower into the bowl, stirring well. Leave to cool for a few minutes and line a baking tray with some baking/greaseproof paper. Once the mixture is cool, fold in the chocolate chips so they are spread out evenly but do not over mix! Simply pour in all the batter into the baking tray and bake for 25 minutes! Leave to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into chunks and serve with some vanilla ice cream!
Tip: If you want to substitute the white chocolate base for regular chocolate, use plain chocolate but change the quantity of the sugar to a full cup to sweeten it up!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sustainable seafood paella!

You may have seen by now the little ‘fish fight’ widget on this blog! I feel quite strongly about this campaign and, as a consequence, have started to buy more sustainable seafood. Obviously I’m not saying reject cod and salmon but it’s definitely worth substituting these fish for something more sustainable that tastes just as good! So take the pressure of our nation’s favourite white meat and try out this recipe that includes three of the most sustainable seafood items!
I chose to celebrate whiting, one of cod’s close relatives, dab, a very cheap smooth flat fish and mussels, really plentiful shellfish that also add a bit of fun to my golden paella!

Serves 2-4
·         1 medium whiting fillet
·         1 filleted dab
·         1kg of live mussels
·         Half a spicy chorizo
·         125g paella (short grain) rice
·        300 ml Fish stock
·         6 cherry tomatoes
·         A pinch of saffron
·         1 teaspoon of paprika
·         1 red onion
·         2 garlic cloves
·         4 tbsp of olive oil
·         ½  teaspoon of chilli flakes (or medium fresh chilli)
·         100ml white wine
·         2 tablespoons of curly parsley
·         Half a lemon or lime to garnish

Despite the long list of ingredients, this dish is actually fairly simple to make. Get the prep of the mussels out of the way first and you can relax with a glass of wine later!
Preparing the mussels
Empty the mussels in a colander and run under cold water. Tap any open shells and if they don’t start to close straight away, get rid of them, as well as any chipped mussels! Now that you have all your live mussels, one by one, take away their little beards by grasping the beard and giving it a sharp yank out and toward the hinge end of the mussel. This is quite a tedious activity but will be worthwhile in the end! Once your mussels are prepared for cooking, put them back in the colander and put the colander in a tap filled with cold water until you are ready to cook them in about 20 minutes!
Preparing the paella filling
First, simmer the stock in a pan and add the saffron strands. Roughly chop the onion (so you can still see inch-long strands running through it for colour and texture), chorizo, garlic and then halve the cherry tomatoes. Cut the whiting fillets into large chunks and fillet your dab (if you haven’t bought it already filleted). I left the skin on but feel free to remove it if you don’t like it!
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and stir the onions, until softened. Add the garlic, chorizo, chilli flakes and parika and stir for a further minute to create concentrated flavours. Stir in all the rice and add a further drop of olive oil so that its all covered, before adding ¾ of the stock. Shake the pan in one vigorous motion so all the rice is level then leave for 2 minutes. Do not stir or cover! After the 3 minutes, place the tomatoes, whiting and dab fillets over the rice and pour the rest of the stock (unless the rice is still very watery) and simmer for a further 8 minutes, at which point the fillets should be cooked and flaky! Take off the heat, stir the paella and cover with a lid or foil.

Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil and any stock that may be left over into a big pan. Once very hot, pour in the mussels and the wine then quickly cover with a lid. Do not open until 3 minutes have passed, then check if all the shells have opened. If they have, serve immediately by draining in a colander (over a bowl so you can reserve those lovely juices!) if not, wait a further minute or two until they have. Discard any unopened shells!

Put some of the mussels in their shell over the paella to serve with, and the rest in separate bowls or a pan with the reserved juices poured over! Garnish the rice with parsley and lime (or lemon)!