The Year 2009

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Right, so, this blog was created and run by the PigPig, my wife; I just write my 2 pence on the restaurants we’re fortunate enough to eat in. I only started doing this in February after our meal at The Square and so far I’ve been pretty motivated to keep this up. Since then, there have been 50 restaurant reviews, so I’m averaging about one review a week, admittedly rather poor compared to other prolific reviewers, but then my wife cooks rather excellent food so eating in is often just as good!

Anyway after a year of extreme pigging out, I wanted to just cast my eye back over some of the things I’ve eaten and reviewed, to appreciate them further in a way (I’m constantly being told by various educational experts that self-reflection is a highly desirable trait). Here are some of the things that really impressed me, that made me sit up and go ‘Wow!’, that made me wish I had more and ultimately, the things that made me go nom nom nom.

Starters

  • Soufflé Suissesse aka Cheese Souffle Cooked on Double Cream @ Le Gavroche – first name on the list for me here, this was a real eye opener for me and as befitting a signature dish from a top restaurant was absolutely superb in every way.
Le Gavroche London 07
  • Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad @ St John’s – it was my first visit to St John’s and I absolutely loved it. I’m a simple man at heart and the no frills approach to producing quality tasting food appealed greatly to me. I think this dish personified their ethos really: a slightly unusual ingredient, roasted plainly, with a little something on the side to make the experience better (the parsley salad’s vinaigrette was necessary to help the richness of the marrow).
St John, london 03 Roast Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad
  • A Tasting of Quail @ The Square – a choice from the first review I made, this has remained the dish I remember most from the meal. Breathing in the truffle oil atop the quail consommé while partaking in the royal club sandwich of quail and foie gras, brilliant stuff.
The Square, London

Mains

  • Tempura udon & toro sashimi @ Sushi Say – the toro has varied in quality from time to time, but usually still great as it’s usually very fresh. The udon as well is one of my favourites and is slurpingly awesome. This is my go-to place for when I get the sushi cravings.
Sushi-Say London tempura udon


Sushi-Say London toro
  • Fried cod and chips @ Rick Stein’s – the first time I had it, we drove 1.5 hours deep into the West country specifically for this; then I did it again when my parents came down and everybody was happy even though it was a pretty boring drive. Hands down, the best fish and chips, and the tartare sauce was also pretty good.
rick stein fish and chips 11
  • Ox tongue @ St John’s – there were lots of other dishes I could have chosen, but I eventually plumped for this because… well, I just loved it. Perhaps a bit biased since my meal here was fairly recent, but I remember taking the first bite of the tongue, and I just had to sit back to savour the tender flesh properly, without distractions, just letting my taste buds send love signals to my brain.
ox tongue st john, london,

Desserts

  • Banana sticky toffee pudding, Guinness ice cream @ Launceston Place – the moment my mouth tasted this delightful combination of banana pudding with Guinness ice cream, this dish’s place in this list was assured, the only question was how high it’ll rank; turns out it came first. If I lived nearby, I would be sorely tempted to make weekly trips to Launceston Place just for this dessert.
Launceston place, London 14
  • Chocolate brownie cake @ Nobu – maybe it was because it was a birthday cake for my mum that made it extra special, but I thought it was amazingly good. Has just the right amount of sweetness and fudgy texture. All of us were rather taken aback as I think nobody really expected Nobu of all places to serve such a good brownie cake.
Nobu London 2
  • Ais kacang @ Satay House – often after a meal with my regular group of friends, we’ll be sitting back letting the digestive juices get to work; then I’ll float an idea, “Hey, who’s up for ais kacang?!”. This then starts a debate for the next half hour on our likelihood to get a table at 10pm on a Saturday night JUST for ais kacang and eventually I’ll return home empty handed. This scenario tends to repeat on a biweekly basis and we never actually found out if Satay House will let us in; we didn’t like our hopes and dreams crushed.
Satay house, london ais kacang

