Recipe! Sort of.. Quick mushroomy pork

Having failed to get the pork cheeks required for the planned dish, and unwilling to spend any longer than necessary in a supermarket on a Saturday I grabbed a pork fillet, some Portobello mushrooms, asparagus and a trusty pinot noir and legged it as quickly as possible.  Whilst it’s annoying when you specifically plan a certain dish and can’t get what you need, I quite enjoyed the little spread of ingredients (below), along with some fridge bits with which to create something passable, Ready Steady Cook style. (Although I doubt you can get more than 2 ingredients for a under fiver in London nowadays..) Pork mushroom1So I was aiming for tenderloin medallions with a Portobello, apple and bacon sauce. Too much already, so did away with the apple (will juice it later with my new juicer! Post to come).  As it turned out  the fridge was a bacon-free zone, but there was a bit of saucisson lurking at the back from a trip to Borough Market a couple of weeks back. In it goes.

I’m not one for noting intricate details when it comes to recipes (the reason I’ll never be a decent baker) so think of this a suggestion if you happen to have similar ingredients handy. I chopped the fillet into inch-wide medallions and fried them in butter (and a smidge of oil to stop the butter burning) on both sides until a little bit brown but still squidgy when poked.

Get them out, put the mushrooms and chopped saucisson into the juices, add a splash of red wine, another splash of chicken stock (I threw in half a cube and some boiled water), teaspoon of Dijon mustard, scrape of nutmeg and sprig of rosemary. Let it bubble for a minute then put the pork back in, cover and turn it down. Five minutes for the sauce to thicken a bit and that’s it!

I put some greens with it with a sliver of butter (it is Saturday after all), poured a fair bit more of the wine into a large glass et voila!

Pork mushroom3

Not exactly Michelin worthy but pretty good for a ten minute job with mostly fridge leftovers. Probably also good with apples and cider instead of mushrooms and wine. Next time!

The Halfway House: Earlsfield

Finding myself in Earlsfield isn’t a common occurrence, I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin in terms of eating or drinking.  Luckily, as soon as you come out of the station you are in spitting distance of the newly-refurbished Halfway House, a delightful pub with lots of quirky detailing, effusively friendly service and what quickly transpired to be a gorgeous menu.

HH - dining room

Meeting my sister for a glass and a bite after work, we plumped for the Rioja (delicious) in the airy dining room area and went through the menu, which is packed with seasonal delights – lots of game, seafood, pork belly and pub classics.

We went for the pigeon and razor clams to start, and rabbit haunch (to Soph’s horror) and pork belly for mains. HHpigeon

HHclams

The pigeon wasn’t overly tender (perhaps cooked a tiny bit too long?) but the flavour was incredible, so strong and meaty. The razor clams were the sea on a plate – really soft, salty and delicious with tender leeks and a touch of bacon-smokiness, and lots of pepper. I could’ve definitely polished them off twice, just needed a little piece of crusty bread to mop up the juice.

Despite Soph’s sadness at my wolfing down her childhood pets, I thoroughly enjoyed the rabbit haunch – the meat was juicy and easily came off the bones, and with golden beetroot, kale and pearl barley, the whole dish felt autumnal and somehow restorative.

The twice-cooked pork belly was perfect crunchy on the outside while the meat just melted. Black pudding complimented it perfectly.

HHpork HHrabbit

Thoroughly stuffed we of course went for dessert – rich, creamy lemon posset with a home-made shortbread biscuit, and a chocolate ‘brookie’, or brownie/cookie hybrid with salted caramel ice cream. More brownie than cookie, the ice cream had sunk into the chocolate creating a soft, wet, caramel/chocolate mess. Heaven. So two fab desserts! (and the posset was actually not bad spread onto the brookie *sheepish*)

The brookie itself came with raspberry sauce. Now I really have an issue with fruit and chocolate (except oranges) so I left that bit alone, but am fully aware I’m being picky and that this was overall a fabulous dessert.  We went further with an espresso martini and a glass of the muscat – both delicious and the perfect end to the meal.

HHdessert

The Halfway House is highly recommended – staff are lovely, there was a nice atmosphere (fairly busy on a rainy Tuesday) and the food is extremely good. Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Earlsfield!

http://www.thehalfway.com/

*Food is very reasonable but we were guests of Halfway House.

Square Meal

The Mac’n’Cheese Scotch Egg at Finch’s

This dish was so good it required the whole post to be named after it. But onto that later..

Nestled between Moorgate and Old Street, Finch’s pub is relatively unassuming from the outside, but once you’re in it opens out into a tardis-like expanse of pale wood, mismatched furniture, birdcages and lots of quirky little details that make it feel like a unique oasis in a desert of chains. As it’s part of pub giant Young’s, of patterned carpets and brass handrails, this is a pretty epic achievement.

