karohemd: (Chef)
They had some reasonable looking monkfish at the fishmonger's so I picked up a piece. I filleted it, cut the fillets into chunks and marinaded them in pimenton and olive oil for a while. While the fish was marinading I made a sort of romesco sauce from a red pepper and some cherry tomatoes cooked down in olive oil with tomato paste, pimenton, garlic and dried herbs, seasoned with salt and pepper and then blitzed with a stick blender.
For the fish, I sliced two small cooking chorizos and fried those in a dry pan over medium heat until crispy and the fat had rendered. I removed the chorizo and then fried the fish in the rendered fat until browned on all sides and moved the pan to a low oven to finish for a few minutes.
In the meantime I steamed some broccoli florets and cooked the couscous with vegetable stock, olive oil and lemon juice.
When the fish was done I set it aside on a warm plate to rest while mixing the pan juices into the sauce. I then plated the fish on the couscous, drizzled the sauce over and around it and added fried chorizo slices. After I'd taken the photo I realised I'd forgotten to add the broccoli. Never mind.

Monkfish, Chorizo, Romesco Sauce

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karohemd: (Chef)
Yesterday I made something I'd never made before for various reasons but mainly because I don't have a freezer in my tiny studio flat, only a tiny compartment in my fridge that just about makes water hard. I'd read and seen on various blogs that you don't need a machine to make ice cream if you stir the mix regularly so I'd considered trying that. I rose to the challenge because fellow food blogger and twitter foodie Kavey posted a Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge on her blog (click the thumbnail below to go there).

The rules for the challenge stipulate that it had to be a custard base recipe so I made one using:
350ml double cream
250ml single cream
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp demerera sugar
the husk of half a vanilla pod I'd kept in my sugar

This I know how to do so it came out really nicely.
For the flavouring I cooked down two smallish chopped apples with 2tsp of ground cinnamon. This I mixed into the custard using a stick blender to ensure even distribution. The final mix tasted great and I was very happy with it. After it had cooled, I filled the custard into a small freezer tub and put it into my freezer compartment, hoping for the best. Every half hour or so I stirred the mix with a fork to break up the ice that had formed and after about four hours or so it had reached a consistency that was very close to ice cream. I even managed to make a reasonably looking quenelle:
Apple and Cinnamon Ice Cream

Now for the disappointment: Unlike the custard, the flavour of the finished product is rather weak. I guess I have to pack in more next time. However, as a first attempt, I really happy with it. Any suggestions more than welcome (please reply with OpenID or include your name and blog/twitter link in your anonymous reply). Many thanks.

Update - A few tips (own experience and others'):
- the initial custard needs to be very strong in flavour, almost too strong to be comfortable when you taste it
- next time I make the above I will cook a stick of cinnamon with the cream and leave to infuse for some time which should intensify the flavour
- use a round container and one is big enough so it's not filled all the way up to make vigorous stirring easier

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karohemd: (Chef)
Plaice fillets (or any other flat or white fish, adjust cooking times according to thickness)
cherry tomatoes, anchovies, red onion, garlic, dried or fresh mediterranean herbs
baby potatoes
mixed baby leaves
olive oil, butter
Gently fry the plaice in butter and olive oil over medium heat (about 2 minutes each side), season with freshly ground pepper (the sauce will be salty enough).
For the sauce, quarter cherry tomatoes and gently cook them with chopped red onion, garlic and a few anchovies in olive oil, season with salt, pepper and mediterranean herbs.
Boil the potatoes and crush them in the pan in which you cooked the fish to mop up all the butter, oil and flavour.
To serve, place the crushed potatoes in the centre of the plate, a fillet of fish on top and spoon over the sauce. Arrange the dressed (good extra virgin olive oil, balsamico, salt, pepper) leaves around the side.
It was very tasty indeed.
Plaice, tomatoes, crushed potatoes, dressed leaves
karohemd: (Chef)
It's been a long time coming but I finally cooked something the look of which I was reasonably happy with and that was a bit different from what I'd cooked before.
The mackerel fillets were simply pan-seared and seasoned with salt and pepper. With it I served beetroot couscous for which I stirred the couscous into cooked, pureed beetroot, thinned with a bit of chicken stock so there was enough liquid and seasoned with salt and pepper and wilted spinach. The little cubes of beetroot were pickled in warm balsamic vinegar for about an hour.

Pan fried Mackerel, Beetroot Couscous, Spinach
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Quite a few friends and foodies I follow on twitter have raved about José Pizarro's authentic Spanish cooking. Last year, he first opened a traditional tapas bar in Bermondsey St., London and a few months later Pizarro, a sit down restaurant with a starter/main/dessert style menu. This is the one I visited. I'd heard they were popular lunch spots so I arrived early at 12 o'clock and was the first customer but the place soon filled up nicely. As I wanted to take a few photos, I picked a window seat (regular chairs facing a bar parallel to the window, ideal when you're on your own to watch the world go by or when you want good daylight). Next time I'll most likely pick a seat with a view of the open kitchen.
For starter, I had a portion of croquetas and a small plate of Jamón Ibérico, the most flavoursome cured ham I've ever tasted. Such deep flavour, with the fat melting on your tongue. No wonder this stuff is so expensive. I forgot to mention that a full plate of Jamón is £20 but I only wanted a taste and they were happy to provide the small plate you see here (for £7.50) so excellent customer service.

