Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Creamy tomato and prawn open lasagne - recipe

Open lasagne is much quicker and a little bit healthier than traditional lasagne.  For some reason, I always feel more inspired to tinker about with fillings too.

Last night's version was a creamy prawn and tomato sauce, with some peas and mushrooms thrown in for good measure - these could be left out if you prefer.

Ingredients (serves two):
6 dried lasagne sheets (I prefer to use fresh but the supermarket didn't have any)
Half an onion, thinly sliced (I used red but white would be fine)
1 large field mushroom / handful of normal mushrooms, thinly sliced
I clove garlic, minced
1 packet uncooked tiger prawns (cooked will do, if you don't have fresh - just cook for less time)
Small glass of dry white wine
4 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped (half a tin of chopped tomatoes would do nicely)
Handful of frozen peas, cooked
Splash of double cream, to taste
Handful of fresh basil
100g (or so) grated parmesan

If using dried lasagne, cook sheets according to instructions on the packet whilst you make the sauce (approx 10 minutes).  If using fresh pasta, cook when the sauce is assembled.

Gently fry the onion in olive oil over a low heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add the mushroom and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the prawns (if using uncooked.  If you use ready-cooked prawns, add right at the end and just warm through).

Add the white wine and turn the heat up.  Simmer until the wine reduces down.  Add the tomatoes, stir in the double cream and heat through. 

Add the peas and basil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble the lasagne.  Lay a sheet of pasta in a bowl, spoon over some of the tomato mixture and a sprinkle of parmesan.  Repeat with the other sheets.  Top with some more parmesan.


Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cut Bar - Young Vic restaurant review

The Cut Bar at the Young Vic is always a good bet for a drink if you're in Waterloo, I particularly like the little roof terrace - it's nothing fancy but it beats standing on the pavement.

I hadn't eaten there before but was quite impressed with lunch today.  I expected the menu to be nothing more than standard burger-fare, so was pleasantly surprised by how creative the dishes were. 

We shared three dishes between two of us, which was just about enough for lunch.

The fried plantain balls with cho-cho beet pickle, sour cashew cream and roast cumin were very good.  No idea what 'cho-cho beet pickle' actually consists of but there were lots of very interesting flavours.

Taramasalata with halloumi kebabs salad paprika & turmeric oils and blueberry vinegar was an odd combination.  The taramasalata was good but just unnecessary with halloumi, salt overload.

The alpine Salad with Jura cheese, tenderstem broccoli, croutons, leaves, flowers, thyme, and marmalade and blueberry dressing (minus the bacon) was good.  The salad leaves could've been a little fresher but the flavours were good and it sure did look pretty.

Waterloo is slightly lacking in decent lunch options, so it's always good to discover a new place. 

Fried plantain balls

Halloumi kebabs

Alpine salad

Turning Japanese - Hashi cookery school

For some reason the thought of cooking Japanese food at home has always intimidated me.  I love the food and thought it was fine time I started making it at home... via some Japanese cookery lessons with the lovely Reiko at Hashi cooking

Luckily my sister is a sushi fiend too, so was keen to do the lessons with me!  We signed up to the beginners course .  The classes are held in Reiko's house, with only around six people at most, so are definitely intimate.

The first lesson concentrated on the basics, such as suppliers and ingredients.

It was good to learn that most Japanese cooking can be done with a few basic ingredients not that intimidating after all:
Soy sauce (should always be Japanese, e.g. Kikkoman)
Rice wine (Mirin and Sake)
Rice vinegar
Seaweed (wakame)
Bonito flakes and Konbu (kelp) for making dashi (stock). Alternatively, you can just buy dashi powder.

Now I just need to get stocked up!

Next week we're making gyoza dumplings.  Can't wait.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Asparagus and goats cheese risotto - recipe

Risotto is really easy to make and the best thing about it is that, once you've got a decent basic recipe sorted, you can add just about anything you fancy.  I'm making the most of asparagus season and thought I'd add in some goats cheese for good measure.

Jamie Oliver's basic risotto recipe, works every time.  I adapted it slightly this time, as I wanted to cook the asparagus in the risotto. If you wanted, you could follow the basic recipe, cook the asparagus separately and add it at the end.

