Thai fried fish, beef cheek curry, pork with morning glory

Authentic Thai food from Som Saa review

Having lived in Thailand, I’m quite fussy with my Thai food and I really judge a place if it doesn’t have Som Tam on the menu (spicy green papaya salad).

I’d been wanting to try Som Saa for a while, but unless you have 4 or more, you couldn’t book and would have to chance a potential queue in order to get in.  I really don’t like having to wait to enter a restaurant, especially when you have no idea how long you might have to wait!

So Som Saa serves traditional regional dishes without a Phad Thai or Green Curry in sight.  Dishes are supposed to be shared, which is the way Thai food is supposed to be eaten, not ordered individually per person.  So I was glad when they encouraged this.

I can handle my spice more than most, but I know I’d have to compromise on dishes with heat, especially when I checked Instagram the night before and saw someone call the guinea fowl jungle curry “The hottest thing they’ve ever had”.  Instead, we opted for: Thai style grilled chicken leg with tamarind dipping sauce, grilled quail with crispy garlic – both were small dishes to be shared.

For the slightly larger dishes, we chose the stir fried morning glory with crispy pork and the whole deep fried seabass with roasted rice powder and issan herbs from the Wok section.

Thai fried fish, beef cheek curry, pork with morning glory

Now for the som tam, there were two options of Bangkok style or country style with the differences being dried shrimp in the Bangkok version and apple aubergines and ‘pla raa’ (fermented fish seasoning) in the country version.  Bangkok style is what I’m used to, with plenty of spice…my favourite!

Som Tam Salad

Finally, we ordered the five spiced soy braised beef cheek with chilli vinegar sauce and then some sticky rice and jasmine rice to soak up all the goodness.

We felt for four people, we could have ordered one more dish, and we did try to order one after we had devoured the other dishes, but the wait became too long and we cancelled the order.  Desserts in Thailand aren’t my favourite – usually too sweet and sickly, but Thai fruit is great.  There was a choice of three desserts: salted palm sugar ice cream with banana, perfumed syrup with Thai fruit, coconut and pandanus ice or fruit.  We weren’t too keen, so decided to forgo the desserts.

All in all, this has quickly become one of my favourites, with authentic Thai food, in a lovely warehouse style environment and wasn’t too crowded.  Definitely keen to go again!

Jolly Gardeners review

As a treat for my Dad’s birthday, we decided to take him to Earlsfield, to the pub run by Dhruv Baker – a previous MasterChef winner.

Dhruv is known for his East meets West cooking style and so we were excited to try the food and booked a lunch, but unfortunately Dhruv wasn’t present.  However, the food was a great experience.

All three of us opted for different dishes for the starter: Prawn ceviche with chilli, coriander and coconut dressing, Spinach and ricotta ravioli, sage and Parmesan and then I went for the Ham hock terrine, with honey mustard dressing, frisse salad and toast.  I would’ve gone for the ceviche, but I’d had a meal at Ceviche, the night before!

The ham hock was as expected, but maybe one piece of toast too much, but was a perfect start to a meal.

Next up, were the main courses, of which my Mum and I went for the same dish of Pan fried sea bream, turmeric potatoes and coconut French beans and my Dad went for the lemon sole with butter potatoes, asparagus and a hollandaise sauce.  The sea bream was where we really saw the fusion food come to life with the spiced potatoes and coconut with French beans (which I’ve never heard of before!).  The meals were all delicious but I think we all agreed that portion size was a bit too much with a heavy dose of potatoes and vegetables and we all left something on the plate, meaning there was no room for dessert!

All in all, a lovely pub with a great outdoor area for the Summer.  I wouldn’t hesitate to revisit and try other options, but might skip the starter so I could sample a dessert instead maybe!

 

Apple & Raspberry cake

Apple & Raspberry Cake recipe – Gluten free/vegan

Another Cake Friday in the office, another challenge.  After making successful brownies and a not so successful carrot cake, I wanted to try something else.  Something fresh and that’s where the discovery of a gluten free, vegan apple cake came in.  I wanted to add some other flavours so raspberries worked a treat!

