29/12/2011

East London Steak Company saves Christmas

Well, okay, Christmas wasn’t in danger of being banned or anything, but I certainly had a lack of The Christmas Feeling. Having a husband with Norovirus will do that, certainly to him!

You see, we had a wonderful thing lurking in our fridge. It had arrived on the Tuesday and I was very excited to start Cooking the Big Meal. No, really, I was!

This is what we had. Look at that, all in its old fashioned brown paper-wrapped glory.

Pressie   Gravy   All the things   Card  

The packaging was fabulous, and beautifully done. I had a great time pulling out all the packages. There was a Christmas card too, and a recipe sheet! There may have been much squeaking, and then there was a moment of panic as I tried to work out where it would all go but I got that sorted out. There’s something terribly right and proper about a perfectly rectangular block of beef dripping wrapped in brown paper. All this for £45? I think I know what I shall be getting next year too.

Next…the unveiling.

THIS is what colour beef is meant to be, Supermarkets. THIS. With creamy, dense fat, the fat that actually surrounded the meat when it was on the animal, not a bit stuck on the top to add some hope of flavour to the hunk of bright red meat that you insist the customer wants. Only because you have brainwashed them over the years into believing that bright red with no fat is how meat should look, you silly, money-grabbing, quick profit people. Hopeless. If only you invested as much time and money into proper producers instead of mass produced blah…

Look at this piece of beef. It came with a card, so I knew where it was from, what breed, when it was slaughtered. It may not make much of a difference, but it’s information that I like to know.

Proper colour   trimmed rib close up   Trimmed rib  

The beauty of dry aged meat is that is lasts longer in the fridge. Our plan for Christmas Day dinner had to be put on hold due to the Outbreak, so back in the fridge the beef went.

On the 27th, Tex was well enough to countenance food. Out came the meat, and boy did it look and smell fabulous. It does smell strong, I won’t deny that. At first it is a bit of a shock but then you realise that that is how properly aged meat is meant to smell. There’s an almost toffee-like scent to it.

Next I painted the whole rib with dark French mustard, then stuck the beef rub that ELSC sent us, in the cutest little brown envelope, to the mustard.

Mustard and rub 

Into the oven it went, at 200ºC (fan). 15 minutes at that temperature and oh my…the smells that were starting already! Then the oven went down to 160ºC and I cooked it for 25 minutes per pound. Yes, I realise that this is the timing for well done, but Tex prefers it that way and as this was to be the first Christmas thing he’d eaten, it was going to be the way he liked it. My bit was still pink though, as it turned out, even though the photos didn’t capture that.

 Cooked    Soft focus ii

Lovely meat! The second photo accidentally came out with soft focus and film star sparkles, but it deserved it.

I took it out of the oven. and wrapped it very well in foil so that it could rest properly. I didn’t even steal a tiny piece of the fat!

While it was resting, I cooked buttered cinnamon carrots, potatoes roasted in the beef fat (which is why they are so dark in places) and also made a very easy honey roast parsnip recipe that Lorraine Pascale did on her TV show. I will always do them that way from now on.

Peel and cut parsnips into small, evenly sized pieces. Stir fry in a little olive oil with a touch of salt until starting to turn golden brown, lower the heat as far as it will go, put the lid on so they steam cook though, then when soft, up the heat to crisp up the edges then drizzle with honey/maple syrup.

Dinner plate   Lorraine Pascales parsnipsPotatoes   Sliced beef

And that was dinner.

I can safely say that this was the best piece of beef that I have ever cooked. It didn’t disappoint in any way, even though it was well done. It still stayed tender, and juicy and absolutely flavourful. It has a rich taste to it, but not cloying at all. Very beefy, but not with that overly iron-rich, gamey flavour that some aged meat can have.

I still have the marrow bones, the gravy and the beef chipolatas in the freezer, because Tex really wasn’t up to a huge meal, so that’s something else to look forward to.