My version of Jamie's recipe below:

Ingredients (Serves two greedy gannets):
1 pint veg stock
1 knob of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Half a red onion onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
½ a head of celery, finely chopped
200g risotto rice (I use arborio rice. Make sure you do use risotto rice, or you won't get a creamy risotto)
1 small wine glass of dry white wine (you can use vermouth)

200g fresh asparagus, chopped in 1cm pieces
100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Handful of fresh herbs, roughly chopped (I used mint and parsley)
100g goats cheese (or as much, or as little, as you fancy)


Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep warm (not boiling)

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and butter, add the onions and celery, and fry very slowly for about 10 minutes, without colouring.  Add the garlic and gently cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the rice and turn up the heat (to medium)

Vigorously stir the rice for a minute or two, until it starts to look slightly translucent.  Add the wine and keep stirring (the stirring is the key to a lovely creamy risotto)

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock, a pinch of salt and the chopped asparagus.

Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock and keep stirring.  Allow each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.

This should take 10-15 minutes, until the rice is soft - you will need to taste it.  If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.
Remove from the heat and add another knob of butter, parmesan and herbs. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes.

Serve, with the goats cheese crumbled over the top.  And probably some more parmesan too! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Entrée, Clapham Junction - restaurant review

My parents are a tough crowd.  I know this, I grew up with them.  So, when they're impressed by a restaurant, someone's doing something right.

Enter, Entrée, in Clapham Junction.  Apparently it's been open for almost a year but, having moved from the area, I'd somehow missed it.

The small restaurant, at the top of Battersea Rise, has a cool little cocktail bar downstairs and a Manhattan Bistro feel to it.  What really makes it stand out from other eating places in Clapham is head chef Omar Palazzolo's CV, which includes top restaurants Le Gavroche and Nobu.

We happened across a Toptable deal, for 50% off food.  In my experience this sometimes leads to  substandard food, service or both but this was most definitely not the case at Entrée, where owner/manager Jayke Mangion looked after us very well (a little flirty with Mum, matey with Dad!) and was quick to provide helpful recommendations on food and wine. 

Food was, for the most part, excellent. 

We were pleasantly surprised by a carrot soup amuse bouche.  The soup was good, although the presentation was a bit average.

Most of our group opted for the scallop and crab lasagne with chive buerre blanc to start.  This was one of the best starters I've had in a long time.  Full of flavour, rich but not too heavy.  My sister opted for grilled mackerel with fennel remoulade and orange glaze.  This was well cooked and fresh tasting.

A main course of hake, mange tout and courgettes with sauce vierge, was beautifully presented.  Fish was perfectly cooked and the flavours nicely balanced.

The boys went for cumbrian chicken breast, enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, Jersey Royals and corn purée.  No pic I'm afraid but it was a good manly portion, with very tender chicken and the unusual enoki mushrooms adding a point of interest.

We also shared a couple of portions of thrice-cooked chips.  These were delish - crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle.  The portions were teeny-tiny though.  It was a mistake to share.

Pudding was a mixed bag.  I loved the sound of the rhubarb bakewell tart but unfortunately it was really disappointing.  It was very stodgy and had a weird savoury taste to it, as though it had taken on cooking smells in the kitchen.  The flavour of rhubarb didn't come through at all.  Nil points.  The sticky fig and ginger pudding was excellent though, very moreish.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  Service is top notch, the wine list was reasonable and the food (rhubarb bakewell aside) fantastic.  Will definitely be going back.

Carrot soup, amuse bouche

Scallop and crab lasagne

Grilled mackerel

Hake with sauce vierge

Sticky fig and ginger pudding

Rhubarb bakewell

Entrée Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 23, 2011

Courgette fritters - recipe

When I was little, I loved Roald Dahl books and the BFG was probably my favourite. If you've read it, you'll remember that the BFG lived on snozzcumbers, which to me sounded pretty much like courgettes.  Mainly because I thought courgettes were vile.

Fast forward a couple of years (/decades) and I actually rather like courgettes.  I was very amused to come across a round courgette in Waitrose (see pic) and had to buy it.

I've made fritters from various other vegetables (potato, sweetcorn, carrot etc) and thought i'd give courgette fritters a go.  Total success, they were amazing.

2 medium courgettes (definitely don't need to be round!)
1 egg, beaten
Half an onion, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons flour
Handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I used chives, mint and parsley)
Oil for frying (whichever you prefer to use)

Grate the courgettes into a large bowl.

Using either kitchen roll, or a clean tea towel, squeeze as much liquid as you can out of them.  Throw the liquid away.

Add the onion, egg, flour and herbs to the drained courgette and mix.

Heat the oil in a frying pan.  These will work better if you add oil to the depth of a cm or so (sorry weight watchers).  When the oil is hot, add a heaped dessert spoon of the courgette mix at a time, lightly pressing down with a spoon to form patties.  Leave to cook on one side for a couple of minutes and then turn over.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown.

