Tuesday, 15 May 2012

rocky razz

As mentioned in previous blog posts, I can be a very indecisive (read: greedy) eater. Given the option, I would rather have a little bit of everything. It's the reason why I love mezze and tapas, or even better, a long tasting menu... Certain foods done simply and well are sublime. But a real filthy blow out hits the spot - cram in as many goodies as you can, and get all your favourites in one sitting. Rocky road is a shining example of a sweet treat that packs a punch, and is stupidly simple to make. Nothing refined about it. It's all your top tings smashed up and mixed together with lashings of chocolate.

My preferred ingredients are crushed digestive and ginger nut biscuits, glace cherries, Maltesers and mini pink and white marshmallows, but you can stick in anything you like. Try dried fruits like cranberries, apples and raisins. Hazelnuts, chunks of brazil, amaretti biscuits, rice krispies and bits of Twix also work really well. Add a splosh of liqueur and a dusting of icing sugar on top, maybe even a few of those geeky silver balls, to make a Christmas version...also makes a beaut Xmas present when arranged in a festive tin. It really looks lovely, with a crazy paving effect, when sliced up into squares, and I tend to indulge my girly side with a trademark sprinkling of edible glitter on top. Every bite guarantees you something delicious and it seems to go down a hit every time with friends and fam.

The best part is how easy it is to put together. Simply melt 100g of dark chocolate with 100g of milk (Belgian quality is best), add 100g of melted butter and 3 tbsps of golden syrup.

the melty bit

Chop up your fruit, nuts and other shizzle into pieces of varying sizes. Keep some things whole, for example your cherries or your Maltesers. Put your biscuits in a freezer bag and bash them into bits between 50p chunks and dust. Add everything to the melty mix. You want to add enough extras so the chocolate is just binding everything together nicely. The more chocolate to bits ratio, the stodgier and heavier it is. I prefer it lighter as it looks prettier and tastes better.

chezzas & 'tesers

les biscuits


Once your rocky razzle mix is ready, simply line your average baking tray with clingfilm and pour the mixture on top. Smooth down the top and refridgerate overnight. Next day, cut into bitesize squares and eat. Nothing could be simpler! Helpful hint - take it into work to score extra brownie points...

the finished product
Comment or Tweet me if you have any amazing no cook, fridge cake recipes...
I'll leave you with this classic moment from the Goonies:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

ooooh mami!

Umami /uːˈmɑːmi/, popularly referred to as savouriness, is one of the five basic tastes together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Umami is a loanword from the Japanese umami (うま味) meaning "pleasant savory taste".

So says Wiki....
Alot of people are unaware of the 'fifth taste', but it's one that can make all the difference when it comes to understanding and enjoying foods. It's hard to put your finger on what makes it so moreish, but it's that sharp tang of parmesan cheese, salty canned anchovies, Parma ham and also believe it or not, wine and beer. Umami foods have a strong taste which means they need to be paired with certain plainer flavours to really get the most from them - simple and delicious examples are cheese and tomato (mozzarella cheese on a tangy tomatoey pizza base) or piquant olives with pistachio nuts. Mmmmmmmm.

It depends on your personal preference of course, but umami rich foods generally taste 'tastier' - and Marmite is (of course) a personal favourite of mine. Coupled with cool smooth cream cheese or a runny egg yolk really brings out the salty uniqueness of the spread I love to love. And one of my favourite party food umami nibbles to get the tastebuds going are delicious Marmite and cheese swirls. Puff pastry whirls wrapped up with grated cheddar melting softly into Marmite. Pretty calorific but damn they taste good and ready in 20 minutes. You can mix and match fillings for these easily depending on what you like - try cheese and tomato puree, with some finely sliced and sauteed mushrooms or onion added. Fresh herbs, cream cheese and smoked salmon would also make a good amuse bouche, as would goats cheese with walnuts and sundried tomatoes. So simple to make, they're speedy but look pretty, and taste good hot or cold. You could even make sweet ones, with apple, cinnamon and currents or lemony zest with tinned mandarin segments and a dusting of icing sugar on top.

