Category Archives: london food blog

Hainan Chicken Rice with Oyster Sauce Pak Choi

Last week was Chinese New Year…Gong Hey Fat Choy! Whilst my dearly missed family were having a series of dinners, including an awesome Tuoan Nien Hot Pot (click for photographic evidence), Dim Sum and much much more, I had to settle for Tesco noodles with shredded duck in hoisin sauce followed by massive bowl of frosties. Not quite the culinary delights I am used to and I could do naught but imagine what was being eaten at the mass gatherings of Chinese relatives in Australia, Brunei and Canada.

Not letting the above get me down, I decided to invite some friends over for a quick Sunday supper. Being the Year of the Rabbit I should really have popped down to the butcher for a couple of hares and made a pie or curry but instead decided to cook Hainan Chicken Rice. It is a dish found all over South-East Asia and most reminiscent of my time spent growing up in Brunei and Singapore.

Quite simply this is a steamed chicken, where the broth is reused and sometimes topped up with boiling water to cook the other components that make this dish. It is also accompanied with a variety dips involving chilli, garlic, ginger oyster sauce and soy sauce. To make it more of a complete meal I always serve this with some pak choi in oyster sauce.

The Bruneians, the Malaysians, the Singaporeans and the Thais all have their own versions; this is mine. It is very straightforward to cook and even more easy to eat.

Hainan Chicken Rice with Oyster Sauce Pak Choi

Serves 5 

You will need: 

For the Chicken

1 Chicken (approx 1.4kg) (parson’s nose and excess fat from the cavity removed)

2.5cm of ginger (peeled)

3 spring onions

½ cucumber (sliced) (to be served with steamed chicken)

For the Rice;

450-500g of rice (uncooked and unwashed)

parson’s nose and excess chicken fat

vegetable oil or sesame oil

the leftover stock from the steamed chicken

some soy sauce for serving

For the Pounded Ginger and Spring Onion Dip;

2.5cm of ginger (peeled)

3 spring onions

vegetable oil

For the Chilli Sauce;

3-4 chillies

3 garlic bulbs

50ml of Rice wine vinegar

100ml of stock from the steamed chicken

For the Pak Choi;

3 heads of Pak Choi

3 garlic bulbs (finely sliced)

1-2 tbsp of oyster sauce

100-150ml of stock from the steamed chicken

  1. Using a large pot and something to rest your chicken on (look at my Flickr photos to see what I used), pour in enough water so that it is plenty but won’t touch the chicken. On medium heat bring that to a boil. I also suggest bringing a smaller pot of water to a boil too (just in case you need to top up levels whilst cooking).
  2. Once boiling; place the ginger and spring onions in the pot, cover and set your timer for approx 1 hour 10 mins.
  3. On a low to medium heat, in about 2tsp of vegetable oil or sesame oil, fry off the parson’s nose and excess fat. 
  4. Whilst this is happening; using a pestle and mortar, ground the ginger and spring onions for your Pounded Ginger and Spring Onion Dip. When roughly combined, scrape into a small bowl, cover in plenty of vegetable oil and leave to one side.
  5. In a processor, blend all the ingredients for the chilli sauce. Leaving in the processor, put to one side for later.
  6. By now the chicken fat and parson’s nose should be crispy. If so, remove, throw away/eat and turn the heat down to a low setting. Pour in the uncooked and unwashed rice. Continuously stir till all of it is covered in fat and oil – make sure not to burn the rice – this should take a couple of minutes. Once done, take off the heat and put to one side.
  7. Once the time is up on the chicken, remove the lid and make sure it is cooked to your liking. Remove from pot and put to one side.
  8. Pour in 100 ml of the stock into the chilli sauce. Put to one side the stock for the pak choi too. Pour the rice into the remaining stock, maybe some more boiling water if needed. Cover and cook. Clean off any rice left in the frying pan, pour in a couple of glugs of vegetable oil and return on a medium to high heat.
  9. Fry off the garlic and pak choi, once the greens have reduced; mix in the oyster sauce, stir and pour over 100-150 ml of boiling water or stock, cover and steam for a few minutes. Once done, put to one side.
  10. Once the rice is cooked you can serve everything up. Remember to blend the chilli sauce and added stock before serving. The best way to plate the chicken is to chop in half down the middle, remove the legs and wings, then cut each half width wise into three or four smaller pieces. Place the pieces in a serving dish with the sliced cucumber. Oyster and soy sauce to go on the side too.