Other special mentionables

  • Red velvet cake @ Hummingbird bakery – probably the most visited food place this entire year from me, I think I’ve spent at least half a whole month’s wages on their cakes already. It doesn’t help matters when my close group of friends are as equally mad about this cake as me; nearly every time we meet at a friend’s house, someone would buy this cake. And I’ll still go mad with happiness eating it. Even though I just had a slice of it a week ago.
Hummingbird Bakery Red Velvet Cake 12
The Sportsmans, seasalter 08
  • Mash potato @ L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon – the only redeeming feature from the two starred restaurant for me was this mash, which apparently was 50% butter according to the waitress. That helps explain the smooth-as-silk texture and probably my heart attack 20 years down the line.
L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon 17

Best meal experience

  • Le Gavroche – it may have been partly due to the company I had that night (my best man who I hadn’t seen since my wedding came down from Singapore to help his girlfriend (my flatmate for a year) pack to move home) but this meal was in many ways sheer excellence for me. Most importantly, the food was superb albeit not flawless and the service throughout the meal was impeccable (and getting a picture and signed autograph by the man himself Michel Roux Jr. didn’t do any harm either). If I had to recommend people a restaurant for a special occasion, this would be it.
Le Gavroche London 02

Have a happy new year, and thanks for visiting.

NB. I’ve excluded Fat Duck from this list because I ate there over a year ago, and it would be unfair to the rest anyway.


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Belated Christmas Dinner Continued...Shiitake Mushroom Stuffing, Braised Sprouts with Balsamic & Christmas Pudding on Fire!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A roast turkey is not complete without stuffing, be it stuffed or baked on the side. I'm a huge fan of stuffing, it's usually packed full of fats and carbs, so tasty! Following my last year's yummy apple, sausages and herb stuffing, I thought I'd do something lighter this year, without the sausages. I came across this recipe at Lori's Recipe Girl. It's actually really good, very tasty and flavourful with the shiitake. The sweet and tart apricots added a nice flavour and texture to the dish. I would suggest using more shiitake mushrooms and baking it till browned and crisp instead of stuffing in the turkey. The stuffing in the turkey was so soggy, we didn't touch it. I removed everything and baked it the next day instead. The baked crispy bits were soo soo good! That aside, we all agreed that sausages stuffings are still the best.


IMG_0793


Ingredients:
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 4 small onions (3 cups) - diced
  • 1 leek white & pale parts only - finely sliced and then rinsed well
  • 4 stalks celery - diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 220g fresh shiitake mushrooms - sliced
  • 3/4 loaf bread (about 5 cups) - crusts removed and cubed
  • 150g dried apricots (1 cup) - coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh sage leaves - stems removed
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary leaves - stems removed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cube Knorr chicken stock cube
  • 100g unsalted butter - melted
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions:

  • Heat oil in a large pan/pot over medium heat. Add onions, leeks, celery, and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent and tender, about 20 mins.
  • While waiting, toast cubes of bread in a 200°C pre-heated oven until dried.
  • Dissolve chicken stock cube in 1 cup water. Leave to cool.
  • Add mushrooms into onions, leeks, celery, and garlic, and cook until soft, about 5 mins. Transfer mixture to a plate, and let stand until cool, about 5 mins. (Onion-mushroom mixture can be refrigerated overnight.)
christmas 2009 shiitake mushroom stuffing 01christmas 2009 shiitake mushroom stuffing 02

  • Combine onion-mushroom mixture, bread, apricots, sage, and rosemary in a large bowl. Mix to combine.
christmas 2009 shiitake mushroom stuffing 03christmas 2009 shiitake mushroom stuffing 04

  • Just before baking, pour melted butter and stock over top of mixture. Mix to combine. Season with salt and black pepper. Let stand for about 10 minutes, allowing bread to soak up the liquid.