Jamon Iberico

For main I had sea bass with roasted winter vegetables and salsa verde. Crispily fried skin, flaking flesh with excellent accompaniments.

Sea bass, root veg, salsa verde

For dessert, I didn't have to think about what to choose: Crema Catalan, the Spanish version of Crème Brûlée. Lovely soft custard cream, crunchy caramel on top (which was almost a bit too well done but I liked the contrast of the bitterness with the sweet cream).

Crema Catalana

Next time I'm in the area I hope to gather a few friends to José and share some tapas.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Mat Follas, head chef at The Wild Garlic in Dorset (and Masterchef 2009 champion) held a one-off "pop-up" restaurant at Ben's Canteen in London (part of the Canteen's guest chef nights).
As The Wild Garlic is a bit out of the way for me currently (there are no trains to Beaminster), this was the perfect opportunity to taste Mat's cooking so when I read about it, I signed up immediately.
I got there early to chat to Dave Ahern, head chef at Ben's Canteen and try one of his famous Breakfast Scotch Eggs (and it really is stunning, you can taste all the elements). Mat joined us and asked me if I would take some photos in the kitchen as well and of course I jumped at the opportunity. However, let's first look at the menu:

It started with a bowl of "Pesto Popcorn", which was nice and one of the few times I enjoyed a savoury popcorn:

Pesto Popcorn

The starter was Smoked Queenie Scallops, served in their shell. These were only morsels but the taste was superb, the smoky flavour enhancing the sweetness of the scallops. I could easily have had a dozen of those.

Starter: Smoked Queenie Scallops

Now the first meat course: Confit Duck Leg with orange and tarragon. The meat was perfectly cooked and so soft it fell apart. You could pull out the bones cleanly. Surprisingly, the orange sauce worked well for me and really loved the dish.

Confit Duck Leg

Another small course was next but by no means small in terms of flavour. A delightfully and strongly flavoured mushroom velouté that tasted like a pound of good mushrooms compressed into an espresso paper cup. Wow. When I was in the kitchen, I'd smelled this soup as it came out of the Thermomix and that already blew me away.

Mushroom Veloute

Then the main: 12 hour triple cooked pork belly, served in slices off the rolled piece with sweet potato and miso puree and pickled vegetables. Another slow cooked dish that let the simple but very flavoursome meat shine. The puree was an excellent substitute for gravy.

Main: Triple Cooked Pork Belly

The next course was a palate cleanser in the shape of a ball of beetroot (yes, you read that right) sorbet, served on a little china spoon. It sounds bizarre but it worked really well. This was hard to photograph on the table so here's a shot from the kitchen:

Palte cleanser: Beetroot Sorbet

Then, there was only dessert to go but what a stunner that was: Lavender panna cotta with berry compote, salt and pepper ice cream and crumbles of honeycomb. Each part was lovely on its own but a bit of everything on the spoon made my tastebuds dance, a perfect balance of flavours.

Dessert: Lavender Panacotta

This was a fantastic meal. Simple, rustic dishes which high quality ingredients were the stars of the meal. If this is the food Mat Follas and his team are cooking every day at The Wild Garlic, its customers are in for a treat and from what I hear that is indeed the case. Go there now! :)
More photos after the cut.

A few more on flickr.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Yesterday evening I finally managed to go to Fitzbillies for dinner. This legendary cake shop and café was closed early last year but resurrected by Tim Hayward and his team later in the year. The Guardian has a good overview of the story. I'm almost ashamed to say that despite having lived in Cambridge for 16 years, I'd never been but I'm not a big fan of cakes and exceedingly sweet things (their house specialty is Chelsea Buns). However since they now also offer dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings, I had to go. The menu changes weekly and offers a selection of rustic dishes at for its location very reasonable prices.
Something most people have mentioned when talking about the refurbishment is the decor: off-white wood panelling and light blue tiles which make the place look more like a swimming pool than a café or restaurant but while I found it a little odd, I didn't mind it. The low, indirect lighting probably helped there. The downside to the low lighting was that it was hard to take decent photos.

Interior Quince Fizz

I started the evening with a glass of "Quince Fizz", quince puree topped up with sparkling wine. Tart and refreshing. Next up was a cup of crab bisque which was fantastic. Creamy, full of crab flavour with a nice little kick of chilli at the end. Tim Hayward tweeted: Christ, @Rosiebluebell s crab bisque tastes like a suspension of Higgs Bosons in liquid diamond... With unicorn stock. and that wasn't far off. :)

Starter: Smoked pigeon

My starter was smoked pigeon with blood orange, chicory and almonds, basically a salad. The pigeon meat was soft, the chicory crunchy but the citrus dressing - for my taste - just a little overpowering. It still worked and I enjoyed it.