Enjoy and check out the Flicky Flicks for a bit more guidance!

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Huevos Rancheros

Fulham gets a hard time. There are certain restaurant critics and North Londoners whom will have you believe that this London borough is a barren food waste land, dotted with mediocre restaurants, commercial supermarkets and gastro pubs. Clearly these people have no idea of Fulham’s history and roots, nor have they been to the North End Road market. It is in one of my favourite place’s in London; where locals and non-locals go to buy a variety of wares, ranging from food, bedding, clothing and electrical goods. 

Amongst the heavy presence of Middle Eastern supermarkets, you will find a variety of market stalls selling fruit, veg, freshly caught fish, an amazing French cheese van, a butcher shop with the longest queues imaginable, a Mexican burrito van, a falafel stall and much much more. There is also a plethora of cafes, an ok chippy, an Ethiopian coffee house, a Persian restaurant and the standard fast food outlets (including a spectacular Gregg’s Bakery), even the supermarkets sell various grilled meats and kebabs to order. 

This time I was buying the ingredients for Huevos Rancheros; a classic Mexican breakfast dish consisting of fried eggs poached in a tomato chilli sauce on top of flat bread and smothered in cheese. The spicy element to this dish also makes it a superb hangover cure. Rancher’s Eggs, as they are known, are very easy to make and even more of a delight to eat. There are a number of recipes from various people, but I have stuck with Jamie Oliver’s offering.

Huevos Rancheros 

Serves 5 

You will need: 

Olive oil

1 Onion (finely sliced)

2 cloves of garlic (finely sliced)

2 red peppers (deseeded and finely sliced)

2 red chillies (finely sliced)

4 dried chillies

3 fresh bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 large tomatoes (sliced)

6 large eggs

8 – 10 tortillas or khobez wraps

200g of hard cheese (I used a French Comté)

  1. Using a large frying pan (or in my case two; evenly dividing the ingredients) heat up several healthy glugs of olive oil
  2. Fry off the onion, garlic, peppers, fresh and dried chillies, bay leaves and a good pinch of salt and pepper
  3. Stir and cook until caramelized (approx. 15 mins)
  4. Pour in tinned tomatoes, bring to a boil then reduce to a medium heat and simmer for 5 mins
  5. When thick, add some more salt and pepper and layer on sliced tomatoes. Simmer for 5 mins.
  6. After this, make a small well in the mixture for each egg.
  7. As quickly as possible, crack in your eggs, season and cover for about 4 mins.
  8. While this is happening heat up your tortillas or wraps
  9. After 4 mins, check to see if they are poached to your liking and turn off the heat.
  10. All you have to do now is pile up your tortillas and serve with grated cheese on top. Delicious!

Plate up and......Enjoy!

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Toad in the hole with Pimped up Bisto gravy

Toad in the hole with Pimped up Bisto gravy

Seven months is a long time to not write anything on a blog, especially if you have only been writing yours for the same amount of time. I am not sure why I have not, I just haven’t. I will try to proffer an explanation…

It was about May last year I decided to quit my job, with a sense of romance I did this with no real grand plan or next step in mind. On a practical level this was a huge mistake…a bloody HUGE mistake. I left thinking that I wanted a career in food, after all I love cooking it, love eating it and even love writing about it. I was not sure what I wanted to achieve in food and looked at various callings. I considered food PR, food distribution, food production, running my own catering company and even got offered a scholarship to train as a chef  (a few weeks working in a professional kitchen helped me decide this was not my raison d’etre). With all avenues exhausted I embarked on a self-imposed exile to the Yorkshire, where I spent 7 glorious weeks working in the cellars and kitchen of Field and Fawcett Wine Merchant & Delicatessens and being gastronomically divulged by my mother. With time to contemplate I decided that whilst I loved food, I did not want to work in it. I am just happy to cook, eat and write about it, I was going to have to look elsewhere to achieve my career goals. With this in mind, Yorkshire air in my lungs and fully rested, I returned to London. 

