Saturday, 20 December 2014

HAWKSMOOR, AIR STREET, WEST END

Pascal and I had the most fantastic evening on Tuesday night - supper and then the theatre to see the Book of Mormon. It is outrageously rude and politically incorrect but hysterically funny - I would really recommend it….if you are not easily offended.

For supper beforehand we decided to go to Hawksmoor which has been on my list for donkey's years although I have always been put off by the prices - steak restaurants are always super expensive - but I would say this was definitely worth it. There are 5 Hawksmoor restaurants in London and one in Manchester.

According to the website, Hawksmoor travelled the world to find the perfect steak but actually it is from here in Britain. The menu offers lots of fish as well as meat and a good mix of starters (steak tartar, ribs, Caesar salad). I wanted the Bixham crab on toast with mayonnaise to begin with however they were unfortunately out of crab and lobster. Instead I had the roast scallops with white port and garlic.


These were delicious - big juicy scallops in a garlicy sauce - it reminded me of snails in garlic and I even ordered some bread and butter to mop up the sauce!

Pascal ordered the smoked salmon which came with a delicious herby cream cheese and brown bread. This was very tasty and fresh.


For mains we both had the 400g rib eye steak which we agreed is one of the best steaks we have ever had. It was so tender and full of flavour - I don't think I have ever tasted anything like it.


Being the little piglets that we are we each had our own portion of mac and cheese which was divine. Restaurants can so easily get this simple dish wrong but this was perfectly cheesy with a crispy topping.


We also shared a side of the English lettuce and herb salad which was very light and crisp - a perfect accompaniment to the steak and pasta.


I ordered the Stilton hollandaise as a sauce which was good but not very stiltony and a bit too creamy - next time I would go for the béarnaise although to be honest the steak was so good, it would be perfect without a sauce….which is something I never normally say!!


Even though I was so full I could barely breathe I had to try the salted caramel rolos which were literally mouthfuls of Heaven. I was a little put off by the dark chocolate as I am not really a fan but the rolos were utterly incredible.


A superb meal -  Hawksmoor definitely lived up to its reputation of being the best steak restaurant in London and I think has made it on to my list of my top favourite restaurants.  Great food, fantastic atmosphere, friendly efficient service and a really warming, comfortable decor - the kind of place you could stay all day. I can't wait to go back - the restaurant also offers a pre / post theatre dinner / set menu and a Sunday roast and a whole array of puddings that I can't wait to try!


5a Air Street
London
W1J 0AD
Tel: 020 7406 3980

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Monday, 15 December 2014

VEGETARIAN LASAGNE

Pascal has been talking about cooking a vegetarian lasagne for about 4 years so we decided to take the bull by the horns and finally make one this weekend. I am feeling a bit down at the moment as Arabella has gone to my ex husband's for two weeks and I am missing her like crazy. Thank god for chocolate and TV!!

Anyway I searched through my numerous recipes and found this one in Fay Ripley's second book. Pascal was a little unsure as he was expecting a lasagne with vegetables such as aubergine and mushrooms rather than lentils and celery but like all Fay creations, it all worked well in the end. I did make a few alterations like using a cheese sauce as Pascal doesn't like white sauce and obviously adding more cheese!!

Ingredients for 4-6 people:

400g fresh spinach
1 x 300g pack of fresh lasagne (we did have 3 sheets left over)
2 x 125g ball mozzarella cheese
500ml cheese sauce

Lentil Sauce:
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick, trimmed and finely chopped
Splash of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
150g red lentils, rinsed
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
150ml vegetable or chicken stock
Around 250g grated cheddar cheese


Preheat the oven to 180C fan / 200C  / gas mark 6.
To make the lentil sauce, heat some oil in a large pan and then fry the onion, celery and carrot for 5 minutes.


Then add the garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes.


Next pour in the lentils, tomato puree, tomatoes and stock and season well. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat, put the lid on and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.



While this is cooking, cook the spinach in a microwave or saucepan with a splash of water, for around 5 minutes. Then drain out the excess water - I always find it amazing how much it shrinks!!



To assemble the lasagne, spread 3 tablespoons of the lentil sauce into the base of an ovenproof dish - the one we used was around 20 x 25 cm according to Pascal's "hand measuring technique" - so that is a real guesstimate!


Then layer on the pasta.


Then 3 ladles of lentil sauce and cheese sauce. 


Spread over half the spinach.


Sprinkle 3 large handfuls of grated cheese.


Add the pasta again and then repeat the whole process until you have finished with all the ingredients. After my second layer of spinach and cheese, I added another layer of pasta.