East London Steak Company, you have yourself a loyal follower.

http://www.eastlondonsteak.co.uk/

28/12/2011

Spiced Apple Gammon

Part of my usual cooking repertoire is ham, or gammon. As we are lucky enough to have a very good local butcher, I get it from them, and I usually buy an unsmoked slipper joint.  I liked smoked, to be honest, but the general House consensus is that it can be too salty so I go with the unsmoked.

Guide to piggy cuts here: http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/articles/the-meat-guide-bacon

I have bought a high quality, rare breed gammon joint before to try. Yes, I’m afraid I cheated on my butcher. I’m so sorry Mark. I hope you can forgive me.

I have to say it ended up being as dry as anything, despite me cooking it in exactly the same way that I always do, so I have returned to Mark the Butcher in good old Harold Hill, because he’s great. Mark is the kind of butcher that simply won’t stock something if he thinks it isn’t good enough for his customers. If he doesn’t have ribeye in stock, it’s because it was a) not good enough quality and b) far too high a price. A few weeks ago he stopped stocking oxtail because the price had gone up to higher than sirloin. Higher than sirloin steak. Can you imagine? Anyway, this is why we love him, and also because the meat that he stocks is always fabulous. Plus you get Cockney humour plus cooking advice when you go in, it’s great! This may seem like a blatant advert for them, but they are so worth it.

(Caring F & J, 112 Hilldene Avenue, Romford, RM3 8DT, 01708 373792  should you wish to visit)

Where was I? Oh yes, cooking gammon.

Because Husband has been ill over Christmas, I didn’t cook the gammon when I’d meant to, and we had no freezer space to fit it in as a whole piece, so Boxing Day I decided to just cook it off in the slow cooker, then at least it would be ready to slice for sandwiches when Tex felt better, plus it would fill the kitchen with Christmas smells. As I was feeling woefully lacking in anything Christmassy at all, I felt that this would be a good idea.

I had found some rope lights upstairs, so I brought them down, draped them over the back door out of the kitchen that we don’t use any more, and brought Christmas to me.

It really was a very simple procedure, but the result was just lovely.

1 x piece of gammon that will fit in your slow cooker

1 bottle Ringden Hall Farm apple juice, Spartan variety. (any pressed apple juice will do, or you can use sweet cider too)

2 cinnamon sticks

That’s it. I didn’t pre-soak the gammon, because I forgot, hence me using the sweeter apple juice. It needed nothing more than that.

I set the slow cooker to auto and just left it be for 3 hours, then turned the meat over and let it cook for another 3. Turned the heat off, and let the meat sit in the stock for another hour. Lifted it out, then wrapped it in foil to sit and cool overnight.

It was absolutely gorgeous, and I will definitely cook it this way next time. I probably wouldn’t use the stock for soup though, due to my not soaking it. It might just be too salty.

 Gammon

It went very well indeed with the Pain d’Epis!

26/12/2011

Lorraine Pascale’s Pain d’Epis

I have a confession to make. I cannot make bread. Anything to do with yeast based cookery seems to fox me completely, and I just don’t have that ‘touch’ that some people appear to. It tastes okay, but whenever I make bread it always seems very heavy and dense. I don’t mind it, not really, but after one slice you generally want a lie down and a bit of a nap. I also have an innate dislike of recipes that take too long and look like a lot of faff. It comes of not being able to really stand up for any substantial length of time. Lots of step is fine, so long as they are quick ones!

I was watching Lorraine Pascale’s Home Cooking Made Easy, and she made what seemed to be a stunningly simply loaf called Pain d’Epi.  These loaves are usually shaped into an ear of corn, and look like this.

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/15319/pain-d039epi-holidays

“I can make that!” I said to myself and then had to go out and buy the right flour before I could do it. Then I had to rewatch the show hurriedly before it disappeared off iPlayer, as stupid BBC decided not to put that recipe on their website.

I tried it today. My husband has been quite ill over Christmas, so I thought a nice loaf of proper, real bread would be a treat for him whilst still being a non-threatening food for his stomach. It’s worked incredibly well, despite some hiccoughs on my part when it stuck to the pan it was rising on, and had to be scraped off and reshaped. Oops.

Here be the recipe. Thank you Lorraine! I finally have an easy loaf for weekend scoffage, that doesn’t weigh everyone down.

