Sunday 27 June 2010

The Giant Robot, Clerkenwell

I almost didn't come here, as I couldn't get through to anyone to book a table. In the end, I called another Rushmore group restaurant and booked a table through them - so that's a good tip if they forget to turn their answering machine off again. Once we got there, the staff were incredibly friendly and relaxed, so all was forgiven

It was a hot day, so we drank Mimosa cocktails, which were lovely and refreshing, and actually felt quite healthy. But perhaps that's just by my standards! We ate asparagus with salsa, a breakfast salad, with delicious black pudding bits in it, and eggs benedict. I can't fault any of it. The vibe was very New York, laid-back and cool. It made me feel cool too, so I will be back for sure!

Saturday 26 June 2010

"Pets du nonne" without pastry

How can you not want to make cakes with a name like "nun's farts"? Well, actually I imagine some people might not find the name that appealing, but for me, along with the simplest recipe in the world, it was a "fait accompli", or something like that. Now, "pets du nonne" often come in pastry, but this recipe I found in the Green'n'Blacks cookbook, is a much lighter version. I adapted it slightly - firstly I didn't use angelica, as I couldn't find any anywhere. Then, I substituted walnut bits for almond flakes, which worked fabulously well, even if I do say so myself


50g dark chocolate (chilled)
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
75g caster sugar
75g flaked almonds
(1 teaspoon dark rum optional)

You simply beat the egg whites and salt until they form stiff peaks, as when making meringue. Then start whisking in the sugar a bit at a time. Finally, fold in the almonds, chocolate which has been broken up into little bits, and the rum if you are using it (I used Morgan's Spiced). Line a baking tray with foil or baking paper and grease slightly - this is something I didn't do and I ended up with a few broken cakes, they are so incredibly delicate that you don't want to be prising them off at the end. Put little blobs of the mixture onto the tray, making sure that they don't touch. Then bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for about 8 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them in there for at least an hour, I left them for two

That's a broken nun's fart up there. This photo shows much more about these cakes then the ones that look whole and pretty, as they are no different to meringues on the outside. Yet on the inside the melted chocolate, delicate almonds and creamy meringue have a right old party. I am no baking queen but these will definitely become part of my repertoire - I love simple recipes and that taste amazing, and these fit the bill perfectly

Sunday 20 June 2010

Brick Lane Farmers market and broad beans with bacon

I have decided to start following the Fife Diet. Luckily for me, this doesn't actually mean any form of dieting, but simply eating as much local produce as possible. I haven't ordered a veggie box just yet, but started off by going to a local farmers' market. Brick Lane farmers market opened just this month, so I decided to go check it out, and stock up. It's very small, though no doubt it will expand in time, but I managed to get a good supply of fruit and vegetables for the week, as well as a lovely organic burger for lunch, some jersey milk (Ok, so that's not very local, but it is incredibly delicious), and an earful from the Polish man who could not believe that I did not want to buy some pierogi and bigos for later, since I am Polish and everything...

When I got home, I made the rustic broad bean dish that you can see up there. It was dead simple, I just cooked the broad beans, and fried the bacon and onion separately. Then, I added some oregano to the crispy bacon and onion bits, and combined with the cooked broad beans. If you would like more precise instructions, you can see me making it here. Tomorrow, I will take the leftovers to work, and eat them cold on top of a bed of mixed salad leaves - can't wait!

Thursday 17 June 2010

My favourite rosé and eating art

For me, summer means rose. I start drinking it around April or May, on warmer days, to remind myself that summer is coming, and don't stop til October. That way, the great British summer feels as long as it possibly can

I want to tell you about my favourite rose so far this year, which I get from my usual wine shop in Old Street. I fell in love with it immediately, as it was unlike any other rose I have tried. With men, my life has shown this to be a bad tactic, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone. Yet with wine, it hasn't let me down yet... therefore please meet the charming Chateau Larroze 2008

This isn't a fruity rose, it's rather complex and unusual, and I'd say it would go well with equally intense and perhaps garlicky fish and vegetable dishes, as well as tangy goat's cheese. I know it's weird to call a rose "intense", that it's a word reserved for red wine, but I don't care, there is something intense about this rose. It's also a bit farmy, and a bit flowery. And there stops my trying to describe it how it tastes - you just need to go and try it!