  • christmas 2009 shiitake mushroom stuffing 05christmas 2009 shiitake mushroom stuffing 06
  • Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  • Stuff chicken with stuffing.
christmas 2009 shiitake mushroom stuffing 07
  • Put the rest in a baking dish.
  • Bake at 180°C until top is browned and crisp.(about 50-55 mins).
IMG_0818


Braised Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar & Bacon Lardons


Brussel sprouts with bacon is always good! With balsamic vinegar? Even better! The tartness of the vinegar brought it to a whole new level, so flavourful and delicious.


christmas 2009 balsamic brussel sprouts


Ingredients:
  • 600g brussel sprouts
  • 250g bacon lardons
  • 1 tbs fried garlic
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Agave nectar/ sugar


Directions:
  • Heat up a bit of oil in a skillet, add bacon lardons and fry until browned.
  • Toss in brussel sprouts, balsamic vinegar and garlic.
  • Leave to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add sugar to taste.

Christmas Pudding

I know some of you are curious about my Christmas pudding, so here's an update. After 2 weeks of hibernating in the cool and dry kitchen cabinet, I re-steamed one of the puddings, covered with foil for about 40 mins using the pressure cooker. After that, tried to flip the pudding onto a plate. My heart was beating fast at this point, wondering if it would come out clean. I was worried half of it would be stuck to the bowl, like what happened to my cheesecake because I was too lazy to line it (that's another story). Fortunately...


christmas 2009 christmas pudding 01
Phew...look at that gorgeous deep brown colour...and so moist...

Time for the fun part - setting it on fire! None of us did it before, so I searched on youtube for some "tricks"...according to Antony Worrall Thompson, I have to warm the brandy and the ladle before lighting. I did. But when the wild boar tried to light it with a matchstick, it just went "psst"...fire died, and only wisp of smoke. The wild boar thought I boiled away all the alcohol. The brandy wasn't even boiling when I tried to warm it up, and I could still dip my finger in that brandy while it was "boiling"! Anyway, I managed to set it on fire in the end. While being all excited about the flaming pudding, the wild boar was shouting "So? So?! Faster! Faster!" I went "What faster?! Look! It's finally on fire! So pretty!" "I know, and the table is on fire too! Faster take your pictures!" "oh..." click click click...we spilled some flaming brandy on the table so there was a tiny pool of fire beside the flaming pudding.


christmas 2009 christmas pudding 02


christmas 2009 christmas pudding 03
The best picture of the pudding on fire I managed to get.


christmas 2009 christmas pudding 04


christmas 2009 christmas pudding 05

It was definitely the highlight of the day. I served it with some vanilla liqueur custard, so boozy, so good. The pudding was actually quite good. Like what Sam said, it wasn't exactly very light, but definitely lighter than most Christmas puddings that I've had. Very moist, rich and flavourful. Still a bit too sweet for me though. 



Christmas pudding recipe here
 
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Belated Christmas Turkey - Brined with Knorr Stock Cubes

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

I hope you all had a great Christmas! Enjoying post-Christmas sales?! Mine was rather quiet, just my sister and I cause the wild boar was away for locum work over Christmas. It was a last minute thing. He had to catch the late night train on Thursday to Exeter which was 3 hrs away and he came back only yesterday. Sad, I know. Have been singing silent night(s) to myself for the past few days...Anyway, our Christmas dinner was postponed to tonight. I prepared another traditional Christmas dinner this year - roast turkey, rich stuffing, brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy...and we just had Christmas pudding..aaahhh...so stuffed.