Loaf

Pain d’Epi (not quite, as I didn’t shape it in the end)

275g strong while bread flour

1 x sachet of dried yeast (I used Allinsons) the kind you add straight in to the flour.

1 tbs olive oil

1 tsp salt (I will probably cut this down to 1/2 next time)

175ml warm water

1/2 tsp sugar (my addition as I wasn’t sure how old the yeast was and wanted to give it a fighting chance)

Put the flour into a bowl.

Add the salt, yeast and sugar. Stir with a balloon whisk to air it a bit.

Add the water, and bring the mixture together with a knife, or with your fingers so it’s a ball of dough.

Flour the work top and knead the dough for ten minutes. Lorraine's way of kneading looks a bit like the wax on, wax off bit from Karate Kid and it really works. Push away with one hand, bring it back. Push away with the other hand, bring it back. It was far easier on my back so I could knead for longer.

The dough will become pliable and elastic. Really, it will. If the yeast is live, it will work. You have NO IDEA of the triumph I felt when the dough turned elastic.

Shape it into a long sausage shape, and place on an OILED or LINED baking sheet (I used a non stick baking liner which is a godsend that I got from Lakeland) and cover with oiled cling film.

Leave it to rise in a warm place for an hour. (I don’t have an airing cupboard so I just left the oven open for a bit while the dough rested on the hob)

After an hour it will have doubled. Yes, I was very surprised about this.

I took off the cling film, snipped a decoration in the top with some scissors, brushed it with olive oil and popped it into the oven at 200C for 1/2 an hour.

(Lorraine said to get the oven hot and then add some water to create a steamy environment. I forgot. SEE BBC? You should have put the recipe and method on the website!)

Then I squeaked a lot as it rose even more.

1/2 an hour later, and I had a lovely, dense crumbed but springy loaf resting on a cooling rack – and no-one was more surprised than me.

I served it up with some home cooked ham that I’d done in the slow cooker with apple juice and cinnamon.

French bread and ham   Pain close up slice

15/12/2011

Greek Homestyle Pork or Hirino Spithkasimo

 

Now, before I start, I will say for the record that there is one sure fire way to annoy me good and proper, and that is to be a TV food show presenter who doesn't even attempt to say a Greek name but just takes the piss, even though the French and the Spanish names were attempted without fuss. Seriously, if you can’t say it, then don’t bother, use the English version - but don’t make a bunch of noises and then pull a face. Yes, Amanda Lamb, I am looking at you.

Anyway.

I saw this recipe on Market Kitchen, back in the heady days when Mediterranean food didn't just mean Italian and Spanish, it included many other countries, and it also meant that the utterly delectable Tonia Buxton was on the show a lot more. That lady is fabulous and, unlike many other celebs, answers her emails when you write to say thank you. Nigel Slater does too.

I watched Tonia cook this and then went straight out and bought the things to make it. I was NOT disappointed at all.

Easy, very few ingredients and a fabulous dish to bung in the oven and leave to cook away on its own when you’re busy off doing other things.

Greek style pork - Hirino spithkasimo

Ingredients

1kg shoulder of pork, cut into fist size pieces - I used leg, less fatty.
1kg Cyprus potatoes peeled and halved if very large
olive oil, for drizzling
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
3 onions, peeled and sliced lengthways
5 tomatoes (more if in season) sliced lengthways - I used a can of Italian chopped, as I had no fresh

Method

Put the pork and potatoes in a large earthenware dish/ovenproof casserole.

Pour a good drizzle of oil in the dish and mix around well. Add the spices and mix again.

Lay the onions and tomatoes over the top pour over a little more oil and season.

IMG_2651

Cover with foil and cook in a hot oven (200C) for around 1 hour, then lower the heat to 180C and remove the foil and cook for another hour till browned. Keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t burn. (This is what the original recipe said, but I cooked it in a pot with a lid, and kept the lid on until the last half an hour.)

Serve straight from the dish with a rocket salad they said but I served it with green beans. I loathe rocket!

