Eating & Drinking in London: Part 2

It’s been a while since my first installment of suggestions for where to eat and drink in London. 2.5 years in fact! I’ve been compiling this one pretty much since I published the last. Since I don’t live in London full-time anymore, I don’t have nearly as much time to try new places (however, a similar version of my suggestions for Liverpool is forthcoming). All of the stipulations I outlined in my first post still apply, though the longer I live here the more the concept of ‘value for money’ gets skewed. In no particular order…

Smoking Goat (WC2) – NOT the best bang for your buck, but very tasty Thai-inspired BBQ.
Butchies (E8) – To be found at Broadway Market, oh that buttermilk chicken burger!
Quality Chop House (EC1) – Wine & meat taken seriously!
Xian Impression (N7) – Tiny hole in the wall. Those biang biang noodles!
Planet of the Grapes (various) – It has a horrible infantile name, but it is a great place for a glass or bottle of wine (great selection) at reasonable prices.
The Grafton (NW5) – pub in Kentish Town serving some of the best pub food I’ve had in London.
Hoppers (W1) – Small portions — not the best value for money I’d argue — but delicious.
Kaspar’s at the Savoy (WC2) – I was treated here (thank you BA). Oh MAN. So good.
Ginger Pig (W1) – I haven’t bought meat from them directly, but they make probably the best sausage rolls I’ve ever had.
Patara (various) – Delicious Thai food in a classy setting.
Riding House Cafe (W1) – Dependable all-day brasserie.
Violet Bakery (E8) – Worth the awkward public transport journey from our flat. Innovative, mouthwatering bakery.
Padella (SE1) – Excellent pasta.
Chick ‘n’ Sours (WC2) – Fried chicken. Say no more.
Roti King (NW1) – Still dreaming of my first visit here! No frills, but mouthwatering.
The Black Penny (WC2) – One of the best brunch meals I’ve had in London.

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Tomato Tarte Tatin

This recipe has been making the rounds on the internet and it’s easy to see why. Use the best tomatoes you can find, and you really can’t go wrong with this late summer dish (I’m a little late posting this — it’s currently about 14 degrees and raining here in London).

I’m a tomato fiend and love anything on puff pastry, so this was really up my street. It’s not as simple as throwing a bunch of tomatoes on pastry and baking it, but it’s worth it. The combination of honey and balsamic vinegar really works.

My pastry really puffed up a lot, so it didn’t lie flat when I turned it over. Doesn’t matter — still tasted delicious. All you need is a side salad with this one!

 

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Summer 2017 Favourites

It’s back-to-school time and summer is coming to a close. I love fall, but am already missing the more relaxed pace of summer. Just a few links this time, as I haven’t been online much the past couple of weeks. Happy September, everyone.

◌ First things first. I read some great books this summer: The North Water, Shadow of Doubt, The Best Kind of People, The Memento.

Africa’s only female safari team. Awesome. I have been to Chobe and can attest to how amazing it is. This makes it even more so.

◌ I watched Deepwater Horizon last week and am still thinking about it.

50 best ethical beauty products, from Sali Hughes.

◌ We’re on episode 5 of Ozark (on Netflix) and are really enjoying it!

The best 500 pubs in London?

◌ Getting political and real life now: stop exploiting academics.

◌ It’s that time of year again: books coming in the second half of 2017.

◌ These might be cocktails for summer, but I’m going to carry on making them — or modified versions, without NS produce, sniff sniff — into fall.

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My beautiful fur-niece!

 

Baking with Wild Blueberries

wild blue

As I have said many times before, one of my favourite things to do back home in Nova Scotia in the summertime is pick wild blueberries. This year there was a huge crop, and lots of family around, and I took advantage by baking as much as I could — not the easiest thing to fit into our jam-packed schedule!