Main: Braised Rabbit

For main I had braised rabbit, winter lettuce and mustard potatoes. This was a perfect dish for a dreary winter evening. The meat was still juicy, very flavourful and went well with the accompaniments. The gravy was outstanding, too and I used the rest of the homemade soda bread to mop it all up. With the first two courses I had a glass of nice Bordeaux.
Despite feeling quite stuffed I couldn't possibly leave this temple of sweetness without having dessert so I picked the Eve's pudding with pear:

Dessert: Eve's Pudding with pear

Baked in a large coffee mug, the cake topping was crispy and the hot pear filling soft with a hint of spice. Delicious.
So yes, if freshly cooked, rustic food is your thing, Fitzbillies is for you and a welcome alternative to the endless sea of chain restaurants in the centre of Cambridge. The only downside is that they currently are only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. Booking a table in advance is also recommended as by the time I had arrived at dessert, the restaurant was fully seated and word that you can have a fab informal dinner with friendly service still needs to spread.
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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
A new month means new dishes at Alimentum so I went yesterday to try some of them. I was told a menu had been created for me (things like this happen when you're friends with the chefs on twitter) so I didn't even know in advance what I would get (or choose from a menu) and that it would turn into a 8-course extravaganza.

The canapees came in a funky double bowl:
Canapees: Popcorn and Cheese&Onion Macarons

Alimentum popcorn and Cheese&Onion macarons. Both had an excellent flavour combination of savoury and sweet. I could happily devour a box of those macarons.

The amuse bouche was a small bowl of frothy cauliflower veloute, with little bits of pickled cauli at the bottom.
Amuse Bouche: Cauliflower veloute

This style of soup is one of Alimentum's staples and there's a new flavour every month or so. A nice way to get the tastebuds going.

The next dish was smoked haddock with a fried egg and a fluffy potato veloute.
First starter: Haddock and potato veloute, fried egg

Definitely the first highlight in my menu, the different textures made this. Flaky haddock, frothy soup, rich egg and some crispy bits. Oh, and served by the head chef himself. :)

The first meat dish was a duck terrine (smoked leg and foie gras) with sorbe and fig, and liver parfait on toast.
Second starter: duck terrine, sorbe, fig, liver parfait on toast

The only thing that was a bit off for me here was the "BBQ sauce" that was a bit strong for me but that's a personal preference as I'm not a fan of BBQ sauce. Still, with only a little, it was a great addition.

Back to fish: mackerel with a teriyaki glaze with avocado puree, cucumber and radish.
Fish: mackerel, teryiaki glaze, cucumber, radish

Mackerel is one of my favourite fish, you don't need to much to it, only barely cook it and this is what I got here. The glaze wasn't overpowering and the salad was nicely refreshing. The second highlight.

The main act was a duo of beef. Roasted sirloin with carrots and onion ash and in a separate little copper pot a beef cheek ragu and a generous blob of horseradish mash with more onion ash.
Main: beef, carrot, onion ash

Needless to say, the sirloin was perfectly and evenly cooked, deeply flavoured and soft, perfectly matched by the carrot, the jus and the onion ash adding a bit of zing. The ragu had clearly been cooked for a very long time as the meat was reduced to tiny slithers with jus the right amount of sauce. Deep and rich, I was almost tempted to just dig in with the spoon but didn't in the end. While writing this, I remembered I had a rather similar dish at Pollen St. Social last year and thinking back, I prefer Alimentum's version.

By that time, I was thoroughly stuffed but there were two desserts to come:
Luckily, the pre-dessert was very light: a smooth pernod foam, with bits of pineapple at the bottom and fennel crisps stuck in top (yes, this works, very well).
Pre dessert: Pineapple Foam

The only criticism I could find was that it could be a bit more colourful, especially when served in a white bowl.

The final dessert was a slice of Battenburg cake with apricot icecream on one and a cylinder of amaretto foam on the other side.
Dessert: Battenburg cake, apricot ice cream and foam

The apricot things were light but I couldn't finish the cake after that generously poritioned main before. It was, however, very nice indeed and I'm not a big fan of this sort of cake. The natural light from behind me had faded by that point so this photo didn't come out quite as planned.

So yes, another great meal at Alimentum. The restaurant had a little facelift and a window to the kitchen has been added so you can watch the chefs at work. Immediately behind the window is the cold section where desserts and cold elements of other dishes are assembled but you can also see the stoves further in.