Arriving into King’s Cross with a slight sense of trepidation I could not help but imagine this as some kind of triumphant return. But, pulling into the platform there was no bandstand, there was no homecoming committee, there was no prom queen! The closest thing I had to fanfare was Arcade Fire’s Wake Up on my I-pod and some growling from the highly strung miniature daschund on the seat next to me. This was probably late October, and a few things have happened to me since then; mainly work, rain, snow, Christmas and a little cooking. Invariably the answers to my questions have not been answered but, like many in my situation, I am plugging away and seeking the truth. 

There have been times when I have walked past the lap top and been tempted to pump out a post about how Coco Pops are the cereal version of hugs or about my campaign to get more brewery pubs and bikers bars to serve Appletinis. Instead I became slightly disenchanted with this blog and I let it gather dust. It was not until the kind people of WordPress sent me my annual blogging stats; to my absolute surprise over 12,000 people have read my blog (that is about 29 full Boeing 747s!). The only thing I can offer in return is an absolutely astonished and dumbfounded Thank You. With this in mind I have decided to carry on in the vein hope that more will read me and actually like what I write. Whilst I cannot promise regular posts, I can guarantee more of them (hopefully some content on cool food businesses and even an odd restaurant review or too). 

I have decided to feature toad in the whole for various reasons; 1) it is one of my favourites, 2) alongside turkey drummers it was the  only thing I would eat at Prep School, 3) the Yorkshire pudding and gravy is an ode to the glorious county and times spent with my supportive and wonderful family and 4) it’s been bloody cold recently and some comfort would not go amiss! 

Serves 4 

You will need: 

Sausages:

8 Sausages of choice (can’t remember what flavour I used but definitely involved rosemary)

Sunflower Oil

Batter:

285 ml of milk (blue top)

115g plain flour (sifted)

3 large eggs

A pinch of salt

Black pepper

Gravy:

2 Red onions (finely sliced)

2 Garlic cloves (finely sliced)

1 knob of butter

6 tbsps of balsamic vinegar

1 stock cube (chicken)

1/2 pint of pre made Bisto gravy (follow instructions on tub) 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 250 Degrees Celsius
  2. Mix the batter ingredients and put to one side
  3. Put just under 1 cm of sunflower oil into a large baking tray and place on the middle shelf of the oven, add the sausages once the oil is hot
  4. When lightly golden in colour take the baking tin and sausages out
  5. Pour over the batter, be careful of spitting oil, place back in oven for at least 20 mins (try not to open the door for this time too as the batter may not rise)
  6. For the gravy: on a low to medium heat fry off the onions and garlic in the butter for about ten mins until soft and sweet, add the balsamic vinegar and stock cube, reduce by half.
  7. Once reduced, add the pre-made Bisto, bring to a gentle boil, cover and put to one side.
  8. When the Yorkshire puddings and sausages are to your liking, remove from oven, pile onto a plate, smother in gravy and tuck in.
  9. You could also add some peas, not only are they good for you but also fun to throw at people too.

Presentation is always key.

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Staying cool with Mexican Orange granita

You have to agree that last weekend was a scorcher. The weather was amazing, like a Lilt, it was totally tropical. I did naught but lie in the park, burn myself, go to a bbq, burn myself again and chill with friends. Basically I spent as much time outside of the house as possible spending money I did not have. It would have been sacrilege to stay indoors, sweltering away and relying on a cracked window for my air conditioning. 