Drain on kitchen paper before serving - we had ours with ready made sweet chilli sauce.

Voila, snozzcumber fritters.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Boiled egg and asparagus soldiers

No recipe required but far too yummy not to share with you: soft boiled egg with buttered asparagus spears to dip.

Couldn't be simpler but somehow looks very impressive and tastes delish.  Best enjoyed in the sunshine.

Saucy Sicilian lunch - Caponata recipe

Caponata is a sort of sweet and sour Italian vegetable stew.  It's delicious for lunch, served hot with some bread.  Traditionally, Italians serve it as a side dish.  I think it would be great with tuna steak.  It keeps for a couple of days in the fridge and the flavour just gets better.

There are loads of different variations on the recipe, some include raisins, others exclude pine nuts.  I based mine on this recipe from Delicious magazine but with a few tweaks.


  1. Good glug of olive oil
  2. 1 red onion, chopped
  3. 2 celery sticks chopped
  4. 1 large, or 2 small aubergines, chopped into small cubes
  5. 400g tin tomatoes
  6. 100g green olives
  7. 2 tbsp capers
  8. 2 tbsp caster sugar
  9. 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  10. 50g pine nuts
  11. Handful of fresh basil leaves

  1. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, celery and aubergines and cook gently for at least 20-25 minutes or until the pepper and aubergines are very tender. Don’t allow the mixture to catch on the bottom of the pan.  I added a couple of tablespoons of water after about ten mins, to keep the aubergine moist.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes and cook for another ten minutes.
  3. Roughly chop the olives with the capers. Add to the vegetables with the sugar and vinegar, and cook for 15 - 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. 
  4. Stir in the pine nuts.  Cook for a further 5 minutes.
Serve hot or cold, as you prefer.


Chopped celery

Caponata served with toasted ciabatta

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Guilty pleasures

Things I know I shouldn't really like... except I really, really do

#1 Diet coke.  Addicted.
#2 Cheesy puffs.  They don't even need to be Wotsits.
#3 Party rings.  Mainly the pink ones.
#4 Monster munch.  Cried with joy when they reinstated the roast beef flavour.
#5 Mateus rose wine.  The shame.
#6 McDonald's fries.  Way better than BK.
#7 Milky bar buttons.  Yes, I know they're for children.
#8 Heinz tinned macaroni cheese.  Strangely comforting.
#9 Strongbow cider.  And no poncing about with ice.
#10 Hash browns.  Deep fried.  From my work canteen.

Friday, May 20, 2011

London street food: Buen Provecho, Waterloo

I've been eyeing up this food stand for a while now.  The menu varies but is mostly meat based.  Today I was in luck though and spied a veggie option - tortas con papas y nopales (tortilla with potatoes and cactus).

The stand, run by the lovely Arturo Ortega Rodriguez, produces fantastic, authentic Mexican food. 

I went for the three tortas option: freshly toasted (homemade) tortillas, filled with a sort of potato cake, refried beans and cactus.  They were awesome. 

One of my favourite things about this stand is that you can help yourself to as much salsa and guacamole as you like.  So I did.  Man alive, one of the tomato salsas was HOT!

If you don't fancy a trip to Waterloo (who can blame you) Arturo also caters for parties.  mail.buenprovecho@googlemail.com



A quick snackette in Barnes

In an effort to get to know my new 'hood (totally inappropriate use of word as I live in Richmond!), I convinced my sis to go to Barnes for a quick drink last night.

'Twas very lovely - a dinky little high street and a lovely duck pond.  All very English.

We happened on a rather nice pub too - The Sun Inn.  Very cute, with plenty of tables outside overlooking the village pond (if you ignore the main road...)

The food menu looked very good and reasonably priced too.  We just had a quick snackette though - salt and pepper squid, which was an excellent accompaniment to a nicely chilled glass of vino.

Will definitely be returning to tackle the food menu properly!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Linguine with lemon, feta, basil and pine nuts - Recipe

There's a few pasta recipes that I make time and again.  This is one of my favourites.  It really only takes ten minutes or so to make and doesn't need any fancy schmanzy ingredients.  Winner.

The original recipe came from Gordon Ramsay, courtesy of The Times.  Back in the good old days, when they let us look at stuff for free.

I've slightly adapted the recipe to taste.  My version below.  Don't get hung up on exact measurements, just use this as a guide.

Ingredients (Serves two):
250g dried linguine (I use De Cecco)
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
Leaves from a handful of basil
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts


Put the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water to cook - checking the packet for times (De Cecco recommends 11 minutes). 