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karohemd: (Chef)
When I visit my parents I usually enjoy my mother's cooking but I also pick a day when I cook something. This year my parents again sourced a lovely saddle of roe deer from a family friend who used to be the local gamekeeper and still has connections.
I knew that my parents would still have some dried foraged ceps (this year was too dry but there were plenty the year before) so a risotto sounded like the perfect accompaniment with sprout leaves on the side:

Loin of roe deer, cep risotto, sprout leaves

The day before, I removed the loins from the bone and trimmed off all the sinew and fat and put the meat back in the fridge. Then I chopped the bone into chunks and roasted it with some veg (celeriac, carrots, onion) in a hot oven until nicely browned. That, the offcuts, a sprig each of rosemary and thyme, a few juniper and allspice berries and about a litre of water became the stock for the risotto. Skimmed and strained it only needed to be reheated the next day.

The next day, I made a basic white risotto by gently sweating off a finely chopped shallot and garlic clove in a mix of olive oil and butter, adding the rice, stirring until coated, a generous glug of white wine, stirring until absorbed, added the reconstituted and chopped ceps and added the stock (with the cep water added) ladle by ladle, stirring after each until the liquid was absorbed until the rice was done.

When the risotto was on its way, I rubbed the loin (cut into pieces that would fit the pan) with rapeseed oil and seared it in a hot pan and then transferred them to an 80 degrees oven to finish.

The sprout leaves (mum was my commis and helped pick them) were just quickly blanched in salted water and refreshed in ice water to be finished later.

When the meat was done to my liking, I removed it and let it rest. In the pan I seared the meat in, I melted a generous piece of butter, seasoned it with salt, white pepper, a twig of thyme and rosemary, crushed juniper berries and ground allspice and basted the loin with it before carving. I removed the whole spices and herbs from the butter and tossed the sprout leaves in the pan to warm through. The risotto was finished with a handful of parmesan and a knob of butter which gave it a nice shine.

All that remained was plating up and dig in. The meat was so buttery soft it almost melted in the mouth and - if I may say so myself - up there with any I recently had at fine restaurants. The risotto had just enough ceps in it to flavour it and not overpower the meat. The sprout leaves were nice, too.

Needless to say, I was very happy with that dish.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
I've been following Sabrina Ghayour (a private chef, cookery teacher and food writer) on twitter for a while and when she announced a Persian supper club, I had to sign up for it, as it seemed the ideal way of sampling a cuisine I hadn't tried before. It was held at a private home, with (I think) 15 guests in total and a friendly and informal affair.
The food was served not in individual portions but in big dishes on the table which was nice as it added a level of interaction with the other guests.

The starters consisted of a selection of vegetables, herbs, salads, cheese and dips to be spread on flatbread and rolled up. The cucumber/tomato salad was light and fresh, as was the yoghurt dip, the sauteed aubergine with caramelised onions and whey was more earthy but the standout dip was one of smoked aubergine with tomato and garlic. I would have been quite happy with just a bowl of that and some bread.

The mains were more rich: Two stews, one of chicken with walnut and pomegranate molasses and one of lamb with aubergine, split peas and preserved lemons. There was also a fresh herb and barberry frittata and Basmati rice. As with the starters, everything was fantastic and full of flavour.

For dessert was an almond, carrot, pistachio and orange cake served with rosewater cream. I'm not a huge cake fan but this was brilliant, crumbly yet moist, perfectly matched by the cream and to wash everything down there was real mint tea.

It was a lovely evening with excellent food and good company. And now for some photos:

The table is set
The table is set

The Chef
The Chef

Mixed veg, herbs and cheese

Maast-o-Khiar - Yoghurt and cucumber with mint, rose petals and pomegranate seeds

Mirza Ghasemi
Mirza Ghasemi - Smoked aubergine dip with tomato and garlic

The Mains
Coucou Sabzi (mixed fresh herb and barberry frittata)
Khoresht Gheymeh Bademjan (lamb, aubergine and split pea stew with preserved lemons)
Khoresht Fesenjan (chicken, walnut and pomegranate molasses stew)

Almond, carrot, pistachio & orange cake
Almond, carrot, pistachio and orange cake with rosewater cream







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karohemd: (Chef)
After so many posts of other people's food, I've finally cooked something pretty enough to post.
Nothing special, just a nice lamb steak, marinaded in rapeseed oil, rosemary and garlic, seared in a smoking hot pan one minute on each side and then finished in a medium oven until it was nicely pink throughout (links to a crappy phone pic halfway through eating).
Served on garlic mash, wilted spinach and a red wine reduction made from the pan and resting juices. Not exactly fine dining but solid home cooking and, if I may say so myself, very tasty indeed. I possibly should have let it rest a bit longer but I was hungry. :P

Lamb steak
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Yesterday evening I met up with @milliepaw and @spodlife, two fellow twitter foodies who were kind enough to give me a lift to Tuddenham Mill, a small hotel in Suffolk near Newmarket with an excellent restaurant run by Paul Foster. I've been wanting to eat there for a while, especially since tasting some of Paul's food during the charity dinner at Alimentum last week.