It’s great on the day, but even better the next. The mix of cumin and cinnamon is quite a Middle Eastern flavouring, but then Tonia is a Cypriot, and many of our dishes have that Middle Eastern influence. Even the language does. When I was trying to learn Greek, my Athenian teacher would often tell me off because I used the ‘wrong’ word.

Not wrong, just Cypriot. Smile

23/11/2011

Harry Eastwood’s Parsnip Vanilla Fudge

Yes, yes, I know. Parsnip. That’s right, parsnip. That faux potato that lurks in a tray of roasties at Christmas, looking all golden and beguiling until you bite into it and realise…NOT A POTATO.  I used to hate them with a passion. The only reason I tolerated them as a child was because I found the name funny. (Dad was a barber, therefore pa-snips made me laugh. I was 4, so sue me.)

Many, many years later my sister did buttered baked parsnips, cooked wrapped in foil, and much to my surprise I liked them. From then on, it seems that I couldn't get enough of them. It’s an odd thing, I know, but there we are. Anyway, since then, I have developed a fondness for the old tuber. Husband still calls them stealth potatoes, and wants nothing to do with them, so they’re all for me and Simon, which is fine.

I saw this recipe for fudge in Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache and thought “Oooh, fudge. What a faff though. Nah.” and passed it by. Then I saw it again this week, realised I had all the ingredients, and a LOT of free time (gissajob someone?) and thought “Might as well!”

So I did.

I will not say that it was straightforward, because I have never made fudge before and I was terribly scared of it ALL GOING WRONG so I was probably too timid with the heat the first time around, and it didn’t set properly. Tasted bloody lovely mind, but was like a very thick, sugary caramel sauce. That stuck to the non-stick parchment.

Eventually I scraped it OFF the non-stick (ha) parchment, back into a pan, and recooked it.

And here it is.

Parsnip Fudge

It has a sugared crunch to it. but then it melts in the mouth beautifully. Yes of course it does taste of parsnip – once you know that’s what it is – but if you don’t, as my friend Cat didn’t, it has a fruit overtone. I am, of course, now pondering variations, such as sweet potato and coconut, or butternut squash and cinnamon. Purple sweet potatoes would be fabulous!

Here be the ingredients:

200g peeled and cubed parsnip

450g caster sugar (I had half white and half golden)

30g unsalted butter

335g condensed milk

1/2 tsp salt (which OF COURSE I forgot)

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out (nowhere had one, so I used 1 tsp extract)

Equipment:

1 22cm square x 5cm deep brownie tin

A blender

A heatproof rubber spatula

A timer

An hour of peace and quiet (Harry’s words)

Line the base of the tin with baking parchment. Grease the parchment lightly. (I lined the whole thing because I was not in a trusting mood)

Put the cubed parsnip in a medium sized pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and boil for 8 minutes or until the parsnips are totally cooked through.

Drain, then whizz to a very fine paste in a blender. I used a stick blender because, well, that’s what I’ve got. Make sure there are no lumps. Unless you wants lumps of parsnip in your fudge of course.

Put all of the ingredients, including the parsnip puree, into a small saucepan (I only had a large one left) and put over a low heat.

HE’s words: “Stir with the spatula until the sugar and milk are well combined. Warm gently on the lowest possible heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and there are no gritty  sand grains at the bottom or on the sides of the pan at all. This can take up to 15 minutes and it’s no good trying to rush it.

Stir at 1-2 minute intervals, just to make sure that the butter is melting and that everything is mixed in well. This stage is crucial to the success of the recipe and must be given the time it needs to get it there. Behaving aggressively with the mixture and forcing it to a premature boil will crystallise it – this is a pretty word for very ugly, bad-tempered, tantrum fudge.”

Once all the sugar grains have dissolved, turn up the heat a fraction (and I really do mean the minutest amount) and get ready to stir gently for the next 25 minutes exactly. (A timer is a really good idea here.)

Now I am happy to admit that whilst I did do this, I think that my heat was waaaay lower than Harry’s might have been because what follows here, did not happen. I’m writing it here though because it may well do for you, and also she describes what to do/what happens beautifully. I am forever grateful for that.