The first thing I made was this lemon and blueberry loaf. I chose this recipe largely because the milk-based ingredients were minimal — my sister was visiting and she cannot eat dairy products. I used coconut yogurt instead of real yogurt, and used about two-thirds of the sugar called for, but otherwise followed the recipe closely. It turned out really well — the loaf was really moist and stayed that way for quite a few days. It was also very lemony.

lemon loaf 1

Then for dessert one night I tried my hand at blueberry grunt, which is a traditional Nova Scotia dish. I didn’t really follow one recipe — I was inspired by this one in Saveur and a recipe I found in a Nova Scotia cookbook. I was a bit nervous because I’d never made it before and was cooking for a crowd. Again, I adapted it so my sister could eat it, using soy milk and margarine. Although guests raved about it, I thought it was just okay. I needed to use more blueberries (there were 7 of us) — there is a sweet spot between cooking them down too much and a rich ‘sauce.’ The biscuits, for me, were missing something. I’m not sure if that is because of the substitutions or something else. I will just have to try again next year to find out!

grunt

The final thing I made was blueberry buttermilk muffins, following this recipe closely. I used buttermilk as my sister had left by then! These couldn’t have been easier to throw together, and were delicious.

muffins!

Fish Tacos

Greetings from sunny and hot Nova Scotia. I am playing catch up on a few posts I’ve had sitting in drafts for a few weeks now.

Ever since my visit to Toronto’s Grand Electric in May, I’ve been craving fish tacos again. I finally decided to give homemade ones a go, and I am so glad I did because these were easy to make and will become a new staple. I am hoping to recreate them here in Nova Scotia.

I made up my own recipe but based it loosely on a combination of these three from Wit and DelightFood52, and delicious magazine. The components were:

  • Fish – I used North Sea haddock, fried in butter with a little sea salt
  • Guacamole – avocadoes, lime juice, salt, tomato, garlic
  • Slaw – red cabbage, red onion, coriander, fish sauce, sugar
  • Tortillas
  • Sauce – plain Greek yogurt, chopped coriander, garlic, salt

I didn’t measure anything, just mixed it up as I went along. These were delicious and will be even better with local NS haddock!

 

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Slaw

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Cauliflower & Cheese Croquettes

They had me at croquette. And cheese. This recipe appeared in the May 2017 edition of delicious magazine and it immediately appealed to me. And boy was it good. The texture was perfect — crispy on the outside, soft, creamy, gooey on the inside. Sooo tasty. Serve with mayo or Greek yogurt dipping sauce. Serve with a side salad.

Here’s how to make them. This makes enough for 2 people for 2 meals, so quite a bit.

  1. Chop a head of cauliflower into florets. Preheat over to 200C, and roast florets with a bit of olive oil and seasoning, for 20 minutes.
  2. When the cauliflower is roasted, whizz half of them, with 150ml milk, using a food processor or stick blender. Roughly chop the remaining cauliflower and set aside.
  3. Make the sauce: melt 50g butter in a saucepan and stir in 75g plain flour [I found I needed a bit more better]. Gradually whisk in 350ml milk and stir to make a smooth, thick sauce.
  4. Add the following to a mixing bowl: the sauce, 100g grated cheddar, a pinch of nutmeg, 2 spring onions (chopped), and 2tbsp olive oil, and all of the cauliflower. Cool, and then chill for 2 hours. The magazine recommends using cling film and allowing it to touch the top of the mixture to prevent a skin forming.
  5. Get ready to form the croquettas: in bowl 1, beat 2 eggs; in bowl 2, mix 150g Panko breadcrumbs with 30g Parmesan. With floured hands, roll spoonfuls of the mixture into balls, flatten slightly, and then roll in egg and then breadcrumbs. I did this as I went, batch by batch.
  6. Time for frying: the recipe recommends 1L sunflower oil. I did not use that much (probably about half). You want the oil hot — 180C on a digital thermometer (or until a piece of bread turns golden in 30 seconds).
  7. Fry the croquettes for a couple of minutes on each side. Leave to dry on a paper-toweled plate.

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Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Bark

When in Toronto for work at the end of May, I stocked up on snacks. Now that I have a “normal” 9-to-5 job, I need good desk snacks daily. Some of my favourites include fried corn and sesame sticks, but I also discovered a new (to me) company Barkthins. (Sidenote: snacks are way better in North America. UK, you could really do with upping the snack game!)

After devouring the bark in about two days at work, I decided I would try to recreate it. I used this recipe as a base. I experimented a bit with the ratio of seeds to chocolate: in the end I used 300g dark chocolate and about 200g sunflower seeds — you really do need quite a bit of chocolate if you’re going to make a big batch.

