Wednesday, 30 July 2014

TOM'S KITCHEN, CHELSEA

Arabella and I went to meet our gorgeous friend Ceri for lunch the other day near her office - I booked Tom's Kitchen as I had been there early June and had a fantastic (if expensive) meal. Ceri was a little unsure of my choice as she reminded me of our first trip to Tom's Kitchen when it first opened 8 years ago and we were charged £18 for a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese….!!

Anyway I was keen to go and I promised Ceri that it had improved and was a great lunch spot especially with a little one and it served natural, organic fresh ingredients - so we met there yesterday. Unfortunately I was oh so wrong…!

The menu is great - plenty of choice such as burrata, sharing charcuterie platters, burgers or more fancy meals like summer minestrone of rabbit. Plus there is a kid's menu along with a great activity pack which entertained Arabella non stop.

Ceri and I were both trying to be healthy so we ordered the super summer salad of quinoa, feta, mint, peas and broad beans for £10.75. Due to the description I was expecting a robust quinoa salad with the added bits…..wow I could not have been more wrong….


It was lettuce with about 10 grains of quinoa which were very sweet tasting….not a good addition to the salad. The rest of the salad was tasty but the portion was absolutely tiny….definitely not worth the cost in the slightest or at all filling. Maybe it was poor ordering on our part but I did not imagine it to be like this. A pret-a-manger salad is way superior and more satisfying.

Arabella on the other hand ordered mini cheeseburgers which were absolutely delicious. There was serious food envy from Ceri and I!


The service was very attentive and friendly but one thing I have to mention is the terrible loos - I think even McDonald's has superior facilities. Just one loo for each sex and the stench of stale urine was revolting - maybe Tom Aiken's needs to stop opening new branches and redo the ones he has….it was so off putting. The last time I went it was the same but I thought it was a one off….obviously not. This was enough to make me never want to go to the restaurant again. It makes you think about the cleanliness of the rest of the restaurant...

It is very rare when I don't enjoy a meal, but I have to say this place was a real let down. Thankfully there are so many great places in the same area like Bumpkin or The Builder's Arms that I won't have to go again. What shocks me the most is I was considering having my wedding lunch here….thank goodness not…

Tom's Kitchen

27 Cale Street,
London
SW3 3QP
Tel: 020 7349 0202

Square Meal 

Tom's Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, 28 July 2014

SUMMER ROAST CHICKEN & MEDITERRANEAN VEGETABLES

This week I have been very keen to cook fish burgers however both Arabella and Pascal have turned their noses up so I think that will be a recipe for just me another time! 

Instead I cooked a chicken recipe from Lorraine which I thought looked absolutely delicious and really easy, although I did make a few alterations. One other positive about it is that you can make the chicken beforehand and then keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook.

Ingredients for 2 people:

2 skinless chicken breasts
25g sun-blush tomatoes, chopped
25g green olives, chopped
50g cream cheese (I used light)
Small handful of basil, chopped
4 slices of parma ham
2 peppers, cut into large chunks
1 red onion, cut into chunks,
100g baby courgette, cut into chunks (we left this out)
6 cherry tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic, halved horizontally
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar


Preheat the oven to 200 C / gas mark 6.

Slice the olives, tomatoes and basil.


Mix with the cream cheese and season.


Lay the parma ham - two per chicken breast and then using a sharp knife, make a pocket in the chicken breast horizontally. You need to make sure you don't cut all the way through (which I obviously did on my first one - doh)!


Stuff the pocket with the cream cheese mixture.


Then wrap with the parma ham.


Cut off a square / rectangle of foil and wrap the chicken in the foil twisting the ends so it resembles a cracker.


Chop the veg and put into a roasting tray. Mix with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season.


Make space for the chicken wraps.


Put it in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through.


Slice the chicken and serve with the veg - bon appetit!