I will have to attempt to curb my enthusiasm for my starter or this will turn into a novel. Perfectly boiled runny egg, soft, creamy pasta,  and a crisp, crunchy coating equals… yes, it’s the MACARONI CHEESE SCOTCH EGG. Whilst it does admittedly hover on the edge of the deep-fried Mars bar/Oreo-filled doughnut category, it hits all my weaknesses in one cheesy go. The hot mustard is the perfect accompaniment It’s roughly the size of a head, and portioned as a starter so best to share, especially if you want to indulge in mains and dessert.

Finch3

We also had coffee-smoked salmon on toast with vanilla and caramel nuts; delicious fish, enhanced by the hint of coffee but I did question the vanilla with the salmon – Heston may have pulled it off at The Fat Duck, but something here didn’t 100% work. The salmon was delicious, lightly smokey, not greasy, cut to the perfect thickness – leave it alone I say.

Finch4a

Mains were meaty, generous and delicious – tender, rare duck breast with a light orange sauce and fondant potato, and perfectly cooked steak with chunky, spot-on chips. Dessert came in the form of a chocolate salami – a rich, dark log of chocolate, biscuit and pistachios, served with chocolate sauce. We gilded the lily with salted caramel ice cream; it didn’t need it but it was lovely.

Finch6

Everything was reasonably priced, the service was attentive and friendly, the food delicious and although it was very quiet (Monday) I imagine later in the week it’s much more buzzy – overall a near-enough triumph for Young’s.

www.finchspub.co.uk

*A version of this post was first published on Foodepedia

La Perla Fiesta!

I am more and more a fan of a good Mexican – Casa Morita in Brixton (post to come!) is one of my favourite restaurants anywhere, and I’m always enthusiastic about sampling different ones, ideally authentic little places that are probably slightly rough round the edges but make you feel like you’ve found a hidden gem.

La Perla in Covent Garden is one of those. Long and thin, wedged into Maiden Lane amongst plenty of competition, the first thing you notice is the bar at the front, which on this occasion was absolutely packed with Thursday drinkers. Pushing through to the back there is a small open kitchen, and a few tables for dinner, all set up with a bowl of tortilla chips and a deliciously hot salsa. The ideal way to start. Embarrassingly I hoovered all these up almost immediately and they were discreetly replaced before my guest arrived. Brilliant.

A delicious pear and vanilla margharita kicked things off. I usually find tequila too harsh for a cocktail but the vanilla balanced it perfectly and was a great start.

La perla2

We decided to go with four small plates to share, which was more than enough.  Big juicy prawns were served in a spicy tequila and tomato sauce with salad and tortillas, baked pork shoulder falls apart and is heavenly with the salsa verde. Stuffed, fried jalapenos were hot with lots of crunch and an even hotter chipotle mayo.

La perla prawns

La Perla’s chicken wings are something else – I’m not normally a fan of fiddly bones with a tiny bit of meat but these are fat and juicy, and full of hot, smoky flavour from the marinade. Again, the tomartillo verde cream was spectacular. Sauces are definitely a high point, they’re all strong and lively, and set off the dishes perfectly.

The bill came to £35ish for 2 (only one cocktail each though) and we were stuffed. I do think £1.50 for an extra teeny pot of sour cream is a bit stingy, like charging for ketchup, but a minor point. A great choice for pre-theatre as service is quick, and probably great any other time to be honest. A potential new favourite perhaps..?

La perla4

Cheese heaven at Androuet

This was my second visit to French restaurant Androuet in Spitalfields Market – I had to see if the first time was a fluke, and I’m pleased to report that it wasn’t! After all, we’re talking about a cheese restaurant here with a cheese menu, create your own cheeseboard option and lovely little shop attached for good measure. Three guesses what they sell.

Androuet menu

The menu is varied considering it is based around one ingredient, and after much dithering we settled on an individual special fondue with charcuterie and crusty bread, a cheeseburger and double-baked gouda soufflé.

Androuet souffle

All the food was incredible; the burger was cooked rare (I wish more places would do this) and was juicy and perfectly sized, complimented by huge chips with crispy outsides and fluffy middles – not a soggy flop in sight, and punch-you-in-the-face garlic mayo. The soufflé was light and fluffy, very cheesy (needless to say) and surrounded by a delicate, sweet butternut squash puree, with pumpkin seeds and frisée  giving the perfect crunch to an otherwise fairly soft dish.

Androuet burger

Androuet fondueFondue always seems like the ultimate guilty pleasure; a bowl of hot cheese to dip things into feels like a dirty secret, something unseemly to be ashamed of, something that I might dream up and think about often but be too embarrassed to tell anyone about – but here we were, in public and everything! The cheese mixture at Androuet changes and this one was perfect. Creamy and rich but also sharp with the distinctive tang of blue. By the end of the meal it had become a dip for everything left on any of our plates – heaven.

Despite good intentions to create our own cheeseboard instead of dessert, by the time we got there eating another morsel was out of the question. But this remains on my list for the next Spitalfields outing.

