Fino - Order the Arroz Negro!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Remember to check out the Penn State Christmas snack box giveaway. The competition is open to anyone, from anywhere and ends at Midnight GMT 30th October, 2010. Good luck!

One of my favourite places to eat in London is Barrafina for serving high quality Spanish tapas. My only complaint with them is their small seating capacity and no reservations policy which often meant queuing quite a bit. Fino is Barrafina’s sister restaurant but bigger and more expensive too.

Fino, London 06

Our party of five was seated at a corner deep in the bowels of the basement dining room. The entire room was brightly lit and there was lively buzzing atmosphere of happy diners. Our request of tap water was eagerly obliged and a little plate of juicy green olives were happily devoured. Rather than wine, we decided to go with some sangria.

Our menu had today’s date on it, so presumably the contents change depending on what produce is available and sourced.

Spanish cold meat platter”. I wasn’t paying too attention so I’m not sure if our waitress explained the cuts on the board. I think it was chorizo, jamon and salami none of which were particularly impressive. The jamon seemed particularly tough as well so it might have actually been lomo.

Fino, London 08

Pan con tomate”. To go with the ham, we ordered some of this typical Catalan bread of which every restaurant seems to do it slightly differently. Here, the rough and tough bread had a rather more delicate sweet tomato topping.

"Chorizo and Potato Chips". I was expecting chorizo fried with potato wedges but they turned out to be chorizo sausages wrapped in thinly sliced potato and then fried. It was so good we ordered another plate.

Fino, London 10

Classic tortilla. While the tortilla was delicious to eat with a mixture of softer potato body and less-cooked harder cubes inside as well providing contrasting textures, it is still just a little disappointing as Barrafina’s version comes with egg yolk oozing out from the center.

Queen scallops”. Named "Queen" but the size took us all by surprise; we were expecting something larger, luckily we had ordered one each as splitting them to share would be tricky. Nevertheless the scallops were sweet and cooked really nicely as it was still very nearly raw and retained the nice bouncy texture. Did find it a bit too salty though.

Fino, London 02

Seafood platter”. Meant for two to share, this £33 plate represented pretty good value as it had half a crab, a (pretty big) langoustine split down the middle and two scallops. Simply put, all the seafood seemed really fresh and sweet although the langoustine claw did have rather shrunken meat within so the poor crustacean was probably starved in a tank for a while.

Fino, London 03

I spent quite a while tangling with the crab body to get at all the juicy sweet meat within and much appreciated the lemon water provided to clean my hands later. The waitress also happily changed our dirty napkins. We found it a bit odd as the gills of the crab weren’t removed, but that was easily done ourselves.

The biggest joy of the dish was pulling back the shell to find it filled with sweet briny runny crab roe. Eating that roe with bread turned out to be a really magnificent combination and we also happily mopped up the remaining of the sauce on the plate with our bread.

Fino, London 05

Arroz negro”. As the PigPig was walking in, a random exiting diner shouted out to her to order this dish. She didn’t really need to as the PigPig loves this squid ink rice dish anyway. The version here was rather brilliant with lots of the rather indescribable squid ink taste and al dente rice while the squid was tender. Only problem is the rather dainty portion size.

Fino, London 04

Crisp pork belly”. The Chinese love to eat pork but sometimes it feels that the Spanish are a close second behind. This version here is certainly a superb job as the skin has remained on the meat and is definitely crackling while the meat still remains tender and not overcooked.

Fino, London 09

Rump of beef, baby onions and port sauce”. Unlike all the other dishes, this is a surprisingly large portion. The beef was slightly overcooked for me but still remained tender and juicy while the sweet/sour port sauce was a great foil to the meat.

Lamb cutlets, parsnip puree”. Normally there will be two pieces per dish but we had requested to have five, one for each of us. A good thing too as our family ties would have been stretched a little if we had to share the juicy morsels here. Tender, moist, succulent, the cutlets also had some fat left on them for extra taste. I found the cutlets pretty well seasoned as they were and the olive topping unnecessary and too salty as well.

Fino, London 07

Moving on to the desserts, we more also moved to a new location in the bar as we had overstayed our 2 hour table allocation. Whilst the seats were fairly comfortable, the tiny table was at a low height and made eating our desserts slightly tricky.

Shot of white and dark chocolate”. We ordered two of these as we had guessed they would be quite small as they were half the price of the other desserts. Although they look stunning, I wasn’t convinced by the overall effect. Both layers were like a frothy liquid chocolate and presumably meant to be drunk with the straw. Perhaps using more solid mousses would have worked better.