I really enjoyed it - really tasty and full of flavours and the vegetables had a real crunch to them which was divine. I loved the addition of the garlic as well. Arabella prefers Fay's Roll Up Chicken which I also adore however this makes a great alternative. I will definitely be doing this again, healthy but delicious….a real treat.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

ROASTED VEGETABLE & GOAT'S CHEESE QUINOA

This recipe is so quick and delicious, that I have already made it several times but I am yet to blog about it….however I have promised my gorgeous friend Ceri I will do it tonight so she can cook it. It is another recipe from Pinterest and is the perfect accompaniment to a barbecue or fish dish or you can even eat it just as it is.

Ingredients for 4-6 people:

300g quinoa
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme or a tsp of dried thyme
1.2 litres of vegetable stock
1-2 aubergines, sliced
1 pepper, cut into chunks
1 red onion, cut into chunks
200g cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil
150g goat's cheese, sliced
Fresh basil, for decoration (optional)
Salt & pepper



I forgot to put the basil and aubergine in the photo - doh!

Anyway start off by preheating the oven to 190 C / gas mark 5. Put the quinoa in a sieve and rinse with cold water (sometimes the quinoa can taste bitter if you don't do this). Mix the stock with boiling water.



Then add to the quinoa in a saucepan along with the thyme (I used dry). Bring to the boil and then simmer and cover for 20 minutes until the stock is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.



While this is cooking, roast the pepper, garlic and red onion in the oven with some olive oil and salt for around 15 minutes (I like veg to have a crunch - if you prefer you can cook them longer).



Fry or griddle the aubergines in plenty of oil and salt. Each side takes about 5 minutes.



Once cooked rest on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.


Add the tomatoes to the vegetables in the oven and cook for a further five minutes.



 Mix all the the veg together with the quinoa.



Then add the goat's cheese and stir it in so it starts to melt.



Finally decorate with some basil leaves and tuck in.


This is an incredible dish and healthy too. You can even do it without the cheese if you fancy. It is great on its own but also delicious with a barbecue whether that is meat or fish….in fact I would say it goes with everything. It's like Pringles….once you make it, you can't stop!!!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

THE MONSTER SANDWICH

Gosh it is hot at the moment - I am not complaining however I do wish I had air conditioning or at least a fan! Pascal, Arabella and I decided to have a picnic in the park the other evening as it is near the river so at least we have a breeze. I took full advantage of this and decided to make "the monster sandwich" which we all love and is perfect for such an occasion. It is a Fay Ripley recipe and best made the day / night before.

Ingredients for 4 people (however it depends on the size of your bread - mine was 400g):

1 large, round loaf
200g pesto (fresh is best)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
100g sliced chicken
2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
200g mozzarella, sliced
75g salami or ham
handful of fresh, washed baby spinach


Cut the lid off the loaf and set aside. Gouge out the inside of the loaf, leaving a hollow shell. Put the bread inside a food processor and pulse into bread crumbs.


Split in half and mix one half with the pesto and the other half with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Now assemble in layers. Start with the pesto bread crumbs. Push each layer down really well with the back of a spoon.


Then the chicken.


Then the tomato.


Then the mozzarella.


Then the salami or ham.


Then the spinach.


Then the remaining breadcrumbs.


Then pop on the lid!


Wrap the sandwich in cling film and place a heavy book or something similar on top and leave in the fridge overnight.


When you are ready, cut into slices, serve and enjoy!



It was absolutely delicious - I do love a sandwich and I really love this as there is far more filling than bread….plus it looks spectacular - no need to mention to anyone how easy it actually is to make!!

Friday, 25 July 2014

DIRTY BURGER, VAUXHALL

I like to make the most of living in London by visiting the parks (we had a hilarious time on a pedalo in Hyde Park on Tuesday), enjoying the various markets like Borough and discovering the many museums. 

After watching the Sound of Music numerous times, Arabella has become really interested in World War II and so we were very happy to hear the Imperial War Museum had reopened after a big refurbishment. We had a great time, especially in the Horrible Histories section however it was a little old for her (she is 6) - I think I need to wait several more years until she can really appreciate it…I loved it though!

It was pouring with rain when we left so we just jumped on the first bus that would take us to a tube and I nearly passed out with delight when I saw "Dirty Burger" at Vauxhall station. Dirty Burger is one of the latest ventures from the Soho House team. I consider the burger at the Electric Brasserie one of the best I have ever so I had high hopes.