I decided to use Knorr chicken stock cubes instead of salt for the brine this year as I have A LOT, many boxes, unlimited supply. I currently have about 50 cubes or more in the pantry, I lost count. Don't give me that look, I'm not an "instant" addict and no, Knorr is not my sponsor. They are all from my mum-in-law. Everytime she visits, she'd bring a few boxes. I don't really use them, so they just accumulate. It actually added a really nice flavour. The turkey was really moist, juicy and tasty.


christmas 2009 turkey 04

Ingredients:
  • 4kg turkey
  • About 50g unsalted butter (for rubbing all over turkey) - softened
  • 1 carrot - large chunks
  • 2 celery sticks - chopped
  • 1 onion - large slices
  • Corn starch slurry (corn starch + water)
  • A few sage leaves
  • Rosemary leaves from 1 stalk
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Turkey brine:
  • 500ml + 4.5L water (or enough to cover whole turkey)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 cubes Knorr chicken stock cubes (2 cubes per litre water)
  • 1 tbs black peppercorn
  • 2 pieces stem ginger - coarsely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Directions:
2 days before or the day before (early):

  • Place 500ml (2 cups) water, sugar, stock cubes, black peppercorn, stem ginger and cinnamon stick in a pot.
  • Bring to boil then simmer for about 10 mins.
  • Leave to cool then refrigerate.
The day before:

  • Add refrigerated brine to a large container, turkey and add the rest of the water (enough to cover turkey).
  • Leave this refrigerated overnight. I left mine for about 36 hrs.
On the day:

  • Before roasting, preheat oven to 250°C.
  • Discard brine, rinse turkey thoroughly and pat very dry.
  • Place on roasting rack.
  • Stuff turkey with stuffings.
  • Rub unsalted butter all over turkey.
christmas 2009 turkey 01
Rub a piece of butter in between your palms to soften/ melt butter.


christmas 2009 turkey 02
  • Place carrots, celery and onions on roasting tray.
  • Place turkey on roasting rack, tuck the wings in to prevent burning.
christmas 2009 turkey 03
  • Cover bird with aluminium foil.
  • Roast at lowest level at 250°C for 20 mins. I added about 1 cup of water into roasting tray to prevent vegetables from burning.
  • Lower heat to 180°C and continue roasting for a further 3 hrs (about 20 mins per 500g, weigh with stuffings). Remove foil for the last hour of roasting to brown the bird.
  • Remove bird from oven, loosely cover with foil and leave for about 20 mins before carving.
christmas 2009 turkey 07


For turkey gravy:
  • Place roasting tray on the hob, add 1 cup of water and bring to the boil. Remember to scrape off the tasty brown bits.
christmas 2009 turkey 05
  • Strain this into a saucepan.
  • Add sage and rosemary leaves, simmer for a few mins.
  • Thicken with corn starch slurry.
  • Add salt and black pepper to taste.
christmas 2009 14turkey gravy
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Seafood @ One-O-One, London [Restaurant Review]

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

I didn’t have the best of starts to this meal. It was for a Sunday lunch, on a bitterly cold day with packed snow on the ground, and the last thing I wanted to do was drive into the middle of the shopping horde in Knightsbridge desperate to get the obligatory Christmas gift. I then spent ages circling around the restaurant looking for a parking spot as the girls in the car weren’t keen on walking too long from the car to the restaurant.

We were only eating here because Toptable had a 50% offer off the entire meal (drinks excluded I think; this promotion has been going on for a VERY long time) and the PigPig was keen to try it out. I myself wasn’t particularly interested as gen.u.ine.ness only gave it 4/10 although the blogger reviews on Urbanspoon were fairly positive overall. Also, while I like seafood on a whole, I tend to prefer it in the more traditional Chinese style I grew up with.

Well anyway, our party of three were amongst the first to arrive (again) and were promptly seated into rather comfortable chairs. Already, my mood is starting to lighten as I take in the surroundings; large cushy chairs, plenty of elbow space, well spaced tables, nice bright lighting. Also, I like the waiter who is happy to recommend certain dishes when asked what their specialities or more popular dishes were.

