Saturday 29 January 2011

The best beef bourguignon recipe ever

I realize that that down there doesn't look like much, but it was the best beef bourguignon I have ever made, so I have to share the recipe with you quick before I forget it, as it was one of those instinctive, improvisational ones

I have a feeling the reason it was so good was because I bought amazing stewing beef from Broadway Market, so it was made from happy cows. Or perhaps it was the cup of lamb stock I added, because I didn't have any beef... whatever it was, I hope we will all be able to replicate the magic by following this recipe

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

500g good quality stewing beef
Couple of handfuls of chestnut mushrooms, quartered
Onion, chopped
Handful of shallots, peeled and halved
Aprox 80g smoked pancetta cubes
Half a bottle of decent red wine
Fresh lemon thyme - 3-4 stalks
1 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic
Garlic salt
Tablespoon flour
Cup of lamb stock
Bay leaf
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Brown the beef in the olive oil, and fry the onion separately until golden and even a little crispy in places. Add the onion to the beef along with garlic salt, pepper and flour. Once you have mixed it all in, it's time for the wine, stock, bay leaf, thyme and lemon thyme - bring to the boil. Turn the heat right down and allow to simmer for at least an hour. Fry the pancetta in the same frying pan as the onions were in previously and after a couple of minutes, stick the shallots in there too. After about 20min, the pancetta should be crispy and the shallots golden - time to introduce them to the beef stew. At the same time, add the mushrooms. Cook for a further 45min-1hour, then season one final time before serving. The first night Ruby and myself ate this with garlic mash, and the second night I had it with some Turkish bread. Ruby got lost in the depths of deepest, darkest Hackney on the way to mine (or the end of the world as she now calls it), and was in a bit of a state by the time I found her, but said it had all been worth it when she ate this beef bourguignon - you can't really get any more endorsement than that. Although, after a night with coco the kitten bouncing off the walls and about 2 hours sleep, I think she may have changed her mind again

Saturday 22 January 2011

Cote Brasserie in London Bridge

I was stood up by my own father today. I wish I could say that this is a new low, but actually it's more of a long-standing tradition in my family

Anyway, this is where we always go out to eat when my dad is in town, and where I decided to dine alone today. Well, the food is really good and I was hungry

Normally, we order the Steak Tartare with french fries and green salad, wash it down with a bottle of Blanc de Blancs, and sit outside next to the river. It's the best Steak Tartare I've eaten outside of France. Of course, my gran's isn't in the competition, because when she was in her heyday she made the best Steak Tartare in the world. Today, I ordered the Pissaladiere, up there, and a glass of kir royale to start. You may think that that would be enough for lil old me, but I decided to follow it up with duck fois gras on brioche with the recommended glass of Monbazillac desert wine. And boy, was I glad I did - so amazingly rich and creamy sweet!

I still have no idea what happened to my dad. The dozens of calls and texts have been unanswered. Perhaps I should be worried, upset or pissed off, but after my frustrated childhood all these exhausting emotions have been replaced by an almost Zen-like acceptance of the way things are. I figured that I need to practice dining alone for when I go traveling next year anyway. I don't want to spend six months feeling weird and awkward. I've also learnt that there's an art to people watching, without them thinking you are staring, or interested in taking them to bed. And that the staff in here are really lovely and friendly

Monday 17 January 2011

Spicy mung beans and rice

When will I ever learn not to get drunk on Sundays? Really, I'm old enough to know better

The thing is that, recently, my weekends have actually been quite sensible, it's just those bloody Sundays I can't get under control. Of course, it's always fun at the time otherwise I wouldn't do it. But what I was really looking forward to the whole of last week was having the whole of Saturday to myself, in my flat. I spent it pottering round, cleaning, doing laundry, reading cookery books and generally sorting stuff out. And in the evening, rather than going to a party, I chose to watch series 2 of The Mighty Boosh. Heaven. I also made this mung bean dish. This is a first for me as I've never cooked mung beans before. Previously, I've used this recipe for lentils and thought it could work. It did. Even better than with the lentils, which tend to fall apart. The measurements down there make about 4 portions


250g brown rice
250g mung beans
2 red chillies
Small onion
2-3 inches ginger
Garlic clove
2 tblsp garam masala
Olive oil