Ingredients

Dry:

  • 2 cups of gluten free flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Wet:

  • 1 cup of dates + 1/4 up of boiling water to soak them in
  • 3/4 cup of soy milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 apples – 2 grated and 2 thinly sliced
  • 200g of raspberries
  • Coconut oil for greasing

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 175C and grease up the sides of a 23cm circular tin with some coconut oil.
  2. Soak dates in boiling water to soften.  Let it cool and keep the liquid.
  3. Add the dry ingredients in a big bowl and mix well.
  4. Blend wet ingredients (dates, water from dates, soy milk, vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar) in a blender until smooth.
  5. Add grated apple and blend again.
  6. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold carefully, add raspberries and smoosh these around.
  7. Pour the mixture into the tin and then place the sliced apples in concentric circles n the top.  Dust with cinnamon and optional, some brown sugar and then place in the oven.
    Apple & Raspberry cake
  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes until testing with a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Remove and let cool and if you want to, you can dust the top with some icing sugar, but not necessary!

Apple & Raspberry cake

This cake went down a treat and thoroughly recommend it!

A taste of Krakow

This was my first trip to Poland, and I was lucky enough to visit with work.  Poland isn’t really known for its cuisine, but I still wanted to try something traditional and especially peirogi, which are Polish dumplings.  John Torode off of Masterchef, always talks about his grandmother’s peirogies, so of course I had to try them!

My first experience of Polish food was in a slightly more upmarket restaurant, and I jumped at the chance to have the meat peirogies which were really lovely.  Not hugely filling and just about the right number of them. Miod Malina restaurant was in the ‘Old Town’ area, off the main street and seemed to refine Polish cuisine.  Whereas other places I had seen, were keen to load your plate full of meat and carbohydrates and no green vegetables (but we’ll get to that a bit later!).

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A working takeaway lunch is not really the done thing in Poland, and when visiting a huge Tesco supermarket, there was nothing for a quick lunch, but hundreds of cheeses and sausages!  I did manage to find a quick sandwich somewhere else though! Another day, another dinner, but this time a quick one in the Jewish Quarter – more like a drunken snack after a night out, but a lot more appealing than a kebab!  Introducing a Zapiekanki, dating back to the 1970s, is an open faced sandwich with toppings.  The more traditional version is with mushrooms and cheese served with ketchup.  However, I couldn’t resist one named ‘Yummy’ with mozzarella, mushrooms, spinach, tomato and herbs with a basil sauce.

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This was then followed by a salted caramel ice cream, which is my favourite flavour and really hit the spot, before enjoying a couple of pints with colleagues in an atmospheric outdoor bar in the Jewish Quarter.

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I then had a weekend to myself, and after a long day visiting Auschwitz and the salt mines, I just wanted a dinner close to the hotel.  It seemed like a family friendly and fairly local place and I thought I’d try another variety of peirogi filled with cheese and potato, and then I chose one of their new dishes ‘Tender pork knuckle, boiled in bouillon and served with warm Bavarian sauerkraut, potatoes and fresh horseradish’.

As the peirogi was a starter, I assumed I’d get that first, however I was served a plate of sauerkraut (maybe because I said I was hungry?), and then I was served the pork knuckle.  Not the best looking dish, and I stupidly thought the grated horseradish was grated cheese!  A very beige meal, with two different types of ‘blow your head off’ mustards.

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After digging around to find the edible bits of meat and half finishing the meal, the peirogies turned up.  I was already quite stuffed!  Suffice to say… I didn’t finish my meal!  I think the waiter took pity on me too as I was eating alone and gave me a cherry shot with the bill.  At this point I was craving a vegetable…any vegetable! The greener, the better!

