Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Not my order

Excerpt from www.psfk.com/2009:

Cabel Saasser brings word of a mysterious cafe that he recently experienced in Kashiwa in Japan. Located inside the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha, the Ogori cafe looks innocuous enough, but holds a surprise in store for its patrons. In a nutshell, you get what the person before you ordered, and the next person gets what you ordered. Thus, if you’re in on the game, you can choose to be either a generous benefactor, and treat those that come after you – or try your luck at being cheap. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment that explores surprise, kindness and encourages interactions.

What do you think? Leave your comments below!


Bocca di Lupo

A group of old flat mates and I have started an unofficial 'indulgent supper club.' London on a budget sadly doesn’t stretch as far as the city’s spenny restaurants. But once in a while we go and spoil ourselves to dinner at a fancy restaurant of our choice.

Our most recent outing was to Bocca di Lupo; an informal, vibrant trattoria that serves traditional regional cuisine from all over Italy. I’d read so many great reviews about this place and had been wanting to go for AGES, so I was very excited…

Just off the main Soho strip, Bocca di Lupo is a worlds away from the hustle and bustle it’s surrounded by.  It has a gorgeous understated interior; very stylish and imbues relaxation. It’s an immediate breathe of fresh air from your usual Italian. No clichéd overweight Papa greeting you with indecipherable exclamations and whirling arms! We were welcomed by the friendly maître d' and ushered to our table, where they swiftly took our coats and brought appetisers. Out came lots of freshly baked doughy bread to dip in light flavoursome olive oil, tiny black olives and huge tasty green ones. I usually try and hold back a bit on the freebies to save room for later, but these were SO good I couldn't resist having loads!

We were then presented with rustic paper menus. After a quick scan pretty much the only word I recognised was broccoli! The menu is so traditional and regional that a lot of it is unrecognisable to Joe Bloggs (i.e. me in this case). This is not meant as a criticism; on the contrary it adds to the appeal of this very genuine and serious foodie restaurant.

To start off we ordered some really fabulous red wine recommended to us by a lovely waiter; Blauburgunder Pinot Nero Classico Colterenzio, Pinot Nero, 2008. Can't remember its exact subtleties but it was really delicious!

After deciphering the different dishes we decided to share some starters and have our own mains. The most delicious waft of truffle oil came from the table next door, so we ordered the 'shaved radish, celeriac and pecorino salad with pomegranates and truffle oil', accompanied by a selection of fritti. The 'artichoke a la guida' and 'olive stuffed with minced pork and veal' fritti were really wonderful. The salad was a very different dish, but really complemented the fritti; it was SO light and flavoursome. Such a bad idea to share starters, we wanted them all to ourselves!

Now onto the mains... My great friend Cordelia is so good at encouraging us all to try unusual things, but when she suggested the tripe it was unanimously vetoed! None of us our fans of offal and we finally won her round. Although if you were to go by any of our dishes, i'm sure it is equally fantastic.

I love risotto and got very excited when I spotted the 'Pearl barley rabbit risotto.' I had tried neither pearl barley OR rabbit, so I (unusually!) made my decision rather quickly. They brought our mains out in good time.  Long enough so we could chat, enjoy our wine and soak up the wonderful atmosphere, but not too quickly so that we felt we were being rushed which I hate.

After my first mouthful of risotto I could barely speak it was so good.... The consistency of the dish was beautiful. The texture of the pearl barley with the soft meat was extraordinary. The rabbit was in sizeable chunks and there was plenty strewn throughout the pearl barley. You could really taste the quality of the ingredients; so flavoursome but not at all salty, such fresh and wholesome food. I have this awful habit of putting black pepper on everything, but I didn't want to add a thing. It was just perfect as it was! It truly was the best thing I've eaten at a restaurant for a very long time. I tried to eat it really slowly so as to savour every mouthful!

The other mains at the table were equally appreciated. The cannelini beans with clams and langoustine apparently melted in your mouth; 'How can it be cooked and still that tender?' All in all we were thoroughly bowled over.

When it came to dessert we were all pretty full but adamant to share something because we were sure their excellency extended to the puddings! So Cordelia finally won this time and, intrigued, we ordered the 'Sanguinaccio - sweet paté of pig's blood & chocolate with sourdough bread.' This was really really unusual. The bread came in four slices on a plate with a little pot of the pig's blood and chocolate. I spread a little of the paté on a piece of sourdough and was amazed at the complexity of it. For the first second or two it tastes of bitter chocolate, but then the taste of pig's blood hits the back of the tongue, and your mouth is filled with this unexpected rich taste and texture. It was really great, and I'm so happy that we tried such an unusual pudding.