HE’s words: Make sure that you move your spatula continually over the entire base of the pan as well as into the corners in a patient but thorough motion. You can expect to hear a slight sizzle, which is where the sugar mixture has marginally overheated; it is perfectly healthy. If, on the other hand, you hear a big hiss (the likes of which you might expect from tugging hard on the tail of a cat), it’s definitely time to turn down the heat and be ashamed of your hastiness.

The sorts of sounds you should expect to hear when making fudge include; a soft thud from the large bubbles bursting lethargically at the surface, and the distant hissing song of the lazy fudge on the bottom of the pan when your spatula turns in its sleep.

The contents of the pan will gradually get more suntanned and you will know that you have arrived at your destination (in the glass elevator) when you reach a blonde butterscotch colour after the time is up. The texture at this point should be thick but not heavy.

At this stage, remove the fudge from the heat and beat for three minutes exactly, which will thicken the fudge and start to set it. If you find that it is becoming too heavy before the whole three minutes is up, stop beating – this means that it is ready.

Pour the fudge carefully into the prepared tin. It will be setting very fast at this stage, so it’s a good idea to have a palette knife to hand as well as the spatula. Pat the surface of the fudge down with the rubber end of the spatula to smooth the top. Set it aside for at least an hour to cool. Cut into 5cm squares and serve, or store in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks.

Now. Mine did not set. Well, it set to a very thick, very sticky paste which was nigh on impossible to get off the paper, but I did it in the end with a certain amount of scraping with a spoon and a butter knife.

It went back into the pan, I gently warmed it to melt it down again, then brought it to a bubbling simmer until it darkened even more, (the narrative in my head at that point was “Set, ye bugger, burned bits can just be called toffee”) then poured it back into the re-prepped pan, and left it alone for a good few hours. It was sticky, and fudgy, but it did come free of the paper willingly.

I left it out overnight which dried it out a bit, and made it far easier to cut into pieces.

I can safely say that I will make this again, and that it is Very, Very, Tasty.

Thank you Harry!

16/10/2011

Food Urchin Autumnal Supper Club

It was a glorious autumn day. We had managed to get a good haul of ingredients on our lovely high street for not very many pennies, the sun was shining and we’d had bacon sandwiches for breakfast to fortify us for the trek ahead. We were going to look for The Food Urchin.

 
Now, you may not know of The Food Urchin. He is an elusive creature, venturing out only to work and forage for food to feed his little family. The Food Urchin young are highly inquisitive and voracious eaters, and so need to be fed tasty food to keep them satisfied. To this end, you can often find the Food Urchin in farm shops, and at food fairs, where the best produce can be gathered, but you have to watch from a distance or the shy Urchin will take flight, bolting home with the quickness of a gazelle to take refuge in this lair or, as we know it, The Kitchen.

 
On rare occasions, the Food Urchin will develop a sociable streak, for instance when there is an overabundance of a kill. Then others from outside of the lair will be invited in to share. This is a time where barriers are down, and many get the chance to participate. To be invited in is a momentous occasion, and one which I will document for you here because, yes, I was one of the lucky few that got to glimpse the Food Urchin not once, but twice in his home habitat.

 
It was a cold night, but the lair was warm and welcoming. Empty at first, so we were a little wary just in case we spooked the Food Urchin and his attractive mate, known as the Mrs Food Urchin. We had brought offerings with us, to reassure the Urchins and this seemed to do the trick. We had no wish to spook these gentle creatures, and it seemed our gifts of cider and chutney were well received.
 
Here endeth the David Attenborough section because I don’t think I can work a pork roast and granita in there without serious effort, and I haven’t the brainspoons for that kind of cleverness today.
 
As ever, Danny and Holly proved the most gracious of hosts. I feel like I’m visiting friends I’ve known for years, rather than this being only the second time we’ve met. The tables were laid, the food was cooking and there, proud and resplendent with flour was Veronica’s Baby.