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After a walking tour of the Old Town, on my final day, I was still craving fresh salads and vegetables and broke with tradition and had a very un-Polish meal of a Greek salad.  But it was very tasty!  As part of the tour, I found out that there was an Italian Queen at one point and she tried her best to introduce Italian vegetables to the diet, including tomatoes and aubergine etc… but the local people weren’t too happy about her trying to make them eat healthier.

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Bacon naan roll

Dishoom for breakfast

You normally wouldn’t think of an Indian restaurant for breakfast or brunch, with ideas of curries probably dancing around your head.  But then again, this is Dishoom and a breakfast there is pretty memorable.

I made the journey over to Shoreditch and we sat in the ‘inside’ area, with the outside area covered but still actually indoors.  I arrived early, and having eaten there before for lunch and dinner, I was already looking forward to a cup of house chai while was waiting.  People who know me, know I don’t really drink hot drinks, which is very ‘un-English’ of me, as I don’t start my day with a coffee and then drink five cups of tea a day.  The house chai is a fragrant milky tea with spices (I’m assuming cloves, cardamom and maybe aniseed?).

Dishoom House Chai

Once everyone arrived, there was no doubt in my mind what I’d be having.  The famous bacon naan roll, with smoked streaky bacon coming from The Ginger Pig, dry-cured with rock salt and demerara sugar then cold smoked over oak chips.  Served with cream cheese, chilli tomato jam and herbs.  This is pure genius, and so tasty, I probably could’ve ordered another!  They also had options with egg and sausage as well as a twist on an English cooked breakfast.

 

Bacon naan roll

If only they had one a little closer to home, but then I’d be tempted to go every weekend!

Ristorante la Caravella, Amalfi – restaurant review 

When a foodie meets another foodie on a holiday, both like visiting restaurants and Michelin star rated ones, then of course you might look one up.  Looking in the Amalfi coast region for the top 10 restaurants, a 1 Michelin star restaurant ‘La Caravella’ popped up.

Thinking it might be like London, where restaurants have a 3 month waiting list, we thought we’d try our luck and low and behold they had a table free for us.

The restaurant is right by the main coastal road by Amalfi, but not near enough that you get any type of view.  The place has been around for 50 years and was the first south of Italy to gain a Michelin star.  The decor was lovely, with lots of local ceramics and pottery to catch the eye and as we took a seat, we realised we nearly had the place to ourselves.  There was one other table of two , making six people in total.  The place was missing some atmosphere.

Three of us ordered from the degustation menu, which I recommend you do, rather than a la crate, which would end up as the same price but with a lot less to eat!  The wine list needed the strength that you normally reserve for flicking to the index of an Argos catalogue.  With such a large book, you’d expect a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, but were told they used to offer it but no one ordered it so they stuck to mainly Italian and some others.  We then ordered a Sauvignon Blanc from Slovakia…it was orange, smelled and tasted completely different to what I would expect, wouldn’t recommend!

Anyway, onto the food! Menu as follows:

Sushi raw fish of the day

Stuffed anchovies with smoked mozzarella cheese served on broccoli and anchovy sauce

Home made cuttlefish ink pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and lobster served with tomato, squid and fried bread

Small spaghetti omelette, with the aroma of fish and seafood

White fish gratin stewed with Greco di Tufo wine with fennel julienne, sun dried tomato and fresh mint

Lemon sorbet

Fried cake filled with ricotta cheese, wheat, candied fruit and served with orange ice cream

Remember, that I said that we almost had the restaurant to ourselves, so we ended up getting a few extra dishes from the other choice of menu too, but I’ll let you read on to find out what one of the most surprising dishes was!

I forgot the photograph the sushi, but I remembered the rest!

Stuffed anchoviesThe stuffed anchovies were one of the stars of the meal, memorable and tasty!

Cuttlefish ravioli My personal favourite was this cuttlefish ravioli.  The visual of the meal always adds to the enjoyment of the meal, and this was visually pleasing and really really tasty!