As you can see up there, the colour isn't exactly pink either, it's more like a "coppery peach" I have decided

The other thing I would like to mention is my current obsession with a programme called "Eating Art", which you can watch on Sky Player. I am rewarding myself at work with these - so I watch one a day, after some part of my job which I don't particularly enjoy doing - they've been great motivation! I haven't watched them all yet, but so far "Square Meal", which talks about Cubism's relationship to food, has been the best in my opinion. I always had a feeling that art and food were in linked in some inexplicable way, and now here we have it - proof! Though, as it turns out, it is actually perfectly explicable

Sunday 13 June 2010

Finger food: hummus, pastries and greek salad

I love eating outside! The weather was so crap all day on Friday, and then as we left work, the sun came out - what a miracle! I had a couple of old friends, Rob and Jim, coming over for dinner, and decided to cheat a bit and just do mezze-type finger food, and concentrate on the vodka martinis rather than spending lots of time in the kitchen. It took me just an hour to put everything together before they came round, and then we went for drinks in the courtyard for half an hour while the pastries were baking in the oven. We ate moroccan style humus (without tahini) and pitta chips, pastries with feta and spinach and moroccan-spiced lamb, and a greek salad.
Ingredients - hummus:

Tin of chickpeas
Half a teaspoon cumin
Half a teaspoon paprika 
Juice of half a lemon
About a tablespoon olive oil

With the hummus, I just blended the chickpeas, lemon juice, salt and spices in a blender, slowly adding the olive oil into the mix. I wanted to use dried chickpeas originally, as I prefer their flavour, and even soaked some overnight, but then I realized that I would need to cook them for ages and promptly changed my mind. You may think I was being lazy, but it was a Friday night, and sometimes the priority has to be to have a good time! I cut the pittas into strips and stuck them in the oven for about 20 minutes on 100 degrees C, while waiting for my mates to come round. For the greek salad up there, I just used cucumber, tomatoes, feta and onion. Dressing was the simplest possible - lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, which I put it on immediately before serving. When my friends arrived with the ice, I made dirty vodka martinis, with an unusual spelt vodka I picked up in Poland. I have recently learnt that I needn't have spent lots of money on the vodka, because the best vodka martinis I have tasted, at Milk and Honey in Soho, are made with Wyborowa - a cheap Polish rye vodka - apparently the rye cuts through the brine really well. Still, mine were pretty good too. I make dry ones, so all you need is vodka, and olives in brine. They say you should never shake a martini, so I just stirred the vodka ice, and brine for a minute or two in the cocktail shaker, and drained into a chilled glass. I can't say how much vodka and brine I used exactly - I like it quite dirty, so I'd say about 2 parts vodka to 1 part brine, but it's entirely up to you

Ingredients - pastries:

Feta and Spinach

Packet of puff pastry
Bag of fresh spinach
200g feta
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
Butter for sticking

Moroccan spiced lamb 
(Adapted from A new Book of Middle-Eastern Food by Claudia Roden)

Packet of puff pastry
Half an onion
300 grams minced lamb
Cinamon stick
Teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Pinch of paprika
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
Olive oil for frying
Butter for sticking

With the feta and spinach pastries, I simply shredded the fresh spinach and blanched it for 5 minutes. When you drain it, make sure you get as much water out as possible, by squishing it with a fork. Then put it in a bowl, with the lemon juice and feta, and keep squishing, adding the salt and pepper at the end. My Greek friend who taught me to make these folded them in little triangles, but I find that you don't get that much filling in there, so I do squares - putting the mixture in the middle,  folding once over and sticking the sides together, into a pillow shape. For the lamb pastries, you brown the onion for about five minutes before adding the minced lamb and spices. You use a fork to break the meat up while it is cooking and it needs to cook for about 10 minutes. Then turn the heat off and pour over the beaten eggs. Use the same fork to push and blend the eggs into the lamb mix. Then allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. I was supposed to roll this into cigar shapes, however, wanting to put as much lamb in as possible they turned into sausage roll shapes. The thing with pastries is that anything goes really - as long as you get the filling right, they will taste lovely. I cooked them at 180 degrees C for half an hour. This recipe will make 24 pastries all together, which was way too many for just three people, but they are quite nice cold the next day too