This is really easy to make. I only used sunflower seeds — make sure you lightly toast or roast them. I was a bit nervous that it wouldn’t set, but it did (make sure to refrigerate at least an hour). It is delicious, especially with the added sea salt. I’d encourage everyone to give this one a go! 🙂

Sorry, no photo this time!

June 2017 Favourites

Happy July, and happy belated 150th birthday to Canada! A lot has happened since my last favourites post: I turned 30, finished my first semester as a full-time lecturer, spent a week in Toronto. Now it’s summer and I am really looking forward to a slightly less chaotic two months. 🙂

One of the best pieces on Canada’s 150.

◌ The best and worst ramen in London.

◌ Recommended reading: Another Day in the Death of AmericaThe SelloutMy Life on the RoadThe Break.

◌ Diving for sea cucumbers in Alaska.

Is coffee actually good for you? (via Goop)

20 salad recipes  — just what you need when it’s above 25 in sticky London.

◌ Virginia Woolf’s novels mapped.

◌ Enjoyed Bruce Springsteen and Stella McCartney on Desert Island Discs.

◌ Summer is the time for dips.

◌ Goop’s summer reads.

Hawdraw Force waterfall, Yorkshire, May

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Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar Bake

Soon after I posted saying I’m not cooking much new…I have a couple of posts in the pipeline.

This is like a mac & cheese except solely with vegetables. I’m not sure about elsewhere, but cauliflower rice is everywhere here: even in tiny shops it’s available, pre-chopped. I picked some up on a whim and for a couple of days mulled over what to do with it. Since we all know that I love cheese…it had to be something cheesy in the end. I loosely adapted this recipe.

I didn’t have buffalo sauce (it doesn’t seem to exist here? Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough), so made the recipe a simple “mac and cheese,” with bechamel sauce, cheese (mature cheddar and Parmesan), and “pasta” (vegetables). The original recipe is with shrimp, but, again, I omitted this.

I won’t lie: this was not the tastiest or most thrilling dish I’ve ever made. In hindsight I would have added some sharp blue cheese to it, and if I make it again I think I’ll do that. Nevertheless, it wasn’t dull or bland — I had it with a side salad and they worked well together. I don’t think I’d go to the trouble of mincing the cauliflower by hand to make this though — some shortcuts are worth it.

cauli cheddar bake

 

A New Normal, part 2

In my last post, I reflected on a “new normal” that I’ve been living since the beginning of this year. In this post I want to talk more about what that means in terms of cooking and eating. You’ll notice that posts have declined quite a bit since January, and that’s because I simply don’t try many new recipes anymore (that being said, now that we’re moving into summer months, I hope to change that).

My requirements for food during the week are as follows: meals must a) be fairly easy to prep, b) healthy, c) require a minimum amount of ingredients, d) within budget, and e) as leftovers, be able to be taken for lunch the next day. I don’t have a huge pantry of staples condiments/spices to turn to, so anything too complicated or time-consuming is out.

I try to follow a stringent meal planning system because without it I would waste a lot of food (and money). As I am hardly ever in Liverpool for more than 5 days at a time, I need to plan carefully to make sure I don’t leave a lot of perishable food that will be off by Monday evening. I’ve found this to be tricky because I want to eat as many fresh vegetables as possible, but this is also the stuff that goes off quickly.

I’ve found that I eat more vegetarian meals now than I did when living full-time with H., just because they’re often less complicated to prep and meat is of course pricier. I also have eaten more pre-prepared food than before, simply for the convenience factor (this was especially true during the first few chaotic weeks). I try to keep to a rough budget of £25-30/per week, though some weeks will be more if I am stocking up on basics. Some staple meals include risottos, pastas, fresh ravioli, salads, fish, and curries.

I miss a lot of my “London life”, including more adventurous meals and the luxury of cooking out of only one kitchen(!). But, things were always going to change post-PhD, as I am no longer able to set my own schedule as much as I once was. I also really miss cooking with H. regularly (though not necessarily having to plan around his schedule! 😉 ). When it comes down to it, I doubt I’ll ever have as much time to cook as I have over the past 6 years since I started the blog. Life gets in the way! But I hope to continue to share what I can until posting feels like a chore. 🙂