Spaghetti omeletteWhen you’re expecting a small spaghetti omelette, you wouldn’t really expect the above.  I actually didn’t really know what to expect.  The seafood was perfect and broth was tasty. Not sure i’m sold on a spaghetti omelette though.

Fish gratinWhite fish gratin was tasty but a bit dry and not memorable.

Lemon sorbet When you’re in Amalfi, you have to try something with lemons and when lemons come as part of your dish, you have high expectations and this sorbet had so much flavour in a small spoon. Burst of sunshine in your mouth and made me want more!
Fried cakeThis was a bit disappointing as the cake was very dry and quite heavy after so many courses already.  We thought this was the end of our meal, but there was one little surprise left.

Aubergine with chocolateLet me introduce to you ‘Aubergine with chocolate’.  Yup…you read that right.  It was like a bit of slime covered with bitter chocolate and one of the party accidentally had it slip from her spoon, spoiling the table cloth.  It was trying to be edgy, trying to be different, but if this appeared on masterchef, I know that they would not be impressed! It was a disappointing end to the meal and should have ended on the lemon sorbet.

I’m sure the atmosphere will be better during the peak summer months hopefully and the menu changes according to the season, so maybe the aubergine will come off the menu!

Table for 10 supperclub

When your friend asks you to go to a trial run of her supperclub, of course you’d say yes!  A night of food and good company, whilst giving suggestions for future runs of the supperclub.
Wendy and Reshma had been planning to do a supperclub for about a year and finally took the plunge with a trial run with friends.  Both have a love of food, travel and wine, with them suggesting a red wine to bring to the evening (but since I’d had a lot of red wine recently, I brought white!).  So Table for 10 was born, simply because they would be cooking for 10 people, but the name is still up in the air.

Italian food was chosen as the theme as they both love Italian food and it was within their comfort zone.  We were greeted with a glass of prosecco and raspberries and then sat down for a four course meal with the menu printed at each place setting.

Menu for Table for 10
Antipasto
Chargrilled courgettes, wild rocket, Greek feta, pine nuts, almonds, cranberries

Primo
Mushroom risotto, white truffle oil, parsley

Secondo
Eight hour slow cooked on cheek, polenta, Parmesan crisp

Dolce
Tiramisu, orange, amaretto

There was fresh home baked bread with some pancetta I believe, which was so good and so different!  The salad was lovely and a refreshing way to start the evening, with the cranberries adding a zingy twist.  The dressing was a secret recipe but was complemented the dish beautifully.  Next up was the risotto, perfectly cooked and delicious, but a little too much on the plate for me.

Courgette salad

Mushroom risotto
The star of the night was the ox cheek, which was either cooked for six or eight hours, the menu said eight but I think the host said six in the end.  It fell apart beautifully and so succulent with a lovely sauce.  The polenta was great too, but again slightly too much of it on the plate after a previous filling plate.  Portion sizes were mentioned and not everyone agreed! 

Slow cooked ox cheek
Now… I’m not a fan of tiramisu, which one of the hosts knew, but it’s mainly because of the soggy sponge rather than the flavour so mine wasn’t as soggy.  As far as tiramisu goes, it was probably one of the best I’ve had, but I’m still not converted!  It was served with a shot of amaretto, which went down very well! And was a lovely twist and great way to end the meal!

Tiramisu
Lots of tips were discussed, from providing butter or olive oil for the bread, heating up the plates to keep food warm, introducing each plate and other tips and suggestions.  I hope that they launch this and I will definitely be plugging it again on blog and my instagram page when it goes live! 

Italian adventure: from Bari to Naples

Italy, the land of food.  Sure it’s known for wonderful landscapes, history and fashion, but the food is one thing that attracts me and unfortunately the bathroom scales agree!  As we travelled from Bari airport to Alberobello to stay in the trulli houses and then on to the natural Castellena caves, there were always tastes and smells of fresh fruit, meats and cheeses everywhere.  From the caves, on to stay at Taranto for Easter Sunday, meaning only one restaurant was open and very few options for lunch the next day!  Amazing and cheap ice cream (gelato) at Matera where we stayed in Sassi cave dwellings and experienced a lovely meal at a vineyard, trying the local Dragone wines.  