Soak the mung beans according to packet instructions. Fry the chopped chillies, garlic, ginger and onion for a couple of minutes in a mixture of olive oil and butter, then add the garam masala powder. Add a tiny bit of water so that the spices don't burn. After a few minutes add the mung beans and rice, and cover with a couple of inches of water. Bring this to the boil, then cover and allow to simmer for about half an hour. Add salt. Keep making sure that it is still liquidy and add more water if it dries up. After half an hour, try a tiny bit and see if it is soft, if not cook for a further 10min. Finally, add some more butter and fluff it all up gently. It's really nice served warm with a fried egg and some tabasco (if, like me, you're a heat addict), or cold as a bean-rice salady type thing

Monday 3 January 2011

Delicious crepes with fruit and mascarpone for a lazy Bank Holiday

I really, really love it when, just when you least expect it, life gives you a little present. Like today, for no apparent reason, I had the nicest Bank Holiday Monday. I managed to do all the things that make me happy (well, most of them), like snoozing, cooking, reading, writing, catching up with friends, playing with cats, and walking around Hackney. It wasn't exactly extraordinary, but it was kind of perfect. Apart from my fractured rib, that is, which makes it a bit difficult to breathe - I did something bad to it by coughing so much over the past couple of months, and then couch raving the night away on New Year's Eve pissed it off beyond measure. Anyway, in the afternoon, I went over to the lovely Mariana's for a gossip and crepes. We'd usually have cookies with white tea, but as I have given up sugar, we needed to find a suitable replacement  - something tasty, sweet and comforting. We did a damn good job, even if I say so myself, with an amazing feast of crepes and fruit with mascapone, drizzled in honey. The amounts down there will make about six smallish ones, perfect for two


1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
Aprox 200ml milk
Aprox 70g plain flour
50g butter
Pinch of sea salt

Fruit of your choice
Mascarpone cheese

We melted half the butter for the pancake mix, then used half of it for frying, pouring the old, burnt stuff out each time and adding a little bit more fresh stuff. Beat the eggs first, add the milk, keep beating, then add the flour, with a pinch of salt and the melted butter. Make sure you blend the ingredients really well, so there are no lumps. Normal people would probably use a blender for this, however, we used chopsticks, with surprisingly smooth results. Before spreading the mascarpone, we mixed it for a while to improve the texture, then spread it as evenly as we good over the hot crepes, followed by sliced of fruit and then drizzled honey over everything, before rolling up in various different ways, and munching. I can't even begin to explain how good it tasted, an ideal recipe for a catch up with friends or, as Mariana put it "breakfast for a lover". How romantic! I'm taking notes...

Sunday 2 January 2011

A horrible chocolate mess and a healthy start to the year with a pearl barley and kale "risotto"

I've been a bit out of sorts lately so no wonder my new year's chocolate mousse turned into what looked like a bowl of poo, and didn't taste much better. Sad face. I tried to simplify all the recipes I've seen to create a healthier and slicker version, you see, but it didn't work out. Ah well, you can't win them all. Note to self and to anyone else tempted to make a "healthy" chocolate mousse: some chocolate, egg whites and cream does not a chocolate mousse make

At least the little deer enjoyed his muddy pasture

On the happy face, successful front - I made a fabulous pearl barley "risotto" today! I was inspired by the rabbit pearl barley risotto I had at The Old Ship (on Mare St in Hackney) last summer. It's surprisingly easy to make. Well, I don't know about the rabbit one, I made a kale version, which was a simple, healthy and delicious start to my New Year


100 g pearl barley
100g kale
1 garlic clove
1 chilli
Vegetable stock 
1 tblsp butter
Splash of red or white wine (whatever you're drinking)
Salt and pepper
Handful of grated parmesan or any other strong, hard cheese

Cook the pearl barley as you would a risotto, starting off with a little bit of stock, stirring often and adding more when the stock is absorbed. At the end, add the splash of wine and season. That should take about 40min. In the meantime, fry the chopped chilli and garlic in the butter and before it changes colour, add the kale. Keep stirring. Finally, add the whole lot to the pearl barley, along with the parmesan, stir it all in, and serve while piping hot. That up there makes enough for one person. I recommend!