Veronica, Danny’s sourdough starter, had not had a good week and at one point her likely demise was lamented across the Twitterverse. However, she rallied at the last minute, rallied in a superb fashion, and there on the counter as result of her labours, was the final result.
Sourdough and smoked malt flour easy bread  Veronicas baby

The smell was fabulous, the eating of it even better. The darker loaf was made with a smoked malt flour and that brought with it a deep, nutty flavour and a tight crumb. The sourdough loaf was….well, just gorgeous. A dense, chewy crust and a most wonderful springy insides. Soft to eat, but with a bouncy texture. I now want the recipe, of course. And some of that smoked flour.

 Slicesii Slices

The darker one would be just the thing for a ham and chutney sandwich, the sourdough perfect just on its own with butter. I don’t quite know how we didn’t just fall into the bread basket and eat it all there and then.

Next came the starters. A beautiful, warm seasonal salad of Pheasant, Poached Pear, Pomegranates and Hazelnuts. I adored the dressing, which I think was an elderflower or elderberry one? Help me out, Danny mate.

Juicy pheasant, soft leaves, flavourful pear and crunchy hazelnuts. A triumph of tastes and textures. I ate all of mine and some of Tex’s too.

Pheasant, pear and pomegranate salad

We ate more bread. We had a rest and talked to our lovely table companions. Then came….The Main Course. Cue dramatic music if you please.

Pork roast with mash, greens, fried sage and roasted apple ii Pork roast with mash, greens, fried sage and roasted apple

Pork Chop Roast with Cox's Apples, Crispy Sage and Cider Gravy, with Mashed Allotment Spuds and Steamed Greens.

It was So. Damned. Good. Perfect gravy, meltingly tender meat, extra crackling on the side – I could have eaten this twice and still asked for more. I loved the fried sage leaves, especially when mixed with the creamy mash. I think we all piled into it with great gusto.

I admit that I adore pork fat so I will have you know that I fought every temptation going not to nick the stuff off other peoples’ plates. I behaved. I really did.

Then a rest, and much more conversation, plus a fair bit of idle wondering what the other room was drinking because it was pretty raucous in there. We stayed safely where we are. They sounded scary.
 
A palate cleanser of Quince Granita came next and can I just say that this…this was a revelation. I have never eaten quince before, and this little glass of fluffy, perfumed ice crystals, slowly melting into pale pinky/tangerine juice may have made me an addict. It was so fresh, light and a very lovely, clean thing to eat.
 
Granita Granita close up

We had a bit of a rest at this point, and talk turned to, well, it turned to all sorts of things to be honest. We did have very engaging dinner companions for the evening.
 
With the sorbet providing a break in the rich food proceedings, naturally the dessert that followed was actually made of richness.
Baked Blackberry and Sticky Stem Ginger Pudding with Golden Syrup and Cream.
There. That deserved a line all to itself didn’t it? And here it is.

 
Ginger and blackberry pudding Ginger and blackberry pudding second helping

I wanted to get a proper close up but I’m sorry, I was actually too busy eating this mound of amazingness. Soft, light sponge, with almost crystallised edges around the base – I’m assuming some golden syrup action there – with a gorgeously fruity, jammy hit of blackberry. Yes, I had cream and YES I had two helpings because it was that damned good.
 
We sat, sated, and contemplated our stomachs for a bit.
 
At this point, sadly, outside influences meant that Tex and I had to depart in a bit of a hurry but I have it on good authority that much talking was had and much wine was drunk. See The Food Urchin’s Twitter status update of “why o why o why o why?” from earlier today.
 
Once again, Food Urchin and Mrs Food Urchin gave us a great time. One day, I hope to be able to cook dinner for them too, but no sirree bob I am NOT doing a supper club. Not until I move the extra house’s worth of Stuff out of this house at least!
 
Many thanks to Danny and Holly. We enjoyed ourselves immensely.


Edible Experiences

11/10/2011

La Gelatiera and Byron

Okay, I admit it. I’ve worked in Covent Garden for three years now and I have never, ever been into Byron. I know, I know, very poor of me but I am not a great burger person, generally, and plus I’m always walking past on the way to somewhere else with no time to stop.

Tonight was different.