When you arrive in the dark as we did, pretty much the only thing you see is this:

Which is a shame, really, as they have beautiful grounds, too. Ever more reason to go back at some point, during daylight hours.

We were shown into the bar where we perused the menus and ordered a cocktail. Amusingly, they'd run out of ingredients for my first two choices (no fresh mint for Mojito, something else missing for The Forager) so I ended up encouraging the barman to come up with something else and he made a brilliant fruity and fresh cocktail incorporating Chase Marmalade vodka for me. :o)
Picking something from the menu was hard but I eventually settled for the mackerel as starter and the fallow deer as main, Sandi picked the pork carpaccio and the jerusalem artichokes and Tim went for the mackerel as well and the wood pigeon.

The dining room is upstairs, has a rather low ceiling with huge exposed beams and half-timber walls. The dark wooden tables are simply laid without cloth. The illumination is quite sparse with a few downlighters in the ceiling and a couple of tealights on the table so food bloggers who want to take photos should bring a camera with a fast lens and high ISO capabilities. Surprisingly, it was rather quiet, there was only one other occupied table. I'd imagine it's busier on weekends or more people need to know about it.

The first food item was an amuse bouche of "mushroom milk" with crunchy bits (I will find out what it was). A lovely start with a rather intense mushroom flavour.
Amuse Bouche

The bread, still hot from the oven:

The starter:

Mackerel, cooked at 52°C, served with alexander, salted cucumber and sea vegetables. A perfectly fresh, soft and beautifully presented fillet of fish, just warm enough to intensify its natural flavour. The other elements on the plate added nicely balanced sweet, sour and bitter notes, mellowing the richness of the oily fish.

The main:
Denham Estate fallow deer

Denham Estate fallow deer, red onion fondue, pearl barley, pear, Colston Bassett stilton. Game season is in full swing so I couldn't resist having my third piece of venison in only two weeks. Cooked perfectly dark pink throughout, the meat was soft with a lovely but not too strong gamey flavour which worked perfectly with the other elements on the plate. The addition of stilton might sound odd but worked well indeed but my favourite additional element was the slices dry cured meat with a slightly salty kick. I almost wanted to lick the plate afterwards but there was some bread left to make sure nothing went back to the kitchen.

Decision time again, for dessert: While the "bitter chocolate textures" looked alluring and the other choices were interesting, I - as you probably have guessed by now - went for the most intriguing and adventurous choice: Whipped sea buckthorn, beer ice cream, damson jam and crispy rice:
Sea buckthorn

It turned out to be the perfect choice as it was light and refreshing after the first two courses of rich fish and meat. The sea buckthorn tasted fresh and fruity but not sweet with a distinctive flavour, a bit reminiscent of rowan. The beer ice cream was a revelation. It sounds bizarre but it really works. It's not strong but rather leaves you with a real ale aftertaste. Remarkable.

My dining companions were equally oohing and aahing about their choices for all the courses (for dessert, Sandi had the chocolate textures with "rosemary tea" and Tim had the tonka bean ice cream).

With cocktails, wines and tip (no automatic service charge!) our bill came to £60 per person, a perfectly reasonable price for the quality and amount of food consumed. Cosy surroundings and pleasant service rounded off the experience. Tuddenham Mill is a bit out of the way but it's well worth the trip.
Paul Foster and his team produce inspiring dishes with the freshest ingredients, many of which are foraged, using modern techniques to extract the maximum of flavour. It's exciting and feels new despite going back to the roots. I love this development and hope that it will spread.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Last night I met up with a friend and took her to Alimentum in Cambridge to introduce her to the wonders of their kitchen. I had mentioned I was going on twitter and as both chefs follow me, they asked me if we wanted them "to cook for us" (which usually involves a tasting menu with some extra treats and new dishes) and of course I said yes. We were also treated to a different glass of wine with each course which, considering we ended up having ten (11 counting coffee/petit fours), made us rather jolly indeed and Ed poured rather generously, too. :D

And here's what we had:

Butternut squash foam

The amuse bouche was a butternut squash foam with mustard cress. An almost fluffy soup, perfect for the season but very light. With that we had a sweet Sauvignon Blanc.

Beetroot and goat's cheese

The first course was various colours of pickled beetroot with goat's cheese and micro herbs. There were sweet and sour flavours, soft and crunchy textures, all balanced perfectly. The wine was Sauvignon Blanc, Torea Oystercatcher, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2010

Then came a course with two dishes (and a matched wine each) which we shared/swapped:
Wood pigeon

Wood pigeon breast, creamed liver, cep marmalade, seeds. Game and wild mushrooms are a favourite combination so this obviously worked well. The wine with this, a was stunningly oaky and smoky, perfect.
Pork Terrine

Pork terrine, black pudding, bacon and pineapple. The tangy pineapple replacing the usual apple made this for me as it's not as sweet. Needless to say, the flavours and textures harmonised perfectly again. As did the wine, a Old Blocks Reserve Pinotoge, Darling Cellars, Western Cape, South Africa, 2008. (I hope I didn't mix up those two).