Monday 7 June 2010

Sweet summer soup - strawberry and rhubarb

The cuisine that I remember from my childhood in Poland was always seasonal. We would eat this kind of cold soup on hot summer days, sitting under a fruit tree in someone's garden or dacha. You can use all sorts of fruit - sour cherry soup is one of my favourites, but these type of cherries are practically impossible to get hold of in the UK. Strawberries by themselves make a lovely, sweet soup, but it lacks a certain depth of flavour, whereas adding rhubarb gives it a sweet-sour taste that we poles love so much

2 litres water
 80g small pasta shapes per person
1kg strawberries
2 large stalks of rhubarb
4-5 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon cloves (about 7 or 8)
Half a vanilla pod
Large single cream
The above quantities make about 8 portions. You start off by peeling the rhubarb and cooking it in the water, with the cloves and vanilla, until soft, which takes about 20 minutes. While it's cooking, mash the strawberries and sugar with a potato masher. Add these to the pan. Put the heat on low and cook together for at least another 20 minutes. In the meantime, cook the pasta shapes in plenty of water with some salt in it, as you would normally. I used sconcigli, which worked fine, but it would have been even better with smaller pasta shapes. Then let the soup cool - my mum always puts it ouside for an hour - before  adding the cream. Serve the soup at room temperature, on top of the pasta shapes

As you can see, it's like summer in a bowl. Needless to say, this isn't the sort of soup you would serve as a starter - it should be served during the day, as a light lunch, on it's own. I have never known any child that doesn't love this soup, and some people, like myself, never quite grow out it

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Chilli and beetroot red velvet cakes

I am discovering that there are certain advantages to being single: you are no longer ruled by your mobile phone; you don't have to rush, or even look at the time; you can watch anything you want on TV; and you have the freedom to eat red velvet cakes for dinner, if you so please. Tonight, I so pleased. As you have probably realized due to the lack of cakes on this blog, I do not bake often. I dislike measuring ingredients and being precise. With cakes, you need to measure, as I have learnt through many bad experiences
I first ate red velvet cakes a few months ago, when my friend from work brought them in. As she is now on a diet, I can't rely on her to make them anymore, and this is why I have had to venture into cake making territory myself. I have adapted two recipes for this - the cake itself is from the Green'n'Blacks chocolate cookbook, whereas the icing is from the Hummingbird bakery. I wanted to use the beetroot to colour the cakes in order to make them healthier, but they turned out less red and more brown. My own tweek to this recipe is using chilli chocolate, as well as adding a pinch of chilli powder, which gives it a bit of a kick. You start off by preheating the oven to gas mark 180/ gas mark 4. Sift together the drinking chocolate and flour, mixing in the sugar. Melt the chocolate and butter together and puree the beets. Whisk the eggs, then add the beets. Add the chocolate and beet mixture into the dry ingredients and keep whisking/blending. Now, all the recipes say to bake this for 50 minutes, but mine were ready after 40min. For the icing, mix the butter in with the icing thoroughly, then add the cream cheese and blend. I used the whisk for this. Once the cakes had cooled, I used a spatula to cover them in icing, putting the the mini marshmallows on top, as decoration. You will need to use either quite strong cups or double up, so they don't get too out of shape. I doubled up, but as you can see they still got slightly deformed. Next time, I will definitely use hardcore, strong cups, so that they look even prettier. I may even get a special tray...


100g drinking chocolate
230g self raising flour
200g caster sugar
100g dark chocolate (with chilli is possible)
125g slightly salted butter
250g cooked beetroot
3 large eggs
Pinch of chilli powder


300g icing sugar
50g butter
150g cream cheese
Mini marshmallows

By the way, this recipe makes about a million cakes. Well, that's a slight exaggeration, but more than 24 anyhow, so you may want to halve it if you do not want that many...