MissyKate and I had spent a very lovely early evening sitting in La Gelatiera in New Row, eating what felt like our weight in gelato. I tried Balsamic, which was gorgeously smooth, slightly sweet and right at the end of your tastebuds hits you with a whack of savoury out of nowhere.

Kate had dark Chocolate Sorbet and Belgian Chocolate gelato – in the same tub the slattern – and I chose Salted Caramel. This is no ordinary ice cream. It’s smooth and creamy and very rich, seriously sinful in taste. I have never, ever had a chocolate sorbet that good.

La Gelatiera

We ogled the gelato selection, we ogled the gelato sandwiches in the freezer, we ogled the biscuits and the cakes and the fabulous selection of goodies that seemed to be in every corner.

Once we’d eaten our choices, and each tried some of the other’s choice, and then gasbagged for a very long time whilst the extremely patient man behind the counter smiled at us, we bid the gelato palace farewell.

La Gelatiera, 27 New Row, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4LA, UK
Telephone (0)207 836 9559 | info@lagelatiera.co.uk

We wandered along back up towards The Strand, via a cupcake shop (Cupcake Couture I think) which has most excellent pavement graffiti outside.

Eat Cupcakes

A peanut butter and jelly one was purchased, and Kate walked away with it in an incredibly pretty yellow box.

On the spur of the moment we decided that dinner was needed. Actual, substantial, non-sugar based food.

“COURGETTE FRIES!” we cried. “TO BYRON BURGER!” and away we ran to Wellington Street, to the corner of Covent Garden that is a haven of beef. Sophie’s Steakhouse on one corner, and Byron’s on the other. We entered the warm, beefy smelling portals of Byron’s, feeling more and more hungry the further we went.

The smell is fabulous. There’s a tang of mustard and ketchup in the air, overlaid with smoke from the grills. A wave of heat hits you, and then one of the uber cute, uber smiley staff greeted us and we were led, smiling, to our table.

We knew what we wanted. Courgette fries and pure, unadulterated burger. So that was what we had. Two classic burgers and two portions of fries. Our waiter was quite the most hot waiter I have seen in a long time. So very hot that we feel we should mention it. Tattoos, a soft Irish accent, a big smile and…and…he was softly singing while he cleared tables. What more could two sugar fuelled ladies want?

Anyway, moving on.

To quote the Byron menu: “ All our hamburgers are cooked medium unless otherwise requested and served with lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickle and mayonnaise.” and they really are medium. Perfectly so.

burgers and fries

Ohhh the meat was soft, and pink but with perfect chargrilled flavours and a really deep, savoury hit of moo. Mine was so well built it even sat up on its own to have its photo taken. Look!

Burger

Then it fell over and I ate it, with gusto, American yellow and ketchup. It was exactly what we wanted. Now those courgette fries. Those wonderful, heavenly, crispy, salty, battered sticks of tasty vegetable made zingy and tongue-tingling. I could have eaten just a plate of those alone.

All in all, fabulous food, lovely staff and a top atmosphere. Including drinks the bill was £21.

Go, and go soon. You never know, the lovely Irish smiley boy might be there.

Byron, 33-35 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7BN - Telephone 020 7420 9850

10/10/2011

Loving Hut, Edgware

A few weeks ago, I was wandering along Edgware high street with Lovely Jane, in search of food. We were heading along Station Road, vaguely towards Izgara, a fabulous Turkish place, as we have been there before and have never been disappointed with the food. I say ‘vaguely’ as we started from Sainsbury’s car park and thought we’d check out what else there was on the way to Izgara just in case. We saw all sorts during our leisurely saunter – pizza place, Chinese buffet, Nando’s (there’s always a Nando’s right?) but then Jane mentioned what used to be Mr Mann’s. It’s a purely vegan Asian restaurant with a great value for money buffet, a limited eat as much as you like menu, and an a la carte menu, filled to the brim with vegan dim sum and wonderful spicy, noodly dishes. Jane is always happy to go to places that offer only a small vegetarian selection, but this time I wanted to go somewhere that meant she could eat the whole darned menu if she chose to and not have to worry.