Chocolate mousse, ganache and chocolate crumble”. We also doubled up on this option as my uncle wanted one all to himself as he was spying a neighbour’s table and thought it looked great. In reality I found it somehow lacking a little somewhere although I can’t identify a specific fault.

Donuts, vanilla ice cream”. Rather underwhelming, the doughnuts felt rather dry despite being warm, maybe due to using less oil than the typical American version.

Fino, London 01

Altogether the bill came up to just under £50 per head. I have to say I could probably have eaten a little bit more but I was already thinking of having some ice cream at Oddono’s and was already holding myself back a bit. Service was decent and friendly at first but it got a little tricky to get the attention of our waiters later in the evening; at times it almost felt as if they would duck their heads and avert their gazes the moment they saw me waving at them.

Food – 7.0
Service – 4.0
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 4.0


*Guide to restaurant food ratings

I deliberately didn’t try dishes that were present at both Barrafina and Fino so I can’t make direct comparisons but the quality of cooking certainly seems equally high. While the style of cooking is definitely simple (than the complex Cambio de Tercio for example), it isn’t basic and there is plenty of quality in both the ingredients and cooking technique and as a result, the taste of most of the dishes were spot-on.

Best bit: any guesses? Has to be the crab roe.
Worst bit: forgetting to order the roast suckling pig in advance! First saw it in Barrafina but it was sold out so I spent a meal looking at a very happy family of three digging into the piglet. The waiter told us to go to Fino as we could pre-order it but that was over a year ago and I had completely forgot about it by now.

Fino
Fitzrovia
33 Charlotte Street,
London
W1T 1RR
Tel:+44(020) 7813 8010

Fino on Urbanspoon


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Pumpkin Cornbread

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

As if the Chocolate, Stout & Ancho Chili Con Carne wasn't rich and "comforting" enough, I served it with this moist and dense pumpkin cornbread.

Pumpkin cornbread 1

I've never had cornbread apart from Kenny Roger's roasters corn muffins in Malaysia many years ago and I thought those were the best muffins I've ever tasted, so light, soft and moist with just the right amount of sweetness. Cornbread is a type of quick bread made from cornmeal. It is a product of the US as corn was used in North American cooking long before the European explorers set foot on New World soil. There are may variations of cornbread, with the northern-style being lighter and sweeter than its more traditional southern counterpart. I've come across countless cornbread recipes, many of which are Mexican influenced with cheddar, jalepeno and/ or corn kernels added.

Pumpkin cornbread 3

This, unlike the norm is loaded with pumpkin and spices making it the perfect fall cornbread! It is slightly sweet, extremely soft and moist, which went really well with the chili.

Pumpkin cornbread 4

You know what's missing? Honey butter.
Ingredients: a 9 x 4" loaf
Recipe from Sugar Crafter
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbs molasses
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 200℃. Grease the baking pan.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, spices, brown sugar, and cornmeal.
  • In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs, and then stir in the pumpkin, oil, and molasses.
  • Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined, and then pour the batter into the pan, smoothing the top. Or, pour some chili into an ovenproof dish. Top the chili with some cornbread batter.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Serve with chili!

Pumpkin cornbread 2

Remember to check out the Penn State Christmas snack box giveaway. The competition is open to anyone, from anywhere and ends at Midnight GMT 30th October, 2010. Good luck!

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Chocolate, Stout & Ancho Chili Con Carne

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The title could be longer, somewhere along the lines of...say...the ultimate, out-of-the world, maybe the best chocolate, stout & ancho chili con carne with refried beans...as yet. This recipe is a combination of many chili con carne recipes I came across over the past few months. Many recipes like Nigella's involve chocolates, and instead of using water or stock, some recipes suggest adding beer for more flavours. I couldn't decide which recipe to choose, so I added both chocolate and beer. What could go wrong with chocolate, beer and chili right?!

It turned out amazing.

Chocolate, Stout & Ancho Chili Con Carne

I added refried beans which added extra flavour and made it wonderfully thick. The brown mush is insanely rich and packed full of flavours. It is smokey, spicy, dark, meaty...very tasty. I would suggest adding 1/2 the amount of chocolate first as some people may find the flavour of the chocolate too strong (well, I'm quite happy with the 50 g I added), you can always add more towards the end to taste.