I also have to say that the last few days have also been rather pleasant and I have really been enjoying myself. I have been mixing interviews with eating, walking around Notting Hill (I seriously recommend Books for Cooks, Gail’s Bakery, Mr. Christian’s Deli and The Grocer on Elgin), jogging along the river and reading outdoors. Looking out of the window right now, I can see that the upcoming bank holiday has the potential to be another sunny affair or three days of sunny intervals, intermittent rain with warm humid periods. 

Either way we will all need to stay cool and refreshed. Obviously you must stick with the usual iced Appletinis, or if you are a bit girly, some Pimms and Mojitos. But when it comes to the standard cordials, cornettos, fizzy pops and other frozen treats, it is nice to do something different. That something different I found whilst perusing my new and rather pukka Jamie’s America cookbook. Granita is a wonderfully refreshing dish that is incredibly easy to make. The mixture of basil and cinnamon really hits the nose cavity after the initial imbibition and the cold icy orange helps cool you down. It is definitely a great way to get over an overdose off sun tanning or some other form of summer exuberance. 

Mexican orange granita 

Serves 8 – 12 people 

You will need: 

350 ml of water

300 ml of white caster sugar

2 basil leaves

1 stick of cinnamon

1 litre of freshly squeezed orange juice (Tropicana will suffice)

  1. Mix the water, caster sugar, bay leaves and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Stirring gently, bring it to a boil.
  2. Once the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is clear, sieve it into a large dish. You can get rid of the herbs too.
  3. Pour in the OJ. Stir, cover with clingfilm and place in the freezer.
  4. After about three hours, use a fork to scuff up the ice mixture into small fluffy shards. If not to your liking you can put it back in the freezer for another hour and repeat. The more you do this the more snow like it will get in consistency.
  5. When to your satisfaction, place in small bowls and serve. Simples.

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Real Food festival and the Great Taste Awards

Buttercup got in for free

 

A few weeks ago, after plucking up the confidence and realising what I wanted to do in life, I left my job. In terms of handing in my notice it was an easy decision to make, but in terms of leaving the friends I had made, it was a very tough one. Up until last Monday I honestly thought I had made a disastrous decision and that I should have stayed and planned my next step more thoroughly.  

It was walking around Earls Court One that all these fears were alleviated. Here I got to meet fellow minded foodies who had travelled from all over the country to sell their bottled, preserved, smoked, tinned, home grown ambitions and dreams. It was great just to stop and talk to those who, like me, had grown tired of their non-descript jobs and decided to move into food. Of those I really enjoyed meeting it was the lovely people of British Fine Foods and Scratch Meals that stuck out most prominently. Both are definitely worth a peak on your next tea break from that awful spreadsheet you are working on.  

Obviously the cogs were turning and I spent much of the afternoon trying to figure out what it is I wanted to do. Do I want to be chef? Do I want to work in food PR or Marketing? Do I want to make my own product of some sort? Do I want to make clothes out of cheese? Can you bottle hugs? A lot of questions and answers that needed to be whittled down into one, obviously I am still looking.  

The best thing I thought was to make as many contacts and ask for as much work experience as possible. Which is why I found myself at the Real Food Festival in the first place, not only was I kicking calories in the face I was also volunteering for the Find Food Guild as a judging coordinator at their Great Taste Awards. My role was basically to taste food and record the comments made by three other judges on to a computer and scoring database. As a team we decided on a score and if an entrant was to be awarded a 1, 2 or 3 star grade. Needless to say I had immense fun tasting a variety of chocolates, chutneys, cordials, crisps, ginger beers, truffles and more. As a plus, I am going to get to do it all again tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. Yay!  

Below are only a few of the things I got see, smell, taste and be inspired by; 

British Fine Foods

Scratch Meals

Sipsmith Gin

Broderick's Bars and Cakes

Flaxseed from Flax Farm - a health phenomenon

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My first ever review – The Rule Britannia Party at Stoke Place

A couple of weeks ago I completed an internship with the wonderful people at Wild Card PR. Not only did I gain a valubale insight into the world of PR, I also got to meet some very lovely people. Another bonus was that I got to write a blog post about a party I went to at a rather lovely country hotel.