I missed the first round of bread as I had a visit to the toilet (the lighting shows off a decoration rather well, but was quite dark otherwise) but the waiter was happy to provide more. I started taking the focaccia as recommended by the girls, and it was actually pretty good, lighter and fluffier compared to others of its type. I actually preferred the brown bread though. According to the waiter, the bread was baked on site, and it certainly tasted very fresh and was nice and warm. The seaweed butter was also pretty good, but pales in comparison to Sketch’s version.


one-o-one, london 01

Norwegian Red King Crab Legs from the Barents Sea; Grilled with Basil Tomato Olive Oil Vierge”. As I understand it, king crabs are the biggest commercially available crab and amongst the most desirable to eat. Anyway One-O-One serves the legs in four ways and I was initially going to be boring and have it on ice and lemon, but decided to be adventurous in the end and opted for this, which was apparently the most popular choice according to the waiter.


one-o-one, london 04
Norwegian Red King Crab Legs from the Barents Sea; Grilled with Basil Tomato Olive Oil Vierge



The meat was actually very soft and quite sweet, but not as sweet as the plain ol’ mud crabs I eat in Malaysia. The cheese on top gave it a slight thermidor-ish feel but the sauce vierge was really good as the mild flavours complimented the crab flavour very well. The crab legs vary in size and the bigger legs were nicer to eat obviously. Altogether it was really good actually.

Rock Oyster from Marennes D’Oléron – L’Experience; Shallot Vinegar, Yuzu Sorbet & Vodka, Tempura with Soya Pipettes”. Beautifully presented on a bed of sea
weed, we chose half a dozen oysters. We were advised to start with the yuzu sorbet one, which was very nice and certainly a more interesting and innovative approach. After that we had the tempura oysters which had little pipettes filled with soya sauce which he injected into the oysters before removing. It was not bad, especially with the seaweed accompanying it, although the oyster taste was overpowered by the tempura. Lastly, the shallot vinegar (I could have sworn the waiter kept saying champagne) was decent, but there was more vinegar than shallot taste. Altogether, some interesting choices but the oysters were a bit lacking in their natural briny flavour.


one-o-one, london 03
Rock Oyster from Marennes D’Oléron – L’Experience; Shallot Vinegar, Yuzu Sorbet & Vodka, Tempura with Soya Pipettes

Pan-Fried Hand Dived Scottish Scallop and Duck Foie Gras; Wild Mushrooms and Spinach, Vermouth Beurre Blanc”. My sis-in-law’s dish so I only had a few bites, but from what I had the scallops were good, sweet and not overcooked. Meanwhile the foie gras was also pretty good but the crust seemed a bit thick. The wild mushrooms added a nice flavour to the dish as well but it didn’t seem to gel very well.


one-o-one, london 02
Pan-Fried Hand Dived Scottish Scallop and Duck Foie Gras; Wild Mushrooms and Spinach, Vermouth Beurre Blanc

Slow Cooked Arctic Cod from The Barents Sea; Chorizo Risotto, Squid and Prawns A La Plancha”. I admit I’m not very experienced in fish, but this cod felt a bit dry and rough; it certainly lacked the fat I’m used to in Chilean seabass. On the other hand, the squid and prawns were incredibly good and firm in texture while the risotto was absolutely delish.


one-o-one, london 06
Slow Cooked Arctic Cod from The Barents Sea; Chorizo Risotto, Squid and Prawns A La Plancha

Roasted Norwegian Halibut with Tiger Prawn Dumplings; Paimpol Coco Beans and Truffle Cassoulet, Pork Belly, Sauce Nantua”. I have no idea what the second phrase in the description is as there certainly is no pork belly to be found! Much like my arctic cod, I found the PigPig’s halibut dry and rough while the dumplings were tasty but the skin was too thick for me. I wasn’t convinced by the presence of so many different sauces as well, I didn’t think it worked well together or individually.


one-o-one, london 07
Roasted Norwegian Halibut with Tiger Prawn Dumplings; Paimpol Coco Beans and Truffle Cassoulet, Pork Belly, Sauce Nantua