Chocolate, Stout & Ancho Chili Con Carne 2
Ingredients:
  • 3 dried ancho chiles
  • 1/2 cup boiling hot water
  • 500 g minced beef
  • 1 large onion - diced
  • 1/2 bulb garlic - peeled and crushed
  • 2 cups passata sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Guinness stout
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 50 g (more or less to taste) dark chocolate - coarsely chopped
  • 2 cans (215 g each) spicy refried beans
  • 1 large bunch corander leaves - coarsely chopped
Herbs & Spices:
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
Directions:
  • Toast the dried chiles in a hot pan until fragrant, about 2 mins. Cut the chiles open and remove cores. Reserve the seeds. Place chiles and 1/2 cup of hot water in bowl. Set aside for about 15 mins, until chiles are softened. Blend until smooth.
  • Heat up a bit of oil in a pan, add onions, stir fry until softened.
  • Add garlic, fry until fragrant.
  • Add minced beef, fry until dry and browned (until the meat is frying in its own fats, discard some of the fats if you wish). Break any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.
  • Mix in all the herbs and spices. Fry until fragrant.
  • Pour in ancho chile puree, pasata, stout, water, sugar, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Stir to mix.
  • Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer for 15 mins, uncovered.
  • Stir in chocolate, cover and continue cooking for another 1 1/2 hrs (or longer). Remember to stir occasionally making sure the sauce doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. Add more water if the sauce is drying out.
  • Add refried beans and leave to cook for a few more mins.
  • Season to taste. Add some reserved chile seeds if not spicy enough.
  • Stir in coriander and enjoy!

What I would do to improve this recipe further?
  • Add bacon and/ or chorizo.
  • Reduce the amount of chocolate and add some coffee instead for extra flavour.
  • Any other suggestions?
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Penn State Snacks - A Giveaway!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

When I think of pretzels, Auntie Anne's pretzels come into mind. Sour cream and onion pretzel with melted cheese dip - Y.U.M. Those were the only pretzels I've been exposed to until I joined the food blogosphere a few years ago. That was when I learnt that apart from freshly baked, hand-rolled soft pretzels, hard and crunchy pretzels exist too. Baked, not fried, pretzels are a great alternative to crisps. Crispy pretzels are thought to be originated in the United States and have become popular in many countries. Though I have not noticed any sold in the UK until Penn State, which is the leading brand of pretzels in the UK, contacted me couple of weeks ago.

I was offered to sample their Christmas snack box which includes Spicy Jalfrezi Deli Chips, Sea Salted Pretzels and their most popular Sour Cream and Chive Pretzels.

Penn state give away snacks

These came together with some tasty dips designed to complement the different Penn State flavours.

Penn state give away

The Sea Salted wheat pretzel knots were a bit dry, think I'm too used to the unhealthy fried potato crisps. Luckily, this was accompanied with a cinnamon infused dark chocolate dip with minimum 53.8% cocoa content (Cinnamon Wonderland). You have to melt the chocolate dip in the microwave, so it's served warm. Melted chocolate with a hint of cinnamon, need I say more? Absolutely delicious with the salted pretzels.

The Sour Cream & Chive on the other was pretty addictive. Made with wheat and potatoes, the texture of these pretzels was more like biscuits and less dry as compared to the sea salted ones. The sour cream and chive flavouring coating gave the pretzels an incredibly strong smell and each knot was packed full of flavours. Salty and tangy, so moreish. How I wish it came with a melted cheese dip, but the honey chili dip (Jingle bell chili) was also very delicious.

Lastly, Spicy Jalfrezi - a spiced potato and chickpea snack - with caramelised onion and thyme dip (Mistletoe & Thyme). This is my favourite combo. The flavour combo reminds me of chutney, a perfect match IMO.

penn state

Feel free to mix and match of course, I'm already thinking of what to do with the leftover dips!

Penn State snacks are perfect as snacks in between meals or for pre-dinner parties as not only do they taste great, they are also much lower in fat than other snacks. Penn State Pretzels are available in most of the major grocery retailers in the UK. To check that your local supermarket stocks them please check availability here.

Thanks to Penn State, I have a Penn State Christmas Snack Box to give away.

Penn state give away

For a chance to win, do one or more of the following, or all to increase your chances of winning:
  • Visit Penn State's website and leave a comment below telling me which flavour you like/ would like to try, and remember to leave your email address as well.
  • Like my Facebook page AND leave a comment on my FB page telling me you did so.
  • "Like" Penn State Snacks on Facebook AND remember to leave a message telling me you did so.
  • Follow @pigpigscorner on Twitter AND tweet "Penn State Christmas Snack Box Give Away #penngiveaway @pigpigscorner http://bit.ly/bg5JNE".
  • Stumble this post (see the stumble button on the left side of this post?) and leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.
The competition ends at Midnight GMT 30th October, 2010 and is open to ANYONE from ANYWHERE. A winner will be selected using random.org.