Not only was I writing for someone else for the first time but this was also my first ever review, so have a gander on the link below and let me know what you think –

The Rule Britannia Party – Stoke Place

 

 

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Cooking for 6 at £5 per head – Blue Cheese Soufflé, Chorizo and Butterbean Stew and Waitrose Fool Desserts

 

Not so long ago I headed down to my local Waitrose with £30 in my wallet. Optimistically I was looking to cook a homemade supper for 6. With this budget I honestly thought I was going to end up serving crisps and dips for starters, microwaving ready meals for mains and serving bland unhealthy choc ices for dessert. But, after some research on the internet, perusing the Waitrose website and flicking through my compilation of cookery books I was positive that I had found the deal and recipes for a delicious dinner.

Feeling a bit fancy and showy-offy I was very much taken with a goat’s cheese soufflé recipe, I also decided that because it was around St. Patrick’s Day I should swap the goat’s cheese with an Irish Cashel Blue: a salty but delicious offering from the Emerald Isle. Heading a bit further South into Europe I discovered a Spanish offering of chorizo and butterbean stew, a great dish to share with friends over a bottle of plonk. I also wanted something I could use a freshly baked baguette from Waitrose to mop up the juices with. Pudding I felt was going to make me go over budget, but upon arrival at the dessert aisle I found an epic deal for Waitrose’s own brand fruit fools – the kitchen gods must have been smiling on me.

Having a keen eye for bargains and being a bit Yorkshire (North Yorkshire – the nice part) I was more than pleased to see the cost came to a credit crunch busting £29.83. Therefore I not only managed to stretch my pennies and stay under budget, but I also served up a great meal for equally great friends.

Blue Cheese Soufflé

Serves 6

You will need:

50g butter

50g plain flour

300ml milk

150g blue cheese

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of white pepper

6 free range eggs (separated)

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease eight ramekins. Melt butter in a small saucepan, stir in flour and cook for a dew seconds.
  2. Remove from heat, gradually stir in milk, return to heat and cook. Stir constantly until thickened
  3. Crumble cheese into sauce, stir until cheese has melted. Season with cayenne pepper and white pepper (you will not need salt as the cheese will have enough already). Remove from heat and beat in egg yolks one at a time
  4. Whisk egg whites until standing in soft peaks. Whisks one or two spoonfuls into the sauce. Once mixed, carefully fold in the remaining egg whites (make sure you do this the moment before the next step, not before, or they will not rise)
  5. Spoon into ramekins and bake for 20 – 25 mins till risen and golden. Serve immediately.

Chorizo and butter bean stew with garlic and thyme

Serves 6 

You will need:

700g of dried butter beans

450g of chorizo

90ml of olive oil

10 garlic cloves (roughly sliced)

1 medium onion (finely chopped)

350ml of red wine

800g chopped tomatoes

2tbsp thyme leaves

4tbsp flat leaf parsley

sea salt

To serve:

Sliced baguette

Chunks of butter

  1. Simmer butter beans for 1 ½ hours. Drain and set aside
  2. Cut chorizo into thin slices. Put olive oil and garlic into a large pan and heat on a medium-high heat until the garlic starts to sizzle. Add the chorizos and cook until slightly browned on both sides. Add onion and cook until softened
  3. Add red wine, cook to reduce until almost nothing. Add tomatoes, thyme, butter beans and ½ teaspoon of salt
  4. Simmer for 15 mins
  5. Spoon into large bowls, scatter over some parsley. Serve with bread and butter.

Waitrose Apricot, Raspberry and Rhubarb fools

Serves 6

You will need: 

  1. Go to the a Waitrose supermarket
  2. Buy two of each flavour from the dessert aisle
  3. Serve after dinner with some spoons

 

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