Seared Lobster Tail and Honey Glazed Veal Sweetbread; Saffron Carrot Compote, Citrus and Vanilla Emulsion”. Again, my sis-in-law’s dish. The little piece of lobster I sampled was very good, while the sweetbread was surprisingly good as well. I didn’t expect to like it (never had it before) but the sweet sweetbread was nearly as good to eat as the lobster. The purple potato cubes look stunning, but tasted very dull while the grapefruit was too sour to mix with the meats properly for me.


one-o-one, london 05
Seared Lobster Tail and Honey Glazed Veal Sweetbread; Saffron Carrot Compote, Citrus and Vanilla Emulsion

Passion Fruit Custard Tart with Floating Island; Mango Tartar, Coconut Foam and Ice Cream”. The tart itself was nice with a good blend of sweet and tartness from the fruit. The coconut foam had a strange foamy-solid consistency which actually was quite nice but I didn’t fancy much for the coconut flakes. The mango cubes added extra fruity flavour but proved a little difficult to mix with the rest.


one-o-one, london 08
Passion Fruit Custard Tart with Floating Island; Mango Tartar, Coconut Foam and Ice Cream

Chocolate Brownies ‘Coupe Liegeoise’; Coffee and Salt Caramel Ice Cream”. We chose this mainly because we were curious what the coupe thingy was; it turned out to be a coffee flavoured foamy mousse-like blob, not half bad actually. The brownies were alright, but lacked proper fudgy texture. The honeycomb was a nice addition to eat with the coupe thingy as well.


one-o-one, london 09


one-o-one, london 10
Chocolate Brownies ‘Coupe Liegeoise’; Coffee and Salt Caramel Ice Cream

Altogether the bill came up to £30 each for a three course meal and a bottle of still water to share. Service throughout was pretty good although there were only three waiters for the whole restaurant. For some reason the mains took awhile to appear as well.

Food – 7.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 6.0

“Ehhh, first half good, second half not so good”. I thought the starters were pretty good, especially my crabs. The fish fillets in the mains however were rather dry and disappointing in general. Plate presentation was superb but I feel that a lot of the touches were done more for the aesthetics than actually contributing to the flavours.

Would I eat here again? Unlikely, it’s pretty reasonable for £30 and hopefully the other mains are better, but I wasn’t terribly convinced by this showing.



One-O-One
101 Knightsbridge
Belgravia, SW1X 7RN
Tel: +44(020) 7290 7101
Official website



One-O-One on Urbanspoon
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Nigella's Clementine Cake

Friday, 25 December 2009

How I miss cherries and all those juicy berries, but all we have now are apples, pears and oranges. I have nothing against oranges but I hate peeling them. When I came across this recipe at Smitten Kitchen's a year ago, I was intrigued. It uses whole clementines - skins, pith, fruit and all. It was so fragrant, light, moist and zesty. Not at all bitter. The ground almonds gave it a really nice texture and wonderful flavour. I guess it's time to stock up on clementines!


clementine cake 07


Ingredients: 1 9-inch cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's website
  • 5 (about 370g) clementines
  • 6 eggs
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder


Directions:

  • Put the clementines in a pot with cold water (enough to cover clementines), bring to the boil and cook for about 1 1/2 hrs or until soft.
clementine cake 01
  • Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the pips.
clementine cake 02
  • Dump the clementines - skins, pith, fruit and all - and give a quick blitz in a food processor.
clementine cake 03
  • Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  • Butter and line a Springform tin.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs by hand.
  • Add the sugar, almonds and baking powder, mixing well, then finally adding the pulped oranges.
clementine cake 04
  • Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin.
clementine cake 05
  • Bake for about 40 mins or until done (a skewer will come out clean). The cake started browning after 20 mins, so I covered with foil to prevent the top from burning. Nigella used an 8-inch cake tin and suggested baking for 1 hr.
clementine cake 06


Merry Xmas & Happy Holidays Everyone!!!


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