Thursday, 29 December 2011

Kavey Eats Favourite Eats 2011

Inspired by annual restaurant roundups from fellow bloggers, many of which have resulted in yet more additions to my ever-burgeoning restaurant wish list, I thought I'd share some of my highlights from eating out in 2011.

Follow links to read the full reviews for each restaurant.

 

Best Starter (Joint Winners)

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Now and then I talk about ordering a much-loved starter again for dessert. It's not often I do it. But we both loved the Warm Flan of Foie Gras Bordelaise at Club Gascon's 13th birthday so much, we actually did order a second one later in the same meal. It's a light but incredibly rich savoury custard packed full of foie gras flavour in a slightly sweet red wine reduction sauce. So fabulous we grinned at each other over every single mouthful.

 

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Souffle Suissesse at Chez Roux in Inverness is described as Albert Roux’s twice baked floating soufflé with Mull cheddar and Gruyère cheese.  It's one of the best cheese dishes I've ever eaten. So light I dreamt I was eating a cloud, it was served in a cheese sauce that packed so much cheese flavour it was cheesier than solid cheese! And yet, thin and light, not thick and oily and gloopy. Truly a delightful dish.

 

Best Lamb

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I've dined in a fair few hotel restaurants this past year. My meal at the Waldorf Astoria London Syon Park's restaurant The Capability stands out, in good part because of one truly magnificent dish. My hay baked Cornish mixed lamb with pan haggerty and green sauce included slow baked belly, fried tongue, sweetbread, cutlet and kidney all of which were perfectly cooked, as was the cheesy, pan haggerty, something I'd not had before. The two sauces, a fresh and vibrant green herb sauce and a sinfully rich reduced wine and stock sauce, were also excellent. 

 

Best Seafood

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I've enjoyed the enormous Hot Roasted Shells platter at Bistro du Vin twice, once at the Clerkenwell branch, and again at the Soho property. Served on a platter, but unlike the traditional fruits de mer, grilled under the Josper and served hot. It's a feast of epic proportions and I loved every messy, juice-spurting moment of it!

Sadly, it seems to have been taken off both menus, which is hugely disappointing.

 

Best Vegetarian Dish

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Everything we ate at The Mall Tavern was fabulous – it's not for nothing I call Jesse Dunford Wood a nutter genius. But, to my surprise, it was his red-wine poached eggs with chestnuts, cipollini onions and mushrooms on smoked mashed potatoes which really blew me away.

Also in the running was the Braised Crispy Bean Curd in Brown Sauce at Pearl Liang.

 

Best Burger

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My Lucky Chip Sheen burger was fantastically good – juicy, full of flavour and very satisfying. Well worth the journey, the cold winter weather and the outdoor seating.

Also enjoyed during the year were a few visits to ThaT Burger, just before it closed its doors and the ever popular Byron.

 

Best Sweets

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image courtesy of Chancery Court

I've not blogged this one yet, but I can't not include the patisseries which form part of the help-yourself chocolate afternoon tea served in The Lounge, at Chancery Court. Sandwiches, scones and tea are served to your table but the rest of the sweet goodies are laid out for your delectation. As well as two chocolate fountains with fruit or marshmallows to dip, there are cakes, brownies, cookies and meringues, chocolate coated nuts and then the rather fantastic patisseries. The only word for these is magnificent and the Blackforest gateaux (a light reinterpretation of the classic cake), raspberry chocolate macaroon stack, the coffee panna cotta with baileys profiterole and the one that tasted like an extremely posh jaffa cake are firmly embedded in my mind.

 

Best Never-had-it-before Experience

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Pumpkin koroke (croquettes) don't, on the face of it, sound that appealing even to someone who likes bread-crumbed deep-fried things and sweet soft pumpkin flesh. But having ordered them once, at Sushi Japan, they're now the item I most often start dreaming about, and which prompt our regular return visits.