We're moving on to seafood and fish:
Salmon, oyster, caviar

Oyster, smoked salmon, caviar, radish, apple. Raw oysters usually leave me cold and I don't get the attraction but in combination with the other elements in this dish I loved it as it, like the caviar added to the flavour. With it, we had an English white wine, a Solera, Fleurfields, Northampton, 2010.

Seabass, chickpeas, red pepper and anchovy

While all the food at Alimentum is excellent, I think they have a particular skill with fish. Always cooked perfectly, with crispy skin and soft flesh. This piece of sea bass was no exception, sitting on a savoury mix of chickpeas, red pepper, tomato and anchovy, a bit like a ratatouille. With it we had a red wine, Pinot Noir, Torea Oystercatcher, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2010, which might sound a bit unusual with fish but it went really well with the mediterranean flavours.


Roasted halibut, butternut squash, cabbage and pumpkin seeds. I find it hard to describe this without repeating myself in terms of flavour and texture combinations. So good. As was the wine, a rather hefty Trumpeter Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina, 2007.


One of only three meat dishes on our menu was venison loin, potato terrine, sprout leaves, girolles, juniper. Lovely soft meat, a bit more subtle in flavour than the one on Monday, wonderfully warming. There was definitely a hint of Christmas about this but that could just be because that's when my family traditionally cooks venison. The wine was a Malbec ‘Reserve’ Felipe Rutini, Mendoza, Argentina, 2007.

To finish, two desserts, served at the same time as we were running out of time:

Chocolate brownie and mousse (stacked) and blood orange. This brownie would put up a good fight against the ones from Gower Cottage and the added tart blood orange flavours just made my dark choc tastebuds jump.

Blackcurrant, apple, vanilla and crumble. (By that time I'd had far too much wine so the focus was completely off. Oops.) More dark fruity delights and textures.
The wines were Elysium Black Muscat, Andrew Quady, California, USA 2009 (what I like to call "alcoholic Ribena") and another surprise, Akashi-Tai Siraume Umeshu, plum Infused sake, Japan
We finished with coffee/mint tea and petit fours (bay leaf ganache and lime marshmellow) and then it was time to set off for the station so my friend could catch her train back to London.
What a treat, I will never get tired of this place.
I'm on a foodie roll at the moment because next week I'm going to Tuddenham Mill with two twitter friends I haven't actually met in real life yet.

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karohemd: by LJ user gothindulgence (Default)
After a few stressful weeks, I felt the need to indulge and reward myself so booked a table at Roganic for lunch. I'd been there during opening week but wanted to try out the new menu which is now all head chef Ben Spalding's.
Knowing that eating the full 10 course meal would take several hours, I'd booked a table for 12 and was indeed the only guest for a while. This meant I had a free choice of tables so naturally I picked the one by the window which provided excellent light for photography. I've written about the restaurant in my previous post so straight on to the food:

Squid ink paper amuse bouche

The amuse bouche was crunchy "squid ink paper" with a light and fresh cucumber mouse and various seeds. A lovely bite to tickle the tastebuds.

Bread and butter

The bread and butter. The bread (the new chestnut flatbread, pumpernickel, Irish soda and buttermilk) was just as good as during my first visit and the whipped butter was served on Jellybean, the pebble.

Heirloom tomato

The first course was "Heirloom tomato, poached lamb tongue, dill custard", layered in a bowl. Sandia Chang, the maitre d' who usually served me during this stay, described it as a savoury trifle which was a rather apt description with its various layers of different flavours and textures. The chopped, chewy tongue was at the bottom, then a layer of the soft dill custard and finally a sort of salsa. All very fresh flavours that expanded and chased each other as you chewed/moved the spoonful around in your mouth.

Braddock White duck egg

Braddock White duck egg, puff ball mushroom, barley flakes, samphire and marjoram oil. As with most dishes at Roganic, this was a delightul combination of textures: the warm soft egg, the crunchy mushroom and samphire and the crispy barley.

Then, an early highlight, not only culinary but also theatrically: Cured and smoked River Tweed trout, sweet and sour peppers, and crab apple:
Cured and smoked River Tweed trout Cured and smoked River Tweed trout Cured and smoked River Tweed trout

This was the most remarkable piece of fish I'd ever had. It was so soft it literally melted in my mouth, sweet and beautifully flavoured. The accompaniments suited it perfectly. What a delight.