Whilst the pasta cooks, prep your ingredients.  Be careful toasting your pine nuts (I just dry fry mine over a low-medium heat for a couple of minutes) - I burnt mine last night and had to start again.

When the pasta is cooked, tip it into a colander and drain off most of the water, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan. Return the pasta to the pan and add the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, parmesan, basil and three-quarters of the crumbled feta. Toss well and check the seasoning.


Prepped ready to add to the cooked pasta

End result

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coq D'Argent - restaurant review

Last time I went to Coq D'Argent I thought it had a superiority complex (unwarranted).  The service ranged from snotty to incompetent and the food was totally overpriced, considering it was average at best.

Nonetheless, we were lured back in by a) the roof terrace and a sunny evening b) friends' reports of better dining experiences and c) a special offer.  Ok, ok, so it was mainly c!

We arrived early, so we could have a drink outside first.  The surly receptionist was not impressed by this plan.  She tried to usher us straight to our table, then made a big fuss about having to rebook our table.  And then told us not to be late for the 'new booking'.  She was a charmer.  (Unfortunately the maitre d' came from the same school...)

But, on to more important things: the food, which was largely excellent.  I could've sworn they had a new chef but apparently Mickael Weiss has been there for ten years.  Must've been having an off-day last time we went.

In an unprecedented move, Marc the committed carnivore ordered a veggie starter: mushroom parfait, port jelly, spring vegetable salad and beetroot dressing.  The veggie gods were smiling down on him.  This was delish.  No mention of truffle on the menu but it was definitely in there somewhere.  Beautifully presented too, although photography doesn't do it justice.

My starter of seared tuna with pickled white radish, seaweed and yuzu dressing was also very good and looked very pretty on the plate.  Tuna tasted fresh. Didn't detect the seaweed and yuzu dressing though, which was a shame.

Steamed sea bream ballotine, wilted fennel and soused shellfish was ok.  Not sure what the sea bream was supposed to be stuffed with, but it was a fairly unappetising mousse-like substance.  The rest of the dish was tasty though.

The slow cooked rump steak, watercress aioli and spring veg was apparently very good.  Flavoursome steak, well cooked veg. 

Pudding was a real standout.  White chocolate and strawberry tart with lemon sorbet didn't sound particularly exciting but it was incredibly well executed.  Lovely presentation, melt-in-the-mouth pastry, good balance of flavours and sweetness.  An excellent pud.

The cheese was good too.  A nice selection with a tasty chutney.

The special deal offers very good value for money, although by the time you've added on service, drinks and extras it's not quite the bargain you anticipate.

The service still needs improvement in parts but we were very pleasantly surprised by the standard of the food. 

Seared tuna

Sea bream ballotine

Slow cooked rump steak

White chocolate and strawberry tart

Cheese board

Mushroom parfait

Coq D'Argent on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Butternut squash and feta burritos - recipe

Mexican food seems to be getting ever more popular in London but, with more of a focus on authenticity and a modern twist, it seems the days of gaudy restaurants and sombreros might be on their way out.
Thomasina Miers' Wahaca chain is brilliant but the restaurants are a victim of their own success - queues are usually enormous (I've walked away more than once, I cannot stand queuing).

One of my Mexican 'specialities' is butternut squash, beans and feta burritos.  Apparently squash is an uber authentic ingredient - used by the Aztecs themselves (thanks Wikipedia).  I'm guessing Greek cheese wasn't really their thing - but hey, that can be my modern twist, soo 'on-trend' darling!

Buen provecho.

(sorry, the photos are a bit rubbish.  it was dark.  i was hungry)

Ingredients (makes four substantial burritos):
1 x large butternut squash
1 x onion (red or white)
2 x cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
1 x 400g tin beans (I used kidney beans but black beans would work too)
100g feta cheese (more if you fancy it), crumbled
1 x fresh red chili, finely chopped
4 ready-made fajitas
100g cheddar cheese, grated

Pre-heat oven to 190c

Peel butternut squash using an ordinary veg peeler.  Chop in half longways.  Scoop the seeds out using a dessert spoon.  Chop into small chunks (see pic).

Heat some olive oil in a baking tray.  Add the butternut squash and cook for about 30 mins, until soft.

In the meantime, chop your onion and then gently fry it.  Add the chili and garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the (drained) beans.  Cook over a very low heat for ten minutes.  If the beans start to stick, add a couple of spoonfuls of water or stock. 