Then I covered it with the remaining cheese sauce and tore over the mozzarella.


Finally bake in the oven for 35 minutes.


Leave to stand for 5 minutes and then serve and enjoy.

Another successful recipe from Fay Ripley, this was surprisingly very good and way exceeded our expectations. I was thinking about what I was going to do with the 350g of red lentils I have left over - I now know I will be using them again to make this. Delicious and kid friendly, a real triumph! 

Randomly as I was reading the Sunday paper's after lunch, I saw a recipe in the Times from Jamie Oliver's new book for a vegetarian lasagne with aubergines, mushrooms, squash, courgettes etc, just like Pascal was imagining. It looked good, but this one looked better and easier ;-)

Sunday, 14 December 2014

AMERIGO VESPUCCI, CANARY WHARF

Every winter I turn into a very keen ice skater, I am not particularly talented but I can make it round and round the rink without falling over (touch wood) and I find it a lot of fun. Arabella and I went to the Natural History Museum rink with friends, then Pascal, Arabella and I always go to Somerset House and The Delaunay as our Christmas tradition. Finally last night Pascal and I went to the Canary Wharf ice rink for the first time as it has a "skate path". In fairness, it was a hell of a lot smaller than I was expecting, but it definitely added some excitement to the skating experience. 

I remembered eating in an incredible Italian over in the Canary Wharf area 5 years ago and luckily managed to get a table at late notice (Canary Wharf is wonderfully peaceful at weekends - a great place for Christmas shopping)!

Amerigo Vespucci is one of the longest established restaurants in Canary Wharf and has the main restaurant area, a private dining area, as well as terraces with fantastic views of the docks and it is next to the water.

The menu is vast (anti pasti, pasta for starter and main, meat, fish) and I wanted several different dishes but I also didn't want to end the meal by exploding so I had to restrain myself!

I started off with some marinated olives as a pre-dinner snack.



I was tempted to have lasagna for starter and then steak with a blue cheese sauce for main but I reined it in and instead chose crostini di funghi selvatici e caprino which was wild mushrooms, pan fried with fresh garlic, served with crisp ciabatta bread, topped with creamy goats cheese and grilled with grated Parmesan cheese. What a great choice!


It was just as described and so tasty - a great selection of mushrooms and plenty of cheese - right up my street. 

Pascal was also equally impressed by his starter. He ordered tortellini con mozzarella, pomodorini e basilica which was parcels of pasta filled with ricotta cheese and spinach, served with a light butter sauce seasoned with fresh basil, ripe cherry tomatoes and chopped mozzarella cheese. He claimed it was one of the best pasta dishes he has ever had.


For mains I chose the lasagna alla Siciliana which is fresh homemade Sicilian lasagna made with salami, garden peas, ham, mozzarella, and laced with tomato and chopped Parmesan. 



This was good however it needed some seasoning and extra Parmesan and then was absolutely perfect - it made me realise that lasagna is really one of my favourite foods.

Pascal went for scalloppa alla bolognese which was veal escalope, pan fried, and topped with Palma ham, mozzarella cheese, seasoned with garlic, fresh oregano, laced with sliced asparagus and tomato.



Even though he was expecting something bigger and for the veal to be in breadcrumbs, he raved about his meal and could have eaten it all over again, he said all the ingredients were so fresh and flavoursome.

As a side we ordered a rocket and Parmesan salad, our new favourite, which was yum.



The pudding menu looked good but we were fit to burst unfortunately. It was quite a trek home but the journey had been worth it. If you are ever in Canary Wharf, I would recommend this place, the service was delightful, incredibly friendly, the food highly commendable, it is very reasonably priced and I expect it is a perfect place for a lazy lunch in the summer, I look forward to coming back.

Amerigo Vespucci

25 Cabot Square,
Makenzie Walk
Canary Wharf
London 
E14 4QA
Tel: 020 7513 0288
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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

MUSHROOM, CHORIZO & THYME PASTA

Arabella is a really good eater however she puts her foot down over a few things - aubergines, duck and mushrooms. I don't know what she has against these 3 ingredients as Pascal and I love them all. However I don't force them down her as she eats pretty much everything else and she has been known to even enjoy the odd mushroom if it is covered in breadcrumbs and garlic mayo!!

Anyway as Arabella was with her father last weekend, I thought it would be a good opportunity to cook a mushroom pasta and as Pascal and I are huge chorizo fans, this definitely hit the spot.