 

Best Sharing Plates

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I can't round up the year without mentioning the wonderful platters of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese served as part of every meal the group enjoyed during my visit to Parma and the surrounding region. Also in the photos above is culatello, another delicious local product.

 

I hope you've enjoyed my roundup of some of my favourite eats of 2011. I can't wait to get my teeth into 2012!

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Monday, 26 December 2011

Malawian Ginger & Garlic Fried Fish + Bought Borrowed & Stolen

I'm a natural born collector. As a child I collected stamps, coins, mugs, rubbers and key rings, to name just a few. Our family holidays took us around the world, which allowed me to find great variety, both at home and abroad and I took my collections seriously, taking time and care to choose new additions.

Today, the stamp and coin collections have long since been passed on through the family. The rubbers were discarded. Only a few of the key rings were kept, though I still regret the loss of the rest.

A lot of the mugs are still in the kitchen cupboard. I can't bear to get rid of the "I'm A Mug From Luton", though the text is faded almost to nothing, after 25+ years through the dishwasher. Perhaps it's because the slogan describes me as well as it does the mug?

As I left childhood behind, I stopped collecting. But I missed it. Sometimes, I indulged in retail therapy trips where the urge to buy would result in spending £40 or more on clothes and books and magazines I didn't really want or need. An article eulogising egg cups caught my attention. The author found such joy in the immense variety of design and shape of objects made for a single, simple task and I was immediately nodding in agreement. There and then I decided to start a new collection, part of me consciously thinking that I could satisfy those occasional urges to buy something new by spending just a few pounds at most. In those early days, prices were often in pence, as initial egg cups were found in charity shops and car boot sales.

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Today, I own far too many egg cups and have over 100 sitting in a box to sell on Ebay (when I get a round tuit).

But the ones I display (on a chaotic and far-too-full living room shelving unit) give me great pleasure. The kind of pleasure only another collector can really understand.

So when I read Allegra McEvedy's book, Bought, Borrowed & Stolen: Recipes & Knives From A Travelling Chef, I immediately felt a kinship – a warmth that comes from the shared personality disorder of the collecting mindset!

In her introduction, Allegra describes her knife buying as gathering, explaining that she hesitates to use the word 'collect' as that implies that her knives are not for use and she certainly uses hers! Don't worry Allegra, I use my egg cups too, though given that I don't eat boiled eggs and soldiers that often, it's a slow cycle. And I confess, some just aren't as practical at holding eggs as others…

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The magpie in me appreciates the rather striking turquoise cloth binding with shiny gold foil print. It's an unusual design and I like it.

Inside, the book is divided into 19 chapters by country (though the USA is represented by two cities, New York and San Francisco). Each is introduced by a country fact file sharing basics such as geography, population, religion plus a short sharp summary of the cuisine, top five favourite ingredients and most famous dish. Next comes the travel memoir page, where Allegra talks about her experiences visiting the country. I enjoyed these personal memories, though a single page for each means they're little more than a snapshot.

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Next, my favourite part of the book, the introduction to the knife that Allegra bought back from that country. Reading about how she found and came to own each knife, what memories it holds, how she uses it now… I can really feel her affection for each item in her collection.

There's her Pine Forest Picnic Knife from Turkey, Win's Special Burmese Machete from Burma, a Suction Free Chef's Knife from San Francisco, the Pig Leg Boner from Brazil, the Lemon Wood Pastry Slicer from Morocco, Lorenzi's Ceramica from Italy, Balisong from The Philippines, the Grenadine Scrimshaw, the Oaxacan Whacker from Mexico and several more.

I find the collection fascinating!

The collection of recipes is equally diverse, and I find some more appealing than others. There are many I find interesting to read about but which don't tempt me at all to make them.

Also, I think it would be accurate to describe most of these recipes as influenced by her travels rather than authentic, something that's been confirmed by friends from a couple of the countries represented.

