Breads Etc: Clapham

Never a fan of big chainy coffee shops, I love a little independent place, and Breads Etcetera (aka The Ferm) on Clapham High Street is the ideal little spot for delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner.  They make all their own sourdough in the restaurant, and you go up and slice your own then toast it yourself at the table. Gimicky but fun, and it’s unlimited.

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We kicked off with cappuccino and hot chocolate, and ordered various combinations of eggs and bacon, then went and helped ourselves to toast. You also get homemade butter and a choice of condiments from homemade jams and marmalades to peanut butter and Vegemite – I had a lovely pear, apple and vanilla jam, a nice little dessert after my eggs and bacon!

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We were after poached eggs but instead they do soft-boiled, which are perfectly cooked and a delight when the bright orange yolk is soaked up with the fresh bread. The bacon was crispy and had a good charred flavour from the grill.

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Service is great, and the staff are all super-friendly.  I think it borders on the pricey side but I’d rather pay a bit more than have a sad little packet panini from Starbucks. They also do gorgeous-looking pizzas in the evening, and cocktails/beers too, so keen to go back in the evening. A fab little spot!

Breads Etcetera on Urbanspoon

Spanish night! Sort of..

I love tapas and the general idea of having a big selection of dishes for everyone to dive into and share. Just as well really as you’ll come across this concept in a huge number of London restaurants at the moment. So for a little girly night last week, tapas was the theme (mainly as I’m going through a Cava phase) and I managed to throw together a feast with very little skill and hardly any time away from the ladies. *Disclaimer: this is probably not all completely authentic but all goes well together and tastes lovely! Also this is certainly not an innovative recipe or anything groundbreaking – just a bit of inspiration if you have people coming and not much time.

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So for something similar, you should buy: roasted peppers in jars, fresh anchovies, fresh artichokes, Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and some decent chorizo. This is the assembly-job stuff.

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You can also easily knock up: chilli and garlic prawns, a leek and potato Spanish tortilla, tomato garlic bread, grilled sardines and herby lamb chops. These things are relatively quick and not particularly difficult.

I started with parboiling some sliced new potatoes with half a leek for about 5 minutes, then spreading them in a frying pan with melted butter, salt and pepper.  Pour over 8 whisked eggs and let it cook on a medium heat until it’s firm at the edges and wobbly in the middle. Then grate some cheese on (I used a mixture of chedder for flavour and gouda for stringiness) and put it under the grill until the cheese bubbles. Then set aside.

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For the prawns just finely chop red chilli and garlic, gently fry for a couple of minutes in olive oil then add the prawns. Once they’re warmed through take off and put them in a bowl. The sardines and lamb are just griddled for a few minutes, a squeeze of lemon compliments the oily sardines perfectly, and lamb loves a sprinkling of oregano.  Cook the chorizo in a pan for a few minutes until heated through and releasing the lovely red oils.

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Then serve! Arrange all the pre-bought things in bowls and let everyone dig in. With the bread, have everyone grab a cut garlic clove and half a tomato and rub both onto the toast – you get the lovely flavours of the tomato and garlic and it’s fun to to. I also served a green salad to add colour and something light and fresh.

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Pork meatball soup

This is a great winter warmer with lots of protein from the pork, comfort-carbs (and more protein) from the chickpeas and a hit of vitamins from the kale – a simple, healthy dish that tastes great. I’ve added a few spices to up the warmth factor, which adds interest and makes it taste vaguely middle-Eastern.

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You can buy pork mince or squeeze the meat out of a few sausages, but I got the lovely guys at Atlantic Meat Market in Brixton to mince some chops for me – if you do this tell them it’s for meatballs and they’ll include enough fat – essential for flavour!

You could replace the chickpeas with small pasta like orzo, and the kale with cavalo nero if you fancy mixing it up a bit.

(NB: the parmesan sounds odd but it’s really for seasoning rather than cheesiness)

Serves 4

For the meatballs:

  • 500g pork mince
  • 50g white breadcrumbs (stale bread is fine)
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • Sprig fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10g butter
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil

For the soup:

  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is ideal otherwise fresh not powdered)
  • 1 x 400g can chickpeas
  • 2-3 handfuls fresh kale
  • 1 spring onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • handful fresh coriander, stalks reserved
  • 1 green chilli (optional)

Put the chilled pork mince into a mixing bowl and add seasoning, parmesan, mustard, thyme and breadcrumbs. Shape into bite-sized balls and set aside in the fridge for 10 minutes.

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Fry the garlic and spring onion on low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, chopped kale, chilli, chickpeas and the chopped stalks of the coriander (the leaves go in at the end). Let it bubble away gently while you brown the meatballs in the oil and butter. You just want to get a crust all the way round the outside, it doesn’t matter if they’re not cooked through.

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Once they’re brown, place the balls into the soup (they should stay together because you chilled them), put the lid on and leave it to simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve with some of the coriander leaves to garnish.

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The ingredients for this dish were all bought at independent shops in Brixton so don’t forget to add your signature to the petition to save the Arches to keep local shopping in Brixton.

*This post first appeared on the brilliant Brixton Blog

Indian high chai at Dhaba Lane

Dhaba Lane is a cosy, subterranean café between Shoreditch and Old Street, run by Arti and Upma, who left their existing jobs to run their own food business, focusing on the fresh, healthy Indian food they grew up eating and cooking. I joined the lovely Jason and Chiara from Goan to London on a freezing Saturday afternoon for their traditional Indian high chai, or afternoon tea.

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High tea in India is an intrinsic part of the culture, and the time when marriages are decided on, disputes settled and deals made. It’s all about several rounds of sweet and savoury morsels, and of course the tea itself.  Now I’ll confess, I don’t really like tea, but this one was deliciously sweet and full of the lovely flavours of cardamom and ginger, which completely made up for the actual tea aspect.