When we asked for the bill we asked our waitress a couple of questions. All of the ingredients are flown in daily from Italy, hence their unbeatable quality. Bocca di Lupo was started by an Austrailian chef called Jacob Kennedy, and has since been joined by David cook who came from the restaurant Moro. All rest of the guys in the kitchen are Italian. The service was really good. All of the staff had good knowledge of the menu and wine and were incredible efficient, polite and friendly. The bill came to £40 each for 2 courses, a shared pudding AND wine, which is an absolute bargain considering.

We all loved our evening at Bocca di Lupo. I highly recommend it, not only for it's excellent food, but also for it's lovely atmosphere and the general experience. This is the perfect venue for a date, or a special occasion with a small group of friends/family. FYI - it's extremely popular and always packed to the rafters, so you definitely need to call about 1 month in advance for a table.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

Oatmeal, Dark Ginger Chocolate and Brazil Nut Cookies

I LOVE OATS! I just love them. Probably have them every day of my life now I think about it. Big fan.

So... Following my weekend challenge cook-a-thon, last weekend I made Oatmeal, Dark Ginger Chocolate and Brazil Nut Cookies. Rather good if I say so myself. Ate a bit too much of the mixture so could only stomach one actually cooked cookie (got it in time so the chocolate was still runny.... Mmmm). But it was terribly easy to make -

I used Nigella's recipe with my own addition of Dark Ginger Chocolate (Green and Blacks) and Brazil Nuts. Some tips for next time:

The mixture didn't stick together very well when I tried to roll them into balls, so I added two egg yolks to the mixture which did help a bit. So maybe don't use as much flour as she suggests. I'd say 75g instead of 100g.

I also made them WAY too big and bulky, rather than flat little cookies. This is partly because I wanted to try and get in as much choc and nuts as possible, but also because I am greedy and wanted massive cookies! But in hindsight, the ones I made were a meal in itself, so make small little balls - the size of a tangerine, and then squash them down so they are quite flat.

Apart from that this is a really quick and easy recipe, and you can add any ingredients you like in to the mix! I'm going to try peanuts and white chocolate next time!


Thursday, 11 March 2010

Espresso Martini

You've had a big meal, eaten too much, and are in a full on food coma... But you're going out to party and need a kick start! Hmmmm, what to do?

Order yourself an Espresso Martini! This was introduced to me at a cocktail party last week and it is definitely my favourite cocktail of the moment - a sweet chilled coffee that produces all the desired effects. You'll be bouncing up to party in no time! So here's how to make it:

Pre-chill a Martini glass

Get a cocktail mixer and pour in:
1.5 shots (37.5ml) vodka
0.5 shots of kahlua
1 shot of espresso
As much sugar syrup (gomme) to your liking

Then, shake the mixture with ice and fine strain it into the pre-chilled Martini glass. It should be a gorgeous coffee colour with a small froth on the top.

Sip and enjoy... Not for a quiet evening in. 2 or 3 of these babies will keep you buzzing all night!


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Secret Bistro

Ooo this sounds fun! Sign up to be the first to use The Secret Bistro website, where you will be able to advertise and discover Underground Restaurants and Secret Supper Clubs! Fun fun fun!


Tuesday, 9 March 2010

1,500 calorie doughnut burger...

Urgh.... Unhealthiest foodstuff ever?!!! The 1,500 calorie doughnut burger - any takers for obesity? Anyone?

Monday, 8 March 2010

Pearl Barley... Mmmm...

I'm trying to teach myself how to cook. I am a LOT more practised at eating food than cooking it, so I've set myself the challenge of cooking something new once a week for my housemates/guinea pigs.

Pearl barley is my new favourite foodstuff and I wanted to make something with this as the main ingredient. This grain has a low GI and is a great source of vitamin B - so it's not only yummy but full of goodness too! It's normally used in soups, stews or salads but I took inspiration from my delicious meal at Bocca di Lupo to use it as a risotto base. I had a flick through 'Jamie's Italy' and found the recipe for a 'Wild Mushroom and Parsley risotto'. Not a fan of parsley myself, I replaced it with rocket to get some good old greens in there and it worked a treat! So here's how to make 'Wild Mushroom and Rocket pearl barley risotto'...

Ingredients for 4 people -

For the risotto base:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Few knobs of butter
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Half a chopped onion
1 chopped garlic clove
350g pearl barley
3 pints of Veg/chicken stock
1 glass of white wine
150g Parmesan
Half a lemon

For the tasty bits:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Knob of butter
25g of dried porcini mushrooms
Half a pint of boiled water
15 smallish chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Fresh thyme is preferable but dried thyme is ok too
2 chopped garlic cloves
Sea salt
Black pepper

1. Preparation = Heat up the stock. Turn on the oven to 200 C. Chop up the onions and 1 clove of garlic and put aside. Slice the chestnut mushrooms and chop the other 2 garlic cloves and set aside so that it's ready to go a bit later. Grate the parmesan. Tear up the rocket/spinach. Add half a pint of boiled water to the dried porcini mushrooms in a glass bowl/jug. Let the porcinis sit and rehydrate for 30 mins and create a yummy stock.