Ingredients for 4 people:

350g of penne or other pasta like conchiglie, farfalle or fusilli
2 tbsp olive oil
400g button mushrooms, sliced
250g chorizo, cut into 5mm slices
150ml single or double (we used double)
150ml chicken stock
1tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
80g Parmesan, shaved, to serve


Slice the mushrooms and chorizo, make up the stock and chop the thyme. 

If you are using dry pasta, you will need to start cooking this first in salted boiling water. We had fresh pasta which only took a few minutes so we didn't start yet.

Instead we started by putting a frying pan on a high heat, adding the oil and then the mushrooms once it was hot. 


Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and lightly golden.


This is when I started cooking the pasta (which took 3-4 minutes). Once the pasta is cooking, drain and set aside, retaining about 50ml of the cooking water.


Back to the mushrooms, add the chorizo to the frying pan with them, and fry to 1-2 minutes.



Stir in the cream, stock and thyme and then season. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the sauce is bubbling.



Finally add the pasta and cooking water to the sauce and mix well.


Serve in bowls and scatter with Parmesan.


This was absolutely delicious  - the chorizo gives the pasta a bit of a kick and the cream just adds a little flavour without being rich. Plus I adore mushrooms…I just used button mushrooms but you could mix it up a bit with oyster or wild mushrooms, like chanterelles, or even a combination. Another alternative would be to turn it into a pasta bake by baking it in a dish and covering it in cheese….I will definitely try this next time!!!

Monday, 8 December 2014

FLESH & BUNS, COVENT GARDEN

I had a really good weekend - shopping, theatre and lots of eating!! Pascal and I went over to Covent Garden on Saturday and it is wonderfully Christmassy, sparkling lights and Christmas trees everywhere and even Santa in his sleigh with all the reindeer built out of Lego. We saw The Woman in Black which was just as scary as it was when I saw it 20 years ago (gosh I am getting old) and wonderfully acted…Pascal did amuse me as he thought we were seeing a musical…obviously never listens to a thing I say!!

We went for supper at 6.30pm and despite the early hour all the restaurants were heaving, thankfully we had made a reservation at Flesh and Buns as I had wanted to go there for ages. As we were shown to our table, Pascal's face dropped - they wanted to seat us at a HUGE central shared table - Pascal's idea of hell (I am not too keen either). We asked if we could sit elsewhere which they thankfully quickly arranged - knowing how much we normally eat, we would have annoyed the other diners by taking up too much room.

The menu is full of sushi staples such as maki rolls, sashimi, ceviche and so on and then they also serve "flesh and buns" - a meat or fish, sauce, lettuce all in a Bone Daddies bun. (Bone Daddies is their hugely successful sister restaurant, both created by the ex head chef of Zuma and Nobu).

Like always we could have ordered the whole menu but actually we were quite restrained (for us). We started with chips and dips of rice crackers, avocado shiso and tomato jalapeño.



This was absolutely delicious - a perfect way to start a meal, light but tantalising for the taste buds. We then had the tuna tataki jalapeño ponzu and garlic chips. 



I was slightly worried when it arrived that Pascal wouldn't like it as he doesn't like sauce but it was very fresh and full of flavour - a favourite of mine.

We then had the fried squid with Japanese pepper and lime.



These were good but had quite the kick to them. Surprisingly Pascal adored them but they were a little spicy for me - at least they increased my water intake!!

We then had the chicken yakitori which are Pascal's favourite - these were great, very tender chicken with a sweet and spicy, sticky sauce.



I could have ordered every maki roll on the menu but ended up just ordering the soft shell crab one with jalapeño mayo and chives, as I was trying not to overdo it. 



These were incredible and I resented sharing them!! 

For "mains" we had the flesh and buns - the crispy piglet belly with mustard miso and pickled apple and the crispy duck leg with sour plum soy and beetroot pickle.








The pork was the best I have ever tasted, so moreish - it was crispy yet also melted in your mouth. Unbelievably good. Unfortunately the duck didn't fare as well - it was a bit dry and tasteless - I would have much preferred to have more maki rolls or the tuna tataki again.

Unfortunately we were too full to order pudding which was a massive shame as the majority of people in the restaurant were toasting marshmallows over their own personal "fires" and it looked delicious, especially when they were then squeezed in between chocolate crackers - I think orgasmic is the only word…..

Anyway an AMAZING meal, I would really recommend this place, delicious food, efficient service, buzzy atmosphere and a great venue for groups. There is no reason not to go!!

Flesh and Buns

41 Earlham Street
London
WC2H 9LX
Tel: 020 7632 9500

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