One ready rolled standard supermarket packet of puff pastry will make about 12 swirls, so buy 2 rolls if you need to cater for a group.
Simply open out the pastry onto a flat surface, and spread over 3 tsps of Marmite with a knife, leaving a 1cm gap around the edge. Sprinkle cheddar cheese and any other ingredients on top. Whisk 1 egg and use a pastry brush to glaze the 1cm border.

Slowly roll up the pastry width ways using the backing paper to help you. The tighter the roll the better the whirly effect! Once all rolled up, glaze the top with the beaten egg and slice into rounds half an inch thick. Arrange these on a baking sheet and squidge them slightly so they are more round in shape. Glaze once again.

Pop in a hot oven for 10 - 15 mins until golden brown on top.
At this point you can take them out of the oven and put a few strands of cheese on top for decoration, place back in the hot oven quickly just to melt them. Delicious fresh from the oven while the cheese is still oozy, but keep just as well in the fridge for a few days and you can reheat under a grill or for 30 secs in the microwave (any longer and you'll have soggy swirls on your hands). Uma-me!

umami goodness

Monday, 23 April 2012

breakfast burritos

We all know the feeling. Groggy, bleary eyed, emerging from the safe cocoon of blissful (or not so) slumber after a heavy night on the tiles. Dry mouthed, a hefty mug of tea or coffee is downed to kickstart the tastebuds and unstick the eyelids. Once Gandhi’s flipflop has been rinsed off, it’s time to move onto some energising fuel to deal with the trials of showering and engaging in any form of meaningful communication….

What’s your brunch of fancy? And we’re talking home cooked. No venturing outside my dears, not yet anyway. My personal favourites have got to be; a bagel, split and toasted, both halves spread first with butter, then Marmite, then a hefty squeedge of cream cheese with a sprinkling of rocket on top. I know it sounds lunchy but this is brunch innit, we can go off piste! Equally bon is a couple of poached eggs with lots of cracked black pepper atop two slices of granary toast, again with plenty of butter and Marmite. Delishybags. I’m not a huge meat fan, so bacon and sausages are usually off the menu, but I am partial to some crispy bacon with mashed avocado and a poached egg on toast, should there happen to be some pig in the fridge.

This weekend, having mates to stay over after a post pub sesh, I was inspired to stock the fridge with essential ingredients to make breakfast burritos. Introduced to the BB via my good friend Lex, they are the perfect mix of flavour and texture, protein and veg, with a hint of a spicy kick to get you on form. They’re remarkably healthy too (if you grill the bacon and don’t overload on the cheese!) and the tortilla wrap doesn’t weigh you down like a doughy bagel or a stack of pancakes. I wanted to share them with the world. Definitely worth a try this weekend…
prep stage
You’ll need:
Tortilla wraps (white)
Potatoes (King Edward or other floury variety)
Grated cheese
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh red chilli
Sour cream (optional)

Simply peel and dice the potato, boil until softly tender, then fry with some finely sliced onion and chilli with spices of your choice (try salt, pepper, mild curry powder and turmeric).
Grill the bacon and scramble the eggs.
Warm the wraps in the oven while you’re doing the above.
When the hot bits are cooked, it’s time to assemble. Layer the egg, bits of bacon and some diced spuds in a line down the middle of the wrap. Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle over with cheese.
Smear some mashed avocado, salsa and sour cream down either side of this line so when you wrap you’ll get a nice even mixture of everything.
Finally chuck on shredded lettuce.
Roll up and enjoy! Yummsville.

happy days

Thursday, 12 April 2012

les trois garcons

What a night! It was the perfect threesome - myself, the lovely Libby and some damn fine food.
The boudoir? Les Trois Garcons, Shoreditch. A heady mix of decadent French restaurant and Miss Haversham's attic, richly decorated with chandeliers, handbags hanging from the ceiling and other such quirky artwork. A taxidermist's wet dream; bulldogs with angel wings, a giraffe's long neck stretching over diners, crocodiles in crowns and tigers in tiaras...