Pork belly and smoked eel croquettes

Pork belly and smoked eel croquettes, black mustard, sea purslane and fresh corn was another taste revelation. The combination of pork belly and eel, both usually rather fatty, was rich but surpisingly not greasy at all. The sweetcorn was lovely (I really seem to be warming to it)

Stone baked prawn

Stone baked prawn, purple sprouting broccoli, pickled elderberries and loganberry oil. Charmingly, the prawn was at first presented to me raw on a large pepple before it was taken to the kitchen to be cooked (I sadly didn't take the chance to take a photo). Excellent combination with the tart fruit.

Royal Kidney potatoes

Royal Kidney potatoes cooked in chicken fat, snow peas, goat's curd and clam juice. The successor to the most stunning potatoes I've ever had, this was equally wonderful but completely different because it was served with liquid accompaniments.

Skate belly and king scallop

The stunners just kept on coming with this Skate belly and king scallop dish, served with young leek and caramelised cauliflower. The seafood wonderfully caramelised while cooked to perfection, this was another hearty dish.

Cumrian rose veal

Closely followed by the main, Cumbrian rose veal cooked in buttermilk then roasted, cobnuts, cabbage and mead sauce. Superb meat with excellent accompaniments. Another winner.


The first dessert: Bilberries (stewed and whole), dried caramel, natural yoghurt and iced lemon thyme. Lovely tart fruit with the powdery caramel not being sweet at all. This was a perfect palate cleanser after the earlier rich dishes.

White chocolate sorbet

The second dessert was a White chocolate sorbet with rapeseed, Herman plum and meadowsweet granita. Sweet granita, crunchy seeds (up until then I hadn't known you could actually eat rapeseed rather than just use them for oil) and tart plum. Perfect.

Bay leaf milkshake, shortbread

Bay leaf milkshake, shortbread. This was another surprise as the bay worked really well.

Skipping the cheese this time, I finished with a cup of hot chocolate, accompanied by the tiniest cupcake ever:
Mini cupcake, hot chocolate

The stunning food and the friendly, relaxed and chatty service made the three hours and 20 minutes I spent at the restaurant fly by in no time. Having eaten so well, I didn't actually need another meal that day and only brunch the next.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
In a sleepy little village called Little Wilbraham, just outside Cambridge off the road towards Newmarket is the Hole in the Wall, the restaurant run by last year's Masterchef runner-up Alex Rushmer.
I've been wanting to go since it opened in July but not having access to a car at the moment prevented me from doing so this far. Wednesday evening I finally had the opportunity as I wanted to treat a good friend to a hearty meal as a leaving present and he agreed to drive.

The Hole in the Wall has been an alehouse/pub for a long time and has been tastefully redecorated and converted into a restaurant (it's still a Free House, too). It's quite a rambling building with low ceilings and exposed beams everywhere creating a rather comfortable and homely atmosphere. The scrubbed wooden tables and chairs seem to have been sourced from all over the place as none are alike which only adds to the character.

As we were hungry, we declined having a drink first and were shown to our table, the waiter brought a pitcher of water and the menus. We were also offered a selection of breads of which I had the sourdough which was nice. The menu offered and interesting selection but my mind was made up very quickly for the starter when I saw wood pigeon. For main I wavered between the duck and the veal shin but decided on the latter as it's still quite rare to get veal.

Wood Pigeon, Barley, Beetroot
Wood pigeon, beetroot barley risotto

The pigeon was seared, nice and soft and the beetroot barley risotto was perfectly cooked with an excellent bite. A few slices and puree of differently coloured beetroot rounded off the dish, an excellent starter

Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder, apple
Slow cooked pork shoulder

My companion's starter which he was very happy with. You can just see the chopped seasoned apple behind the meat.

The main event, we both had one:
Braised Veal Shin, Saffron Risotto, Romanesco
Braised shin of rose veal, saffron risotto, romanesco

This was absolutely stunning. The rich meat fell apart, there was crunchy marrow inside the bone and a lovely sauce. A minor weak point, the risotto was tasty but a touch overcooked for my liking, more like a rice pudding than a risotto with hardly any distinct grains. However, this did little to distract from the greatness of the meat. True food porn. It was a huge hunk of meat, though, almost a bit too big as part of a three course meal. I struggled towards the end but made it. Still, there are always people who complain about portion sizes so those will love the substance.

After that hunk of meat we were rather full but didn't want to leave without dessert so let the food settle for a while, helped along in my case by a dram of Highland Park. Then we eventually chose desserts:

Chocolate Pot
Chocolate Pot

My companion's dessert. The pot contained a dense mousse (almost a bit like Nutella) with a layer of salted caramel, and there was more caramel in the little truffle. He said the brownie and vanilla ice cream were excellent, too.

Duchess of Cambridge Tart
Duchess of Cambridge Tart

This is the HITW's signature dessert, with a buttery biscuitcrispy, crumbly pastry base, a creme brulee filling and a lovely Cointreau and raisin ice cream on top. Reasonably light so a perfect end to this meal.

Service was friendly, efficient and unobtrusive, perfectly adequate for the setting but they possibly could be a bit more prepared to talk about the food, both when serving it and after. They almost seemed a bit shy.