Add the cooked butternut squash to the beans and onions.  Add the feta and stir.

Now you're ready to put together your burritos.  Lay a tortilla out flat.  Spoon a quarter of the mixture into the middle.  Fold in the short edges first, then the long.  Lay on a baking tray with the folds on the bottom (This is difficult to explain, I should've taken pictures - this video demonstrates the technique http://www.ehow.co.uk/video_2298342_roll-beef-burrito.html )

Repeat with the other three tortillas, placing them side-by-side on the tray.  Sprinkle with the grated cheese and return to the oven for ten mins or so, until the cheese is melted.  (alternatively, grill for same results).

Serve with sour cream and tomato salsa.

Quick tomato salsa recipe:
3 average tomatoes
Half a red onion
Half a red chili
Small handful of fresh coriander
Juice of half a lime

Roughly chop the tomatoes, how small is up to you.

Finely chop the onion and chili

Chop or tear the coriander.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and squeeze the lime over. 




Bircher muesli and rhubarb compote - recipe

Bircher museli is one of my favourite breakfasts so, fortunately, it's really easy to make.  I made a basic version, with rhubarb compote to go with it.  It's great topped with nuts, seeds, berries etc - whatever you like really.

Bircher muesli recipe (serves four):
200g rolled oats
350ml apple juice
100g or so natural yoghurt
Honey to drizzle (I actually used maple syrup but honey is more usual!)

Nuts, fruits, seeds etc to top.  - on this occasion rhubarb compote. 

Demuths got in touch to tell me about their favourite topping: sour cherries, grated pear, toasted pecans, flax seeds, which sounds amazing!


Put oats and apple juice in a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight (a couple of hours would probably do it if you're in a rush)

The next morning, stir in natural yoghurt (add a little more if you want).  Drizzle with honey and chosen toppings.

Rhubarb compote recipe:
400g rhubarb
6 tablespoons water
3 dessert spoons caster sugar
1 piece stem ginger, finely chopped

Chop ends off the rhubarb and discard.  Chop the rest of the rhubarb into pieces approximately 2 cm long (but don't worry about being exact).

Place in saucepan with water, sugar and stem ginger.  Cook over a low heat until the rhubarb breaks down, approximately 10-15 minutes.  Taste your mixture, to check if you need more sugar - rhubarb can really vary.
Oats soaking up the apple juice

The chopped rhubarb - not as pink as it sometimes is

Rhubarb compote

Yummy breakfast - bircher muesli with rhubarb compote

Monday, May 16, 2011

Halloumi salad - recipe

Fried halloumi is quite frankly delicious.  Salty, chewy and sort of squeaky.

To call this a recipe is a massive overstatement, you just need a block of halloumi cheese (which you can buy just about everywhere now), a squeeze of lemon and a finely chopped chilli, if you fancy a little heat.

Cut the halloumi into slices - around 0.5cm - 1cm should do it.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat (if you're worried about the cheese sticking, you could use a tiny bit of oil) add the cheese slices in and cook gently for a few minutes on each side.  The cheese is cooked when it's lightly browned - keep an eye on it though, it does burn quite easily.

Squeeze a little lemon juice over the cheese and sprinkle with fresh chilli (if using).

I served mine as a starter with a tomato salad (chopped tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and mint leaves dressed with a little olive oil and white wine vinegar).


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Asparagus tart - recipe

With asparagus season well under way, I thought it was fine time I made the most of it.

An uber simple asparagus tart makes a lovely light summer lunch.  Even when the sun didn't really make an appearance...

Ready made, pre-rolled puff pastry (I used Jus Rol from the fridge section)
Tomato puree
Fresh asparagus
Gruyere cheese, grated (parmesan or cheddar would work too)
Melted butter

Pre heat the oven to 180c Cut out a rectangle of puff pastry per person and score a smaller rectangle with a knife (see pics).  Place on a sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray.

Spread a little tomato puree onto the pastry.

Sprinkle with gruyere cheese (Next time I make this, I'll use a little more than the pics below)

Remove the woody bits from the asparagus (if you bend the asparagus spear towards the end, it should naturally break at the point it becomes woody) and place on the pastry.

Sprinkle with some more cheese and brush pastry and asparagus with melted butter.

Pop in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is nicely golden and crispy

Serve with a simple salad.  We had lovely peppery watercress drizzled with olive oil.

Ready-made, ready-rolled puff pastry, genius.

Spread with tomato puree

Sprinkle with cheese

asparagus tart

We ate ours in the garden, whilst admiring our lovely rose bush!