Monday 30 June 2014

chip n dip ting

An array of nibbles + chilled glass of fizz + chitchat = makings of a good night in.
Who doesn't like a bit of chip n' dip action with a side of booze?
It's so easy to grab a bag of nachos or Kettle Chips and a few supermarket dips to munch on with your aperitivo - and they do serve a purpose, I won't deny. There's some 'world food' shops near me that do a lovely line in tzatziki. And I've got a soft spot for Sensations Thai sweet chilli crisps bathed liberally in red pepper houmous. But in general, shop-bought crisps or tortilla chips are way salty and greasy and the dips often thin, weak, vinegary or artificial tasting - making for sodium overload and that horrible 'full but not really full' feeling that gets you running out for a kebab when the party's over. So when my bezzie came over t'other night for catchups, proferring two bottles of fizz (pink and white), I went down the healthy route and made some substantial yet simple baked pitta chips and homemade dips.

Guacamole, salsa and houmous are a delish dip tricolore that seem to go down well with msot folks and just work together. Super easy to whizz up, easily sourced, affordable ingredients and if you, like me, are lucky enough to live near a market where they do big bowls of avos or toms for a quid you may as well load up and make a huge batch as they all freeze incredibly well too. And then you're all prepared and ready to dip freely on demand whenever you so desire.

Pitta chips are the perfect vehicle to transport your dips to lips. They're tasty but don't distract from the dip - and retain the structual integrity to stop any disappointing mushiness when scooping - a key factor of any chip worth it's salt (ahem).
Allow a couple of breads per person. It's easier if you buy round pittas as they are easier to cut into chips - but strips would work equally as well.
Just brush a baking tray and your breads with a tiny bit of olive oil, season with any spices or herbs you fancy and cut into triangles. Bake for 10 mins at 180C.
Voila - crisp tasty chips, baked not fried and not overly salty (unless you want them to be!)

Again, stock up on round breads and keep them in the freezer and you're all sorted for chip n dips round 2, 3, 4...

All dip recipes will serve around 4 hungry people.


200g canned chickpeas
2 tbsp lemon juice
2  crushed garlic cloves
100ml tahini paste
1 tsp ground cumin
4 tbsp water

Whizz up in a food processor. Season with salt and more lemon juice to taste.
Add a drizzle of olive oil and scattering of paprika on top when serving.
Holy Guacamole

1 ripe tomato
3 very ripe avocados
Juice of 1 lime
1 small red onion,
1 chilli, deseeded
Make just ahead of serving. Chop up everything very small, and mix with the mushed up avo. Add more chilli to taste, and a squeeze of lemon to stop it going brown. If freezing, do it straight away before it turns brown!

My Salsa

4 large vine tomatoes
Small red onion
2 crushed garlic clove
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Squeeze of lime juice
1 chilli, deseeded

Chop up small and mix together. Add more lime or chilli to taste. Leave in fridge for at least an hour, to chill and absorb flavours.

Serve in a pretty dish - my auntie makes glass, and I finally got the chance to give her beautiful handmade blue glass dip tray a whirl - along with some crudites (carrots, cucumber, peppers), olives - and some delicious chilled booze.


Wednesday 25 June 2014

rotorino, dalston

When the moon hits your eye,
Like a big pizza pie,
That's amore...

A good Italian is a failsafe - perfectly cooked pasta or pizza tends to tick the box every time. But sometimes you want comfort food with a tad more finesse. Less molten mozzarella, more tender taleggio. Less giant pepper grinder, more artfully placed broad bean... (more on that later).

Rotorino in Dalston is just such a place. Recently opened up on Kingsland Road, serving affordable small plates of modern Italian fodder, it’s a nice change from the gastro brunch spots, pubs and street foody pop ups that have tended to populate this middle stretch of KR. The interior is jewel like with colourful tiles and welcoming lighting, hitting the right side of ‘trendy’ without going down the tiresome filament bulbs and utilitarian chair route. Characterful whilst remaining classy, with a good mix of bar stools, low seats by the window, cosy booths and communal tables. We dined on a Tuesday and it was packed out - the hard surfaces did contribute to quite a loud, clattery acoustic, so don’t expect a quiet and peaceful meal. This is a lively joint.

The name of the game is sharesies, as each dish is plenty big enough for two to share. However unlike most tapas style spots, the dishes were a lot heartier and more filling, so less is more at Rotorino. We opted for a fish dish, a meat dish, a pasta, a cheese and a side – plentiful.

White fish and whitebait, fried in light as a feather batter with a wedge of lemon, was crisp and fresh. We were expecting squid as per the menu, and weren’t told they had run out which was a bit of a let-down as I'm a lover of fried squid. The white fish substitute, whatever it was, was beautifully done nonetheless.
Sausage gnochetti sardi, slow cooked sausage and red wine pasta with breadcrumbs, came in a huge portion. The taste was slightly lacking although the texture was good with a nice little crunch. Overall not nearly enough sausagey or winey flavour, dill was an odd addition and I must admit I was put off by the maggot like pasta shapes. Slippery customers. All in all, more filler than killer and I'd try a different pasta dish next time.

The favourite of the meal was roundly voted to be the pork and veal meatballs in a tomato sauce. Rich and flavourful, firm and packed with chunky pieces of quality meat, not overly minced. Could have done with more of that delectable tomato sauce  they were nestled in, but I believe real Italians don’t serve everything swimming, more’s the pity. Crisp fried potatoes with rosemary and garlic were a good vehicle for sauce mopping duties, and more like crunchy roasted spuds than your standard fries. I like all potatoes to come with some kind of dipping pot, and in the absence of an aioli style substance I opted for the waitress recommendation of a tomato and chilli relish. However this never materialised -another tiny grumble.

The sweet section had nothing that really grabbed us by the hand – surely some kind of coffee based, tiramisu pud to round off the meal should be a no brainer, affogato at least.

However the absence of caffeine based treats, cheese was the order of the day. Initially we ordered a piece of taleggio with broad beans. This arrived with no beans in sight, and no bread or crackers for smearing. Meh. Looking at the menu again, we realised that at £5 for one piece, or £7.50 for three pieces of different cheese, we may as well upgrade to the plate. Plus where the devil were those broad beans?! The upsized cheese plate came back, this time with some crisp wafer breads – and two massive fresh bean pods laid on top. Not quite the chunky bean chutney I was kind of expecting, and pretty nondescript on their own - but tasted good when munched with a bite of the taleggio. The other two cheeses, a gorgonzola dolce with fresh thin pear slices and a percorino sardo with chestnut honey, made for a delicious final encore with the last glug of vino.

On average the dishes are about £6-£8 each, and the house red (the Statua) was yummy. Our thoroughly enjoyable dinner for two, with wine plus service, came to just shy of £60 altogether.
Not every dish will blow you away, but you’ll certainly want to come again, both for the good vibes and to work your way through the rest of the menu… Rotorin-oh, ok then… I’ll come back and try the pigs head terrine next time.