All in all, an excellent meal, and good value for the quality of food, too. 75 pounds for two, three courses each, a large glass of red, a shot of Belvedere, a dram of Highland Park and a glass of orange juice. Highly recommended if you're in the area and have a car (or don't mind the taxi fare).

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karohemd: (Chef)
After a couple of weeks of mediocre fare, I finally had some inspiration again and produced something worth posting.
I found some nice seabass fillets and when I saw the watercress various recipes I'd seen online clicked in my head. The fillets were simply pan-fried for two minutes on the skin side, seasoned with salt and pepper and flipped. I picked the watercress leaves and blitzed them with half a garlic glove and good olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Seabass, watercress pesto, toasted pine nuts

I'm really happy with how this came out. :D
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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Wednesday, I attended a food photography workshop run by Paul Winch-Furness (details on that to come next week, when I've had time to write it up and process all the photos) at The Ship, a nice and big pub and restaurant in Wandsworth. Included in the workshop fee was a three-course lunch, we even had our own set menu (three choices for each course and this is what I had:

Lunch - Seared Wood Pigeon
Seared Wood Pigeon, Braised Puy Lentils, Dried Pancetta and Baby Roquette

The meat was nicely seared and cooked on the rare side of medium rare (nicely rested and warm throughout) and the earthy lentils and pancetta matched perfectly.

Lunch - Lamb Shank
Lamb Shank, Black Olive and Chorizo Mash, Rosemary Gravy.

This was big enough to be a course on its own, not as part of three courses but it was great. The bone came out without resistance as I grabbed it and the meat fell apart, just as it should be. Excellent gravy and lovely mash, enriched by chorizo. Not exactly a light dish but great flavours. I recommend this before an evening of heavy drinking.

Lunch - Vanilla Pannacotta
Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackberry and Blueberry Compote

Made with real vanilla, the pannacotta was soft and flavourful, the tart stewed berries offering an excellent contrast and the crunchy biscuit was great, too.

Everything was cooked perfectly and presented well, definitely on a good restaurant level of food rather than pub grub.

Short URL: http://bit.ly/KaroShip
karohemd: (Chef)
Halloumi "burger"

Ingredients (for one, multiply accoringly):
block halloumi
portobello mushrooms (the big ones)
1 beetroot
2 tomatoes
2 gloves of garlic, 1cm ginger, mixed herbs, olive oil
salt, pepper, pimenton

I first boiled the beetroot, then quartered and peeled it, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of sea salt and kept warm wrapped in foil.

The halloumi was sliced in three and marinaded in olive oil, pimenton and pepper (you don't need any salt as the cheese is salty enough) while the beetroot was boiling, then fried in the marinade with the portobello mushrooms (sliced in half).

For the couscous, I deseeded and finely chopped two tomatoes and cooked them down in olive oil with garlic, a bit of ginger, dried mediterranean herbs, freshly sliced chilli and seasoned with salt and pepper. Into that I stirred the couscous, added as much boiling water as needed and put on a lid until the couscous was nice and plump.

I started with a pile of couscous on the plate then stacked mushroom and halloumi slices in the centre and arranged the beetroot on the side.
karohemd: (Chef)
Pork Chop, Courgette, Buttery Mash, Cider Sauce
Pork Chop, Courgette, Buttery Mash, Cider Sauce
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
When I heard of Roganic opening I canceled my original dinner booking on Friday and booked a table there instead. I had heard and read very exciting things about Simon Rogan's food at L'Enclume so when I learned he was opening a (temporary but relatively long-term of two years) restaurant in London I saw my chance to sample his food without having to trek to the Lake District and phoned to book a table and managed to get one of the last ones.
The restaurant on Blandford St. (about 150 yards up the road from L'Autre Pied so in excellent company) has an unassuming, green front, so much so that I walked right past it the first time. The restaurant itself is rather small (only 25 covers) with a front room and a small extension in the back with skylights. There are only placemats on the dark brown tables, which gives the place a nicely casual atmosphere. If there is one thing I can't stand in fine dining restaurants it's stiff white tablecloths with equally stiff waiting staff. At Roganic, the first are absent and the latter are anything but stiff. I received a very friendly welcome was shown to my table in the back overlooking the rest of the restaurant (which is great, some places put lone diners in a corner somewhere) and given the menu and wine list.
Now, here's the thing about Roganic: There is only one choice for dinner, the ten(!) course tasting menu (at least currently, I believe some other options are planned and lunch is either five or the full ten courses and there are vegetarian options for each). Helpfully, they left the menu on the table which was handy when trying to remember what exactly it was I was currently eating.
The equally friendly and helpful sommelier recommended a glass of nice white wine for me (which I can't remember now, must remember to take photos of bottle labels but the second glass was a Roter Veltliner) and then the first treat appeared, a "chickpea and rosemary waver":
A taster shot:

September 2017

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