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The first course was several rounds of little sandwiches, including cucumber, mint and apple, spicy mixed veg and garam masala chicken. They were nice and spicy, and an interesting twist on the English varieties.

Hot bites followed, with onion and sweetcorn fritters, aloo samosas, mini uttapams (semolina pancakes) and little raw banana and pea fritters. I was dubious about the banana but it was subtle, adding texture and sweetness rather than a full-on banana taste. All these dishes were delicious, spicy and warming, and there were plenty – they just kept coming.

Sweetcorn & onion fritters
Sweetcorn & onion fritters
Banana & pea fritters
Banana & pea fritters

Sweet dishes followed, with coconut and carrot halwa (sweetened balls), saffron and cardamom shrikhand (yoghurt) and sweet, syrupy bread with cream. The balls were slightly too sweet for me ( I don’t have a sweet tooth), but the yoghurt and bread dishes were lovely.

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Sweet treats

The food just kept flowing, and I was stuffed by the end, making it really good value. The atmosphere is cosy and friendly, and they use gorgeous crockery that I loved. Definitely worth a visit for something a bit different, and I’d love to go back to try their curries.

Get your high chai tickets here and more info on Dhaba Lane here. They also do takeaway and delivery of all sorts of Indian dishes, not just high tea – try their delicious curries for a lovely winter lunch – I’ll certainly be back.

*The Indian high chai experience is £25 per person, but we were guests of Dhaba Lane.

It’s London Pisco Sour Week!

You may or may not be aware that it’s currently London’s first ever Pisco Sour Week, a city-wide celebration of (arguably) Peru’s most delectable export. The week-long festival follows in the footsteps of the National Pisco Sour day, which is celebrated throughout Peru on the first Saturday of February.

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For the uninitiated, Pisco is a clear, unaged Peruvian brandy made from grapes, and the classic Pisco Sour combines it with lime, sugar, egg white and bitters. It was first developed in Lima in the early 1920s as an alternative to the classic Whisky Sour, and has since swept the US and Europe with its tangy, frothy charms and is gaining popularity in spades – Soho’s Chotto Matte makes upwards of 500 of them per week, eclipsing mojito sales.

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I headed to Chotto Matte for a little lesson in all things Pisco, and indulged in a masterclass with excellent Bar Manager Fabiano. Draped in an authentic poncho, I whipped up the classic sour, as well as a pineapple and coconut version. My favourite was the Jasmine Tea Sour, made with home-infused jasmine Pisco, which had a subtle flowery aftertaste that still packed the punch of the original. They are all on the menu at Chotto Matte and should be sampled by everyone who enjoys a cocktail. You might as well order some snacks too – the Nikkei (Peruvian and Japanese) dishes are extremely tasty.

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Also involved in the festivities is the beautiful Coya in Mayfair, and they’ve just launched their new Pisco flight to celebrate. Consisting of raspberry & thyme, rhubarb and Williams’s pear flavours, the selection is delicious and a great way to sample the various possible incarnations of the spirit. You can try the flight for £15. Combined with their heavenly food and service, Coya is the place for a slightly posher Pisco experience.

Coya piscosours

Lima Floral, Senor Ceviche, Tito’s, Tierra Peru and Pachamama are all part of the festival and you can pick up a wristband at any of them that will get you £5 Pisco Sours all week, so there’s no excuse to miss out.

Pisco Sour Week continues until Sunday 8th February, there’s no website but search #LPSW for more info.

*A version of this post first appeared on the fabulous Foodepedia

Old Tom & English: Soho

Reservations only? No queuing round the block in the rain for a soggy £14 lobster roll? Yes please. Old Tom & English in Soho’s Wardour Street is the brainchild of brother and sister team Costas and Maria Constantinou (of the Arts Theatre Club), who have opened their latest project to focus on ‘unpretentious British food and vintage cocktails’. I’m not sure how unpretentious it is to enter via ringing a doorbell, but so what, it’s fun.

The name references the 18th century British ‘Old Tom’ gin recipe, as well as being a nod to Soho’s colourful history – apparently ‘Tom’ is a bygone term for a prostitute, for whom all the little nooks and crannies are named. We were shown to a little area called Cora, who I’m sure was a lovely lady. The décor is 60s but sumptuous and expensive, and makes you feel like perhaps Don Draper or James Bond might just be relaxing around the corner…?

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Dinner comes in the form of several tapas-style dishes that are meant for sharing, although you probably won’t want to. The food is elevated to something special by the little touches that accompany each dish. Our confit smoked guinea fowl was so smoky, with such rich, gamey meat that nothing would have complimented it more than the anchovy butter it came with.

Crispy braised pig’s cheeks were sitting on a tart apple and fennel sauce, and the tiny cubes of goat’s cheese sprinkled over the scallops and courgette puree brought an unexpected sharp element that added a point of difference from your usual scallop combination, if you tend to go for that sort of thing. Triple cooked chips, almost universally a pleasure, were even more delightful dunked in the little bowl of mustard mayo. Battered seabass, and eggs and mushrooms on toast all excellent also.

Battered seabass
Battered seabass

Although not normally a dessert fiend, I dived in with unusual enthusiasm. Banana cake was light and not too banana-y, and whiskey cream made it feel extra naughty. Chocolate cake was rich and fudgy, and the hero for me.

Banana bread & whiskey cream
Banana bread & whiskey cream

The top-notch food, excellent service and luxurious furnishings makes the place feel expensive, and it’s a lovely spot to know about if you’re looking to impress, don’t want to queue or just fancy a bloody good dinner.

Square Meal

Old Tom & English on Urbanspoon

A version of this post first appeared on Foodepedia

*We were guests of Old Tom & English