Probably the biggest let down for me is the food photography. Whilst I appreciate the idea of simply presenting the food, rather than filling half the shot with styling props and unused ingredients, I find the photographs in this book lifeless and sometimes actually off-putting. Certainly, they don't do the job of making me salivate and feel an urge to make the recipe.

That said, what I do like is the sheer spread of cuisines, ingredients and types of dishes covered. It's a fun book for someone who wants to dip their toes into the pool of international cooking and wants a wide spread of recipes to choose from.

The recipe I chose to try is from Malawi, a simple ginger and garlic fried dish.

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Nsomba Zokazinga Ndi Ginja Komanso Anyezi

(Ginger & Garlic Fried Fish)

Serves 2

Ingredients
50 grams ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bird's eye chillies, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
0.5 teaspoon paprika
5 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 portion-sized fish such as red bream, about 700 grams each once gutted and scaled
Approximately 750 ml light oil for frying
limes, to serve
salt and pepper

Note: I bought Corsican bream, which were expensive, about £13.50 for two.
Note: I omitted the chilles, for personal taste.
Note: I substituted cider vinegar for white wine vinegar, as that's what I had in stock.
Note: I used considerably less oil for shallow frying.

Method

  • In a blender, blitz up the ginger, chillies, garlic, spring onions, paprika and a teaspoon of salt with the groundnut oil and vinegar.

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  • Make some deep diagonal cuts across both sides of each fish – about 5 cuts along each side.

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  • Put about half a teaspoon of ginger paste into each slit and smear the rest on the skin and in the cavity.

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  • Pour oil to the depth of about 1.5 centimetres into a frying pan large enough to hold both fish and shallow fry on medium high – the oil should be hot enough to make the fish fizzle when it goes in.

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  • Fry the fish fast for about 5-6 minutes on each side until golden.

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  • Serve straight away, with rice, salad and lime quarters.

We really enjoyed this simple dish, the flavours of the paste were balanced and full on yet didn't overwhelm the beautiful fish. It was also very quick and simple to make.

With thanks to Octopus for the review copy.


Allegra McEvedy's Bought, Borrowed & Stolen is currently available from Amazon for £11 (RRP £25).

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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas from Kavey Eats & Pete Drinks!

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Pete and Kavey wish all the readers of Kavey Eats & Pete Drinks a very merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Kavey's Cackalacky Roast Rib of Beef

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When I was invited to take part in the Grey Poupon cooking challenge, I immediately remembered the intriguing recipe for Cackalacky Spare Ribs that I'd read in my recently acquired book, The Whole Hog Cookbook by Libbie Summers.

As Grey Poupon was originally an American-owned brand (born back in 1777) Cackalacky seemed doubly appropriate. (These days Grey Poupon UK is a separate entity, their mustard still produced in Dijon, the spiritual home of mustard).

With Google at my fingertips, I quickly learned that Cackalacky is a nickname for Carolina, USA and for many things originating in the two states, North and South, though the origins of the word are a mystery.

In food terms, Cackalacky is a condiment variously described as a "hot mustard sauce", a "mustard BBQ sauce" or simply a "spice sauce". Recipes vary hugely, but what they all have at their core is the use of yellow mustard. Many recipes also include sweet potato; for acidity there's a choice of cider vinegar or lime juice; for sweetness some recipes turn to molasses, others to honey and still others to brown sugar; some add onions and garlic, some don't; and then there's a whole range of spices.

Although I took the book as my original inspiration, I had some way to go in developing my own recipe.

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For a start, I wanted to switch from pork spare ribs to beautiful British beef. I decided on a bone in rib of Hereford beef, to be roasted whole. This was first rubbed with a sugar spice mix based on Summers' rib rub, a few hours before cooking. I also took her advice to baste the beef with some of my Cackalacky sauce five minutes before the end of its cooking time.

