Saturday, 25 July 2015

Abeno Okonomi-yaki restaurant, Museum Street in London

One of the perks of living in London is all the free museums and exhibitions. My favourite has to be the British Museum with it's futuristic ceiling juxtaposing the Greek revivalist facade and artifacts from all over the world. I spent a lot of time here when I was studying for my Masters' at SOAS, so it feels almost homely to me. If you are visiting the British Museum, then I have to recommend Abeno Okonomi-yaki, a Japanese restaurant close by, on Museum Street, for it's delicious Okonomi-yaki of course (a Japanese pimped-up omelette), cooked right there on your table by the friendly waitresses.
And if you fancy trying something quite strange and full of goodness, then natto might just be your thing. It's sticky texture puts some people off but I couldn't get enough of the stuff. When I crave something like that, I always conclude that my body must be needing it, especially when it's something that's usually absent from my diet. Natto is full of probiotics, something that I've found to cure most things in my life (this is just my opinion). Some say it's the secret of longevity in Japan, but above all it's a great little side dish to your Okonomi-yaki, complementing it perfectly!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Cardamon flan aka A happy accident

From avoiding sugar (with varying degrees of success) to full blown sugarholic. This is my journey. While everyone is on a healthy eating tip these days, with Helmsley&Helmsley and Deliciously Ella,  I appear to have gone the other way entirely in the last couple of months, whilst experimenting with cake and dessert recipes. Writing a cookbook and being  pregnant has given me the perfect reason (excuse?) to fall off the sugar-free wagon and on to a soft cloud of cream cakes and delicate meringue; bouncy doughnuts (I made these twice in the last fortnight) and an unexpected cardamon flan. The flan was a cream-cake-gone-wrong, a very happy accident indeed. Just like my pregnancy come to think of it. It was a taste I'd had before, somewhere in Spain - was it Andalucia or Barcelcona? I can't put my finger on it.  I've visited both numerous times and I wish I'd recorded more of the meals I'd eaten there, because they were some of the best I've ever had. So in summary, a flan similar to this was once eaten by yours truly sometime in the past in Spain. It was not cardamon though, and this ancient, aromatic spice is what makes my flan really special.
Can you see how soft and squigy it is inside? This is because it's based on a cardamon custard: heat 400ml of the milk, cream and cardamon pods slowly in a saucepan. Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together. Blend the cornflour with the remaining 100ml of milk and add to the eggs and carry on whisking. When the milk has come to the boil, take it off the heat for about 10min. Remove the pods and heat once again. Stir continuously until this mixture thickens, then place the pan in a sink of cold water to cool. Stir occasionally. Once the mixture is completely cold blend it with an electric blender or whisk while adding the butter and flour. Bake at 180 degrees C for about 50min.


500ml milk 
50ml single cream 
5 cardamon pods 
3 tablespoons cornflour 
4 egg yolks 
100g light cane sugar 
200ml butter 
150g flour

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Red amaranth, enoki mushrooms, cashewnuts and black quinoa on a hot hotday

London is sizzling. No, I don't mean 23 degrees C going down to 10 at night, I mean a proper heatwave. Though they do say we'll be going back down to our usual, civilized 23-with-showers in the coming week. Thank god. That's not an ironic "thank god" either - the pregnancy means I'm really sensitive to everything and massively overheating. It took three tries to get into my lido. I'd trundle up there like a man in a desert only to find my cool oasis swarming with hipsters, forming an unmanageable queue. I finally managed to get in yesterday after getting up early, but it was still much busier than usual, even at 9.15am, a lot of idiots, a lot of road rage. Not your usual, calming "isn't this nice?" atmosphere at all. Luckily, in this weather I am not craving sausage sandwiches but things like this...
This was a particularly attractive and successful version of the kind of dish I usually throw together; a combination of whatever I have lying about my kitchen cupboards and whatever I pick on my way home. I stopped off at my favourite Vietnamese supermarket on this occasion and bought fresh red amaranth and enoki mushrooms. I cooked the black quinoa separately and used a wok to toast the cashewnuts slightly before adding the amaranth, enoki mushrooms, light soya sauce, a little bit of oyster sauce and Ghanian shito paste (basically a chilli oil).
After all my moaning about the heat, I leave you with what I love about London in the summertime. The luscious, wild nature all around. Now, if I could just get wild flowers to grow in my garden...