It is now called Loving Hut, and is like something out of Space 1999 meets Akira. I LOVE IT.

Outside  27092011660  27092011656

The staff are very friendly, the atmosphere is nice – and they do not hassle you at all, even if you are an odd girl taking lots of photos with her phone – and the food is very good indeed. I like the fact that it is all vegan. This means that friends of mine can go and eat without any problems at all, which relaxes me, and the food really is very good indeed. I’m a fairly confirmed carnivore and this didn't leave me ‘missing meat’ in any way at all. In fact, it made me want to go back and eat lots of their delicious food to find out more about it. It’s also a great place for Jewish people to eat, as there is no chance at all of the meat/dairy cross-contamination. I imagine that this restaurant being placed in Edgware isn’t just a happy accident.

Onto the food. We went for the Eat As Much As You Like menu, which I think was £12.99 per person. They only allow you to order two dishes each at a time, which is very sensible, and they also have a lovely sentence on the menu that says “Cherish the food. Do not waste food.”

We went for veggie dumplings, ‘pork’ balls in batter, sesame toasts and tofu with salt and chilli for our starters.

Tofu with chilli and veggie dumplingsSauces Sesame toast and notpork balls 

I actually preferred these sesame toasts to the ‘usual’ ones. I thought they had much more flavour and a better texture. The soy and chilli dip had a dark, smoky  hint to it and went perfectly with the tofu which, even though it was deep fried, was not at all greasy. Once you get used to the texture of the ‘meat’ in the ‘pork’ balls, it’s all good. I think they use gluten chunks or soya pieces, so it’s actually very soft. It didn’t take me long to get used to it though! Next time I want to concentrate solely on the dim dum because just look at the menu.

http://edgware.lovinghut.co.uk/uk-edgeware-en/menu/

sesame toast tofuanddumpling

Next up were the mains.

 Mains bbqnotbeef

The best fried rice I have ever eaten, with spring onion scattered liberally through it, but not so much that it overpowered the rice. Light and fresh , with not a hint of oiliness or heaviness. We got brought a Szechuan dish by mistake, which they apologised profusely for and let us have for free. It was sooo spicy that we had to take that very slowly but the flavours…oh they were so good and zingy that we didn’t really want to stop eating. I had to give up after a while though, as I am a wuss. Heed the chilli warnings on the menu for they do not lie.

My barbecue ‘beef’ was a revelation. Sticky, sweet and smoky but crisped edges and soft insides. If I could choose only one dish, it would be that. Jane’s Thai Green Curry was gorgeous. Okay, so I might choose that as well. Um.

Creamy and coconutty but with a little lilt of spice to cut through the creaminess. The aubergine in it was soft and silky, a pleasure to eat. Many places simply cannot cook aubergine right, but this, this was heaven.

We had broccoli cooked with ginger as a side and that was such a surprise to me. I don’t like ginger at all but this…the freshness just worked, and sharing the dish was very difficult! The next time I visited I had it fried with garlic and that was equally yummy, but on balance I actually prefer the gingered version.

After all this food we were getting dangerously full, but after a small excursion by yours truly to photograph the dessert bar and buffet decor (yes, those are plastic cucumbers and aubergines)

Buffet Bar 2Buffet bar  Decorations dessert bar

we had just enough room to share a dessert. We got ourselves the last slice of home made blueberry cheesecake. Okay, maybe I should write ‘cheese’cake but anyway. Dense, fudgy, sweet, cool and creamy. It was absolutely luscious. Just as well it was the last slice else we’d have eaten even more and probably burst. The mum and daughter who work in the restaurant make all the cakes but because Mum was away, there was no more cheesecake to be had. As I say, probably just as well!

All of this spicy, zingy, mouth-tingling wonderfulness came to under £30 including the coconut and pineapple drinks we had. I could happily eat there again and again and you know what? I think I will. It was almost like a breath of fresh air. I’m fairly sure my arteries thanked me, at least until just before the cheesecake.

Loving Hut, 236 Station Road, Edgware, Middlesex, HA8 7AU, Tel: 0208 905 3033