It was surprisingly quiet - just one person waiting for a take away so we ordered straight away and grabbed a seat. There were only about 14 stools inside the burger bar and about 8 seats outside so I imagine it can be extremely busy at times.

The menu is simple - there are two breakfast burgers and then a cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger and a veggie one. For sides you have a choice of crinkle cut fries or onion fries and then there are donuts for pudding. They also serve milkshakes, a few beers and soft drinks. It is all very laid back and "shack" like.



Arabella ordered a cheeseburger and me a bacon burger and we shared some chips.

It was freshly cooked and service was very friendly. The burgers soon arrived and I realised I had made an error with Arabella's! They were packed with tomato, lettuce, pickles and a mustardy sauce….not really her cup of tea!! I removed the lettuce the best I could and happily added the pickles to mine. She was so busy tucking into the chips she didn't notice what was going on. The fries were definitely much better than we expected - perfectly salted and crunchy.




I had the bacon cheeseburger which was exactly the same as Arabella's but with extra thick cut bacon.



No wonder this place is called Dirty Burger - this certainly was a dirty experience - I had sauce and burger and lettuce everywhere….Arabella even managed to get some in her hair! I enjoyed my burger but it wasn't the best I have ever had, the bacon was very salty and so that overpowered everything else. I loved the pickles, the mustardy sauce and the soft bun but the cheese and patty were pretty unmemorable which is surprising as the meat is sourced from the Ginger Pig Butcher and I am a cheese addict (maybe there wasn't enough cheese)?!

Arabella was not that enamoured with her burger either - too much sauce for her. We both decided it was a good burger but nothing spectacular and not a patch on our favourite Shake Shack. It is a shame as it had the potential to be awesome! 

I won't be rushing back but having said that if I was in the area and starving I would give it another go and try their onion fries as well. I can imagine it would be a very welcome meal after a few too many shandies!!


Arch 45
6 South Lambeth Road
London 
SW8 1SS
Tel: 020 7174 1444

Square Meal 

Dirty Burger on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

SPINACH & PINE NUT GRATIN

I am a HUGE fan of the TV show 24, I would even be tempted to say it was the best series I have ever seen…..and I have watched a lot of television in my time! So when 24 returned to our screens this year, I recorded every episode so Pascal and I could watch them all in one go and that is exactly what we did on Sunday - we literally spent all day on the sofa in our pjs…..it was bliss!

Obviously we had to eat so we cooked a Roast Pork Belly and as a side we decided to try something new…..Spinach and Pine Nut Gratin.

We made the recipe according to the instructions but then only actually used half the cream mix as it would have been far too creamy with it all - so ignore all the eggs etc in the picture and just follow the ingredient list below.

Ingredients for 4 people:

10g butter
75g pine nuts
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
450g spinach
A big pinch of ground nutmeg
2 eggs
225ml skimmed milk
75ml whipping cream


Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4 & grease a serving dish.

Slice the garlic, onions and pick the thyme leaves.


Heat the butter in a frying pan until foaming and then add the pine nuts for a few minutes, stirring often, until golden.


Then add the garlic, onion and thyme to the pan and fry gently for around 10 minutes until they are sweet and softened.


While this was cooking, I made the sauce. To do this just beat together the eggs, milk and cream together and then season.


Once the onions etc are cooked start adding the spinach in batches - I always find it amazing how spinach decreases in size. Stir all together and cook until you have added all the spinach and all the leaves have wilted.



Season well and a little nutmeg to taste.

Spread the spinach mixture into a dish and then cover with the cream mixture.



Cook in the oven for 35 minutes and then rest for 5 minutes before serving - it would be great with just a green salad or chicken or fish or roast lamb or pork (as we did). To be honest it would go with anything!



It tasted delicious - nutty but green and the garlic really stands out. My only complaint was that I should have added a cheese topping! I really enjoyed it but I would have preferred it with some cheese but then again, I am a cheese freak. Let me know what you think….