2. Heat a knob of butter and tablespoon of olive oil in the pan you will use to cook the risotto. Cook the onion and garlic over a low heat for around 10 mins so that they go soft but do not colour. You want them to look translucent.

3. Once the onions and garlic have cooked, turn up the heat and fry the pearl barley for around 2 minutes, turning the grains over in the pan so that they are cooked all over. They do not go translucent like normal risotto rice, but just trust that after 2 minutes they are ready for the stock to be added. Add a pinch of sea salt and lots of black pepper (whatever your taste) to season, and the glass of white wine. Make sure that the pan is hot enough so that the alcohol burns off.

4. Add the first 2 ladle-fulls of stock. Stir and turn down the heat to medium high so that the pearl barley is simmering. Keep adding the stock so that the risotto is always well hydrated, and remember to stir continuously so that the risotto doesn't burn or stick together. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an oven tray and heat up in the oven.

5. In another frying pan heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, sauté the sliced mushrooms and garlic for a minute. Then, add the sautéed mushrooms and garlic to the hot oven tray. Season with salt and pepper, and mix in a knob of butter and a handful of fresh thyme. Return the tray to the oven and roast for 5 - 6 minutes. Don't forget to keep stirring the risotto! Once the mushrooms are roasted, take out of the oven and put to the side.

6. Pour the porcini stock into the risotto and stir in. When the risotto is cooked to your liking, take off the heat. Add most of the parmesan (but leave a little bit so you have enough left to sprinkle on the top of each plate!), and another knob of butter if you want. Season with more salt if needed, and black pepper. Squeeze in half a lemon. Cover and let it rest. Heat up the plates.

7. Now time to mix in the rest of the ingredients... Stir in the roasted mushrooms and juices from the oven tray, porcini mushrooms and rocket. This is when it all comes together :)

8. Take the plates out from the oven and serve out your delicious Wild Mushroom and Rocket pearl barley risotto! Sprinkle a little bit of parmesan or thyme on the top, or both.

9. Enjoy! And have seconds....!


Thursday, 4 March 2010


Always on the look out for fun, reasonably priced, delicious restaurants? Well search no more and welcome "Wahaca" into your life. The simple idea (always the best!) of transporting Mexican street food to Londoners has been a real hit, with 3 restaurants opening in the city in just over 2 years.

The original Wahaca in Covent Garden has a vibrant clean interior which totally complements its colourful Mexican culture and cuisine. Visitors are instantly overwhelmed by the vivacious atmosphere and busy bar, which stocks every flavour of Tequila under the sun and a deliciously fresh 'sangrita' to mix it with; tangy tomato, orange and pomegranate. Mexican take on the Bloody Mary I guess!

Tables are delved out on a first come first served basis so there is inevitably a long queue... but the yummy drinks and fun ambiance means it whizzes by in a flash. And after you're first mouthful of food, you know it's been worth the wait...

The very extensive menu ranges from tapas style plates to share, to big platters for one. There really is something for every budget and appetite. Tacos, taquitos, quesadillas, burritos, enchilladas, soups and salads... filled high with flavoursome fresh produce to wow your taste buds.

The chefs have sourced traditional Mexican ingredients and spices in quality British products. 'Mexico not a Mexican'; Wahaca is worlds away from the oily greasey dishes and dives this cuisine is often associated with. The quality of the food is really outstanding; clean, light and deeee-lish!

This brilliant buzzy eatery is utterly delicious, and as fun as it is fast. Wahaca is sure to become my staple venue.

Situated in Covent Garden, White City and Canary Wharf.

Monday, 1 March 2010


It was my dear friend's birthday last weekend and she held a fantastic dinner at Il Pagliaccio in fulham to celebrate. This gorgeous girly is SO popular, she had not only one cake made for her, but two!!

Cake number 1 was an absolutely scrumptious carrot cake made by her sister, which suited all of those poor peeps who'd given up chocolate for lent.

Cake number 2 (displayed above) was made by our great friend and amazing cook Frederique of Frederique's catering company. A GIANT cup cake - what more could you ask for on your birthday?! I knew cup cakes are her forte, but Fred's baking prowess never looked so good.

After initial hesitance to cut up this beauteous creation, it was devoured in seconds (on my end of the table anyway)! The perfect combo of light sponge and loads of chocolately icing... Mmmm.... heaven....

Hats off to Frederique for her delicious delights! There wasn't a crumb left on our plates!