However, when it came to the recipe for Cackalacky sauce, I struck out on my own, taking elements from several very varied recipes I found, and hoping my own creation would work. Instead of sweet potato, I decided to use apples, still seasonal in the UK. Of course, Grey Poupon mustard would have a starring role. And I decided on my own combination and amounts of sugar, honey, herbs, spices and vinegar.

I recently enjoyed a lovely potato and parsnip mash when eating out, and felt the soft, sweet and earthy flavours would be perfect against the spiced beef and sweet-sour mustard sauce. Again, very seasonal for a British winter.

Lastly, one of my favourite winter greens, some Savoy cabbage, just shredded and lightly boiled.

I'm not very experienced at developing my own recipes, it's something I'm still very nervous about. So I was truly delighted when my Cackalacky and accompaniments came together beautifully. This is definitely a recipe I'll make again.

Feel free to try this with other meats too – my swap from pork ribs to a roasting joint of beef worked really well.

 

Kavey's Cackalacky Roast Rib of Beef

Ingredients
Bone in rib of beef
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar
1 cup Cackalacky sauce (see below)

Note: My rib of beef was a single rib join weighing 1.3 kilos. Adjust volumes of spice rub if your joint is significantly larger or smaller.

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  • Combine sugar and spice ingredients thoroughly and rub into the surface of the meat. Use your hands!

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  • Leave the meat in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

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  • Roast the meat according to your preferred temperature and times and the size of the joint. Set your alarm for 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time.

    I tried a new method, pre-heating the oven to 230 C, cooking the beef at that temperature for 15 minutes and then turning down to 190 C for the rest of the cooking time. However, the result was cooked more than we prefer, and next time we'll stick to our normal temperatures and times, for medium rare.

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  • Five minutes before the beef is due to finish cooking, take it out of the oven and baste generously on all surfaces with Cackalacky sauce. Return to the oven.

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  • After the final five minutes, remove from the oven, cover with tin foil and leave to rest for 10-20 minutes.

Kavey's Cackalacky BBQ Sauce

Ingredients
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 teaspoon cooking oil
6 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
4 heaped tablespoons Grey Poupon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Note: As I was combining elements from several different recipes to create my own, I wasn't sure how much sauce to make. I initially made exactly half the above amount, realising as soon as I'd finished that I hadn't made enough to both baste the beef and serve as a condiment. I immediately made the recipe again, exactly the same way. The amounts above are for the total volume I made.

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  • Heat the cooking oil in a pan and add the diced apples. Cook until the apples start to take on a little colour.

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  • Add the dark muscovado sugar and stir on a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and coats the apples.

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  • Add the cider vinegar and water and bring to a simmer.

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  • After a few minutes test the softness of the apples. I used a potato masher to break them down more quickly.

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  • Add the oregano, thyme, black pepper and cayenne pepper and stir, then cover and cook on a medium heat.

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  • Once the apples have softened completely, stir in the mustard.

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  • Add the honey and mix in well.

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  • Transfer the mixture to a blender and blitz until smooth.
  • Season with salt and check for taste. At this stage, you could adjust sweetness or acidity by adding a little honey or vinegar, if you wish. I was happy with the taste, so didn't adjust mine.

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Parsnip & Potato Puree

Ingredients
Equal quantities of potatoes and parsnips, by weight
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
A splash of double cream, to loosen

  • Peel and chop the potatoes and parsnips and boil till soft.
  • Transfer to a food processor.
  • Add salt and pepper and a splash of cream.

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  • Blitz until smooth. Adjust seasoning and add more cream if required.

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Although the beef was cooked medium-well rather than my intended medium-rare, the quality of the beef meant it was still delicious and I loved the combination of flavours from the spice rub and the Cackalacky sauce. The mellow sweetness of the parsnip and potato puree worked very well against the sharp mustardy flavours. And the cabbage, carefully not overcooked, gave a lovely freshness and crunch to the plate.

This is very different to anything else in my normal cooking repertoire but has been a fun and successful exploration. If you try making it yourself, do let me know how you get on!

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