Good Luck and stay tuned for more giveaways!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This competition is now closed and the winner is Susan!

"What a great giveaway and I'm impressed it's to anyone, anywhere! The sea salt and sour cream and chive both sound fantastic! We love pretzels here! They're such a great snack that isn't loaded with fat."


Congrats!
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Tamarind Prawns (Asam Prawns) by My Cooking Hut

Friday, 22 October 2010

Here is another guest post from one of my favourite food bloggers - Leemei, author of My Cooking Hut. Like me, she's Malaysian-Chinese living in the UK. Passionate about food, she is currently a freelance recipe contributor, food stylist and photographer. She is extremely talented and her photos never cease to amaze me. Do hop over to her blog to check out all her droolworthy pictures and recipes of Asian, Modern French and Franco-Asian dishes. For now, please welcome Leemei to Pig Pig's Corner as she shares the recipe of a true Malaysian-Nyonya delight - assam prawns with us!

asam prawns

I was thrilled when Ann from Pig Pig's Corner asked me to be her guest blogger. It has been quite a while that I follow Pig Pig's Corner, which I seriously don't remember when! Every time when I surf on her blog, her recipes make me drool. Also, the write-ups of great reviews of restaurants in the UK, which have provided great information and references!

Thank you very much, Ann, for giving me this great opportunity to appear as a guest on your blog! Ann and I are both Malaysians as you can tell from our blogs. I guess, when one lives miles away from home, apart from going to Malaysian restaurants to savour some delicious and spicy Malaysian food, the other way is to make it at home.

Nowadays, it's no longer difficult to get Asian ingredients in the UK. World has become smaller. Even supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury's do stock up enough basic Asian ingredients. One of them, which I least expected to be found at the supermarkets is Tamarind.

Tamarind (Asam Jawa in Malay) is a common ingredient in a Malaysian Kitchen. It is a fruit from tamarind tree, which usually is used as a sour agent in cooking. It has a shape of long bean which light brown skin, inside, it contains sticky pulp with many seeds.Tamarind is always used by mixing the pulp with water to get tamarind juice to give sourness in cooking.

Perhaps, same theory applies to tamarind that it goes well with fish and seafood. One of the popular dishes that is eaten in most Malaysian household has to be Asam prawns/Tamarind prawns. The use of tamarind in this dish give a subtle sourness which is totally different to lemon. It wasn't too overpowering but just enough to lift up the characteristic and a beautiful hint of tamarind. When you think of sourness, it may be quite natural to think of sweetness that goes with it, and a little bit of saltiness perhaps? These are the elements that are found in this dish, which makes it bursting with flavour even with the simplest cooking method of frying!

Well, Tamarind prawns is really a very simple dish can you need probably just about 15 minutes to cook. However, it needs to be marinated for 1 hour or so before cooking just to get all the beautiful flavours in the prawns. It is definitely a great idea for mid-week dinner when you don't have plenty of time to spend in the kitchen or you have your favourite TV program on that day which the marinate time fills in perfectly!

asam prawns_2
Ingredients:
  • 500 g tiger prawns
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 100 ml oil for frying
Spicy cucumber pickles:
  • 1/2 cucumber (thinly sliced lengthwise)
  • 1/2 birds' eye chili (thinly cut)
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar

Directions:
  • To make spicy cucumber pickles: In a bowl, mix cucumber, chili, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Leave for 5 minutes, then, pour away the liquid. Set aside and keep slightly chilled.
  • Devein the prawns without shelling. Wash and drain.
  • In a bowl, mix tamarind paste, salt, dark soya sauce, sugar and water. Put in the prawns and make sure they are well coated with the marinate.
  • Heat oil in a wok or deep frying pan on a medium heat. Put in prawns and fry until the shells are pin and slightly charred.
  • Serve with spicy cucumber pickles.
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Midsummer House**, Cambridge

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The PigPig made me do a three hour drive down to Cambridge to fetch her back to Manchester. To say the least, I wasn’t particularly keen and kinda felt she should’ve just taken the train so she tried to sweeten the deal by making a lunch appointment at Midsummer House for the two of us.

Located next to the river Cam, Midsummer House bore a lot of resemblance to my previous visit to Waterside Inn*** with its picturesque backdrop to the main restaurant house. It was hardly the most beautiful of days with all the clouds so it was a shame that the glass fronted dining room or the open air tables weren’t put in all their glory.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 01

Initially, we had planned to go for their set lunch menu which was £35 a head for three courses but then we got distracted by the delicious sounding tasting menu entitled “Taste of Midsummer”.