The service at Androuet is by no means exemplary – it was pretty slow most of the time and a couple of things were forgotten. It was also extremely chilly – dinner buddy Alice had her coat on for most of the meal. It’s not cheap – £90 for three mains and one bottle of Prosecco, and they close the shop in the evenings which is a shame. But it’s still very much a keeper, anywhere that serves food beautiful and delicious enough to override these things always would be.

www.androuet.co.uk

To Market

I’d love to be one of those people who jumped up early on a Saturday, got dressed and headed down to the market, then spent the weekend creating delicious and nutritious meals with seasonal local produce, having spent a fraction of what your average hungover zombie spends in Sainsbury’s Local on half the food.

Sadly, for reasons such as laziness, this is not to be – so a visit to Borough Market at the weekend got me disproportionately excited. It really has transformed in recent years, and is now partly housed in a swanky new building selling anything and everything food-related imaginable.

borough market

We went to get ingredients for a roast to feed my fiancé’s family, but I ended up spending an additional ridiculous sum on goose fat, goat’s cheese and mushrooms among other things. Still, sitting on the bus home with my first mulled wine of the season left me very pleased with myself!

The mushrooms became this:

Mushrooms on toast borough market

A mixture of yellow chanterelles and oysters fried for a few minutes with a tiny bit of truffle oil on white buttered toast. Easy and delicious.

A couple of pumpkins became this:

Pumpkin soup borough market

I love pumpkin/squash soup, it’s so smooth and filling – cubes of a good stretchy cheese like Emmental (a la Delia) and some crispy smoked bacon  (a la my mum) absolutely makes it. I’ve made it previously with a swirl of cream but it’s a bit too much – a blob of sour cream instead really compliments the sweetness of the pumpkin.

We also splashed out on a huge joint from The Ginger Pig,  which was roasted medium rare and served with purple sprouting broccoli, cheesy leek gratin and huge Yorkshire puddings – heaven. Unfortunately I was so distracted by it I failed to take any pics.. but the in-laws were impressed so was all good.

So a successful trip overall! Must have wholesome Saturdays more often..

 

Bird is the word

I hate pickles. Horrible, sour, slimy, alien-looking monstrosities, on a constant mission to ruin burgers, fish and chips, the Pret salmon salad and a wealth of other perfectly good meals. The General Manager of Bird suggested I try one of the deep fried variety, and not only did I see off most of the bowl, it was actually a highlight of the meal – no mean feat seeing as Bird produced some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

Nestled by a railway bridge on the Shoreditch end of Kingsland Road, Bird is a relatively new venture, working under the premise that the restaurant industry has elevated the burger to dizzy heights of quality and creativity, so why not do the same for chicken? And the result is delightful.

Their motto is ‘free range and fried’, and they source quality British ingredients that are delivered daily, so no stresses about what you’re actually putting in your mouth (unlike dubious battered anomalies at other chicken establishments I may have visited). I kept it simple with two fried chicken pieces, a mixture of light and dark meat (they give you the choice) and a couple of sides. Now the chicken is perfect, juicy and tender with very crunchy, flavoursome batter – but the sides are where Bird shines. Creamy, crisp coleslaw, aforementioned lovely pickles and jalapeno corn pudding, a creamy, yellow concoction of sweetcorn, chillies and cheese topped with breadcrumbs. Heaven.

Bird is definitley the word

We also had a huge chicken burger and a portion of seasoned fries – salty and slightly spicy, they were delicious.

Mix and match glazes and sauces are designed to complement each other so get advice on which ones to pick, staff are happy to make recommendations. The buffalo glaze and buttermilk ranch sauce were the perfect tangy, creamy combination. We rounded things off with an iced doughnut ice cream sandwich – totally unnecessary, but when in Rome and all that..

Having been firmly south of the river in recent years, I hadn’t ventured to Shoreditch in a while before Bird. With its top notch food, reasonable prices, nice relaxed atmosphere and great service, it’s a solid reason to cross the river. Roll on next time.

First published on Foodepedia

Comfort in Jamie

Jamie’s Comfort Food: AKA the best cookbook I’ve ever had. Going through it after tearing the wrapping paper open led to everything from delighted shrieks to actual drooling, and the general consensus that there is about 1 thing in the whole book that we don’t fancy.

These are the first few forays into Jamie’s latest, they are mainly pretty straightforward, and give spectacular results.

Lobster

Lobster macaroni cheese is pretty much my idea of heaven. Jamie has you pour the brains with all the picked meat into the cheese sauce, which true to form is rich and delicious. Served with a green salad and plenty of wine, it’s a winner.

Super Schnitzel

Super Schnitzel is super juicy, with crunchy breadcrumbs and nothing like the dry, grey versions I’ve had in the past. It’s served with an apple salad and blackberry jam – definitely too fruity in theory, but IT WORKS.

Jamie's balls

The pork and beef meatballs are huge and delicious, with creamy mash and fresh green kale – in the middle of each ball is a lump of melted cheese – never a bad idea in my book. They don’t necessarily photograph as well as other dishes (!) but are a great alternative to sausage and mash, and a general absolute winner.

 

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