Amalfi and a walk to Positano on the coast, before our history portion of he trip to Pompeii and Herculaneum and then to Naples, which had plenty of food to tempt me!

When near the coast, you have no excuses not to have a fish dish and so I sampled dorade and swordfish.  If you get a chance to try dorade… do. It’s moist and succulent and served very simply.  Italian food has such style to it that the flavour is enhanced by the simplicity on the plate.  Maybe this goes back to Italy also being known for fashion.

Dorade in Italy  Swordfish in Italy

Simple lunches of focaccia with mozzarella or other local cheeses and prosciutto ham for next to nothing in cost for a quick bite while hiking and in between stops on a busy day.  Beats pret lunches any day!  One of the best drinks, was a freshly squeezed Amalfi lemonade on a stop from the ‘walk of the Gods’.  I had been waiting for a fresh lemonade after seeing the huge and contorted shapes and sizes of the lemons in the region. 

Ham and mozzarella focaccia
Amalfi lemonade
Any chance for burrata or mozzarella must be taken and spaghetti and pizza must be eaten at least once!  In Amalfi I jumped at the chance for spaghetti vongole, a dish with succulent clams and a negroni to enjoy the evening.

Fish carpaccio with burrata
Spaghetti vongole clams
When looking for restaurants, I often looked at TripAdvisor but as I know ratings can be rigged, a local ‘top 10’ can help too.  Unfortunately as we were in Italy over Easter, a lot of restaurants close and didn’t give many options.  I did, however, notice a 1 Michelin star restaurant in Amalfi was on the list.  With my London mindset, I thought there would be a 3 month waiting list, but we managed to get a booking for the next night at ‘La Caravella’.

La Caravella - Amalfi

I’ve been to a couple Michelin star restaurants now and this was similar with a tasting menu, although they only had Italian wines (apparently they used to have NZ but no one ordered them).  The restaurant was lovely with lots of ceramics and art, but there were only 6 people in total at the restaurant, so it lacked atomsophere.  There were some experimental dishes (chocolate and aubergine) and some that were delightful (squid ink ravioli filled with ricotta and lobster), but I’ll leave a full review for another blog.

In Naples, we tried pizza (obviously) but unless you stuck to the original Margherita pizza, you might not have been so happy.  The original Naples pizza wasn’t to the taste of a few, where it is thin, soft and elastic but can be mistaken for being undercooked.  The tomatoes must be San Marzano tomatoes which grow south of Mount Vesuvius, mozzarella campana and basil.  The dough must be hand kneaded fresh to order too.  

Naples Pizza
On my final day in Naples, after visiting the archaeological museum, I popped down to Spaccanapoli, which splits Naples in half through the narrow, old, historic centre.  This was my last opportunity, and so I had a mini cannoli, sfogliatella to take home – which is a shell shaped pastry with a ricotta and orange peel filling and an ‘Amalfi’ ice cream which was lemon based.  I also purchased a quick lunch of a pizza bread filled with ham and cheese to eat before boarding the plane.  I felt like I was on a desperate mission to buy my laste few tastes of Italy before heading home!

Sfogliatella
Amalfi gelato
Amongst my purchases, were handmade orecchiette which resemble a small ear, limoncello which will be kept in the freezer, Dragone white white (similar to a Vino Verde).  I already have some herbs and dried porcini from my parents last visit.

My Italian adventure is far from over, I needed more time in Pompeii, I needed more sun and will probably visit somewhere along the Amalfi coast once more and I obviously need to try more food.  Until next time Italy! 

Amalfi lemonsItaly negroniItaly pastryItaly coffeeItaly marketsMatera gelato