Category: Food

05/07/07

Permalink 07:51:53 pm, Categories: Food, Recipe, 253 words   English (UK)

Fishcakes

I made some fishcakes yesterday, very easy and extremely tasty.

This should make 4 fishcakes. Enough for 2 people as a main meal with a salad or a handful of chips.

Boil some potatoes, around 250g, until tender. I used new potatoes and then peeled them, but you can use any floury potatoes and peel them first if they have thicker skins. While they were boiling, I was able to steam 180g of fish fillet above the boiling water. You can use any firm fish, cod, haddock or salmon for example. I went for coley because I had some in. It's a little darker in colour than cod, but with a similar flavour, a little less delicate.

Take 2 handfuls of fresh parsley and blend with 15g of cold butter. Then mix with the hot potatoes and mash them with a fork until smooth. Flake the steamed fish into the mash, add two handfuls of fine breadcrumbs and combine thoroughly.

Form the mixture into patties and then chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. They will become a good deal less sticky as the breadcrumbs absorb some of the moisture, and the cooling potato congeals.

When you are ready to cook the fishcakes, beat an egg into a shallow bowl, dip the patties into the egg, coating both sides, and then cover them with a mixture of breadcrumbs and polenta grains. Shallow fry for a few minutes on each side until they are golden brown and the coating has become crispy.

Serve immediately.

21/05/07

Permalink 02:02:18 pm, Categories: Food, Recipe, Books, 266 words   English (UK)

Bramble Delice

This weekend I cooked what's probably the most complex dessert I've ever attempted.

I got a copy of James Martin's Desserts for my birthday and it's a sweet looking book.

On Thursday, a friend brought round 3 boxes of blackberries, a bottle of Creme de Cassis, some double cream and a jar of glucose syrup - along with a birthday present of a cake ring. A not exactly subtle hint that she would like me to make the Delice au Cassis recipe.

Well it's not really the right time of year for fresh blackcurrants, so the blackberries had to do instead and I didn't need to alter the recipe to make it work. I suspect that the blackcurrants would have given a greater intensity of flavour to the finished pud, but it worked a treat.

Sometimes a complicated recipe has just too much going on for you to get to grips with it first time. This took me a large part of one day to complete, but despite the marathon it worked flawlessly. This is really the sign I think of a good cookery book. My first recipe from the book, the most complex recipe in the book, and it just works.

This was the first time I've used a sugar thermometer, real vanilla, leaf gelatine, stock syrup or Italian meringue and yet the step by step instructions did the job.

This is a really good book to drool over, it's proper food pr0n. But it's also a very practical and workable recipe book.

Try it. And when you've got a day to spare, try the Delice.

02/05/07

Permalink 01:12:16 pm, Categories: Food, Review, 238 words   English (UK)

Cafe No.8

I share a mutual friend with the proprietor of Cafe No.8; so I heard about it when it first opened. I didn't find an excuse to go there for quite a while but I used to recommend it to people when they were looking for somewhere nearby, and they always came back to me with good reports.

Since then I've managed to go a few times - for lunch usually - and it's never disappointed.
It's a small, slightly cramped bistro with around 6 tables. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant even on a damp day with the heavens pouring forth and the place is packed with customers and damp shopping. Today was fine and although the place was never overflowing, it did a brisk trade. I've never seen it empty.

The menu is a pretty traditional bistro mix of sandwiches and heartier meals; all delivered with style and a high degree of emphasis on the quality of flavour. The prices are typical for this kind of menu, but the balance and quality of the food easily pushes those prices into good value for money.

It's just on the edge of town, right next to the city walls, so it's not a bad place to stop for a shopping lunch, but be warned that on any day when town is busy, I'd expect to struggle to get a table here. On a quieter day, it's a reliable source of good food.

04/04/07

Permalink 09:38:24 am, Categories: Food, Review, 409 words   English (UK)

Vanilla Black

The second time I went to Vanilla Black I knew what to expect. Potentially this leaves room for disappointment, but there was no disappointment to be found.

I'm not a vegetarian, and sometimes I struggle to be enthusiastic about vegetarian dishes. Looking at the menu I thought that there was nothing on there I really fancied. The best option for the main course was almost but not quite the same dish that I had last time. I plumped for some stuff that I thought I could bear.

The truth is that this meat-eating savoury thing is just in my head. There were five of us, we each chose something different, and we all tasted each others food. Everything was gorgeous. I could have had anything from the menu and liked it. The choices I did make were probably the best choices for me that night, but on another night I would have had something different.

To put it bluntly, this place does stuff with vegetarian food that Cranks can only dream of. They have a Michelin recommendation and they fully deserve it.

I had a deconstructed lentil dhal to start. Even having tasted it, I can't say that it sounds inspiring (the menu does go into a little more detail than just the title). Lentil dhal is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when you think of a vegetarian restaurant, but this was incredible. The deconstructed part just means that they cooked everything separately and then put it all on the plate at the end. (Does that sound lazy to you; It's not, it's inspired.)

My main was a crispy vegetable 'lasagne' a rich and sweet tomato and onion relish bound together an aubergine and cucumber filling sandwiched between layers of something that was a cross between a flour pancake and a rosti. It was all topped with a good ball of shepherd's purse cheese, rather like a fresh mozzarella.

Conveniently there were five dishes on the desert menu, so we just ordered one of each. I got mostly a belgian chocolate pudding with white chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream. By far the least inspired choice on the menu, but it was just what I was in the mood for. Everyone else got something much more interesting and again everything was delicious.

The atmosphere is quiet, informal and the service attentive but not fussy.

so far this place is 2 for 2. Keep up the good work.

26/03/07

Permalink 09:13:14 am, Categories: Food, Review, 413 words   English (UK)

The Wharf - Teddington

We went out for dinner the other night to The Wharf, right next to Teddington Lock. The atmosphere on arrival was pleasant, although it was early and the dining room was virtually empty. There was a brisk chill in the air outside and the space heaters in the dining room had brought the temperature up nicely, it wasn't long before people were asking to have them turned off.

Things didn't get off to a brilliant start with the menu however. The only vegetarian main was off, and they obviously hadn't thought through anything to replace it. They were however prepared to consider variations on anything on the menu. In the end, we made do. There were 4 of us; we started with a Mezze plate between two, a pressed ham hock terrine and I had a caesar salad with chicken and bacon. Service was unexpectedly swift and the starters were all generous and very satisfying. My salad was simple but very well balanced and the Mezze plate contained pitta with a herd and garlic dressing, houmous, spicy baba-ganoush and a chunky guacamole, alongside that, feta and artichoke hearts.

To follow, I had a steak burger and my companions had corelli with chicken and chorizo, spiced rump of lamb, and a large plain caesar salad. The burger was tasty and succulent, presented with cheese, bacon, tomato and a tasty tomato relish. There was a mountain of fries on the plate, but they were a little underdone and somewhat anaemic.

We washed this down with mineral water and a very pleasant Laiback Pinotage from the Stellenbosch. Service was prompt and attentive almost but not quite to the point of intrusive and the staff were very helpful.

As our meal drew on, the room began to become quite full, it's obviously a popular place and my companions have failed to find a booking in the past. It didn't seem excessively noisy or crowded as things filled up, but we did notice a lot of cigarette smoke drifting in from the bar, despite having an ostensibly no-smoking table, and by the time we were leaving, the not-so-delicate sounds of a Gwen Stefani track were beginning to punctuate the hubbub.

I wasn't paying, but the prices on the menu seemed very reasonable and I think the whole experience was value for money. It's difficult to judge a place on a visit like this, but I would go again, for an early table, probably after the smoking ban comes in.

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