Cheese grugere. Expectations were already raised when we were presented with these lovely little cheese balls since we had a great experience before at ADAD and we were starving at this point. Truth be told though, they were completely different specimens as the grugeres here had a much denser cheesy filling so even though it was great to eat, we were a bit wary to consume too much in case it would be too filling.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 02

A selection of either white or brown bread was offered but neither was particularly amazing as it was a bit cold.

Pink grapefruit and champagne foam. With just the slightest hints of the bitter citrus grapefruit as well as the alcohol from champagne mixed into the lightest of light foams. A great palate cleanser before we started our degustation.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 03

Veloute of Haddock, poached Quail Egg”. Hmm, sounds like a weird combination? Yeah maybe, haddock didn’t sound like a particularly good choice of fish to create a veloute from but the creamy concoction with a slight fishy aroma was actually a good creation. In retrospect, this was one of the better starters I had in recent years.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 04

Celery, Goats Cheese and Horseradish”. Again, from the menu this sounded really dull and dreary. Again, we were to be pleasantly surprised. The main part of the dish was a watercress jelly sandwiching celery foam with celery leaves on top with a sweet beetroot wafer with goat’s cheese filling. Alone, those two would have been a pretty good and interesting combination already with the contrast in flavours and textures which actually merged and worked together very well. Even better was the horseradish ice cream on the side which added the slight zing of both the horseradish and the cold.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 05

Sauteed Scallop, Celeriac and Truffle”. A beautifully presented plate with the large scallop as a centrepiece cooked perfectly – slightly charred on the surface and just slightly undercooked in the middle. The fresh green apple matchsticks was a nice refreshing bit to the scallop and the truffled celeriac mash is tasty but a poor substitute for Robuchon’s truffled mash. We both felt the apple jelly a bit superfluous though.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 06

Sweetbreads, Pistachio, Maple Syrup and Mooli”. The caramelised glaze from the maple syrup was a great coating to the sweetbread but it did make for a very rich dish, especially after factoring in the pistachio. The ribbons of mooli were the necessary crunch here and it also absorbed a lot of juices and flavours.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 07

Sea Bass and Cuttlefish, Sauce Nero”. The fried sea bass was perhaps a little on the dry side but the accompanying bits were brilliant. On top of the fish was some calamari rings mixed in with some onion rings, both delightfully light and crispy. The onion mash was also a pretty good side although the black square underneath the fish was quite mysterious (maybe a seaweed jelly).

Midsummer house, Cambridge 08

Pousse Café”. Presented with layers of Jack Daniels, maple syrup, egg yolk, cream and chives in a shot glass and told to down it, I was honestly a bit scared, especially after I noticed a sprinkling of pepper on top as well. I didn’t really enjoy this shot that much but the PigPig absolutely loved it.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 09

Slow cooked Duck, Beetroot Puree, Lettuce and Orange”. The duck was beautifully cooked, perfectly tender but also greatly seasoned so basically it already tasted great on its own. The beetroot on the side with some orange peels went along well with the duck but I wasn’t a fan of the lettuce spring rolls.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 10

White Chocolate, Kalamansi Lime”. After all the previous inventive and atypical savouries, this was surprisingly simple but still good nonetheless. The very distinctive taste of the kalamansi lime foam was an interesting addition to the standard white chocolate ice cream while there were some crunchy biscuit underneath.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 11

Warm Kumquats, Lemon Thyme Ice Cream”. Despite the posh name, it was kinda like ice cream with orange marmalade around. Wasn’t impressed much.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 12

Chocolate Creameux, Amaretto Cream, Crispy Feuillet”. First impressions – chocolate on chocolate on chocolate – must be great! Turned out, I didn’t really like the chocolate cake as it was a bit too light, wasn’t a fan of the chocolate squares and I hate both amaretto and cream so we absolutely detested the amaretto cream.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 13

We were then invited to move to the bar for our coffee and petit fours (partly so they can clear up the main dining room as we were the last clients there I’m sure) which had a scenic view of the river Cam (we saw a punter capsize too). Along with our coffee was a wide selection of home made truffles – we tried the cognac, mint, passionfruit and poprocks, all amazing. We really wished we could have tried more but we were pretty full by this point.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 14

Also slightly distracting us from the truffles were the diamond shaped pastries, hollow on the inside they were slightly reminiscent of doughnuts but much finer in texture. We were supposed to