monkey see...
'The 3 lads' certainly ticks the boxes when it comes to authentic French dining with excellent service, all dished up with a healthy dollop of arty weirdness. With a price tag to match, Les Trois Garcons is surely a treat for local trendsters. But with a good old Groupon voucher clutched in naughty mitts, we headed in for a superb six course taster menu for a snip at £30 each, down from the usual £80.
I'm a real Groupon cynic and am fully aware of the pitfalls of a 'free meal' - stingy portions, snooty service and all too often hidden charges. This was not one of those. Beautiful food and warm and welcoming staff made the experience a real pleasure from start to finish. It's a great way for them to boost mid week trade as you can't book the deal on weekends. And coupled with the usual pricey wine list (a bottle of the cheapest red, a decent Côtes Du Ventoux 2009 set us back £25) and a 15% service charge (that's 15% of the original menu price ie: a tip added on of about £20), they do recoup costs elsewhere. However the tip is discretionary and for a night of fayne dining, truly affordable. Keep your eyes peeled for those deals!

We began the starry sups with an amuse bouche of thinly sliced roast chicken on a light crisply salted sheet of won ton, accompanied with caramelised onions and a basked of freshly baked bread with butter. Nothing too punchy, it did the job - it amused the bouche and tickled the tastebuds. (Apologies for the dingy photography, as you can imagine, cameraphones and a looming stuffed narwhal do not a bright picture make...)
This was swiftly followed by a beautifully presented circle of foie gras, cured in Sauternes and cooked au torchon, served with toasted brioche and apple chutney, with a swirl of toffee sauce. I'm a guilty fan of foie gras when served in it's meaty pâté like form with thin little slices of melba toast. I'll never forget after just arriving in France, when visiting a hugh Auchan supermarket (the equivalent of a big Tesco) I was handed tasters of foie gras of all things (!) while shopping. Beats the lump of cheddar of the day on the deli counter. Needless to say I went back and back and back.... When served with fruit (and again, my fave is anything apple based) the rich meat flavour becomes fresh and satisfying. It ticked all the boxes, and I think this actually rated as my favourite course of the six...

foie good
Lemon sole came next, a good sized piece of fish accompanied with a sweetly seared scallop, pear barley risotto and a lemon butter sauce. Light and healthy tasting, the fourth course then switched the balance with four rounds of juicy duck magret served with swede gratin, green beans and a luscious truffle red wine jus. The crispy crackling around the edges of the morsels of duck gave way to a smear of juicy fat and then tender flesh, and the swede kept the dish on the right side of ribsticking. There was also a mystery element to number four. Get Inspecteur Barnaby in. We think it was a piece of fried foie gras, at least it had that light and squidgy consistency and flavour. Who knows? But it was bloody good with the veg.
By now we were beginning to slow. Luckily the wine and table water, and good pacing between dishes, kept us forging forwards. Time for a sweet treat - moelleux of chocolate (like a solid mousse) filled with popping candy gave an unexpected crackle and kiddy giggles, and came with a nice but unremarkable chocolate brownie. Dusted with icing sugar and dotted with whisky soaked raisins, this hugely rich course would have been offset nicely with a good dessert wine. Our choice of vin was a light accompaniment for both the meat and fish but punters can also opt for the restaurants own wine pairing per course, at an additional £39. I would defnitely go for the three G's recommendations next time around to get full enjoyment and appreciation between chaque plat.
choco, choco, lat
Petits fours saved the day, in the shape of a mini almond cookie, a petite madeleine with passion fruit cream and a truly beaut little square of white chocolate mousse cake topped with banana cream, which blended together in the mouth like a condensed milky pillow. A lovely fruity finish to cleanse the palate and round off the meal. Délicieux.

petit six
The point of a taster menu is to get the full gamut of the restaurant's capabilities, a showcase of what the chef can offer. Les Trois Garcons certainly delivered on this point, and we left feeling nicely full and well treated, having set the world and our tummies to rights over the course of a good 3 hours. Bon bon.

Have you had the joy of a top class yet affordable taster menu à Londres? Tweet me back @maratanga and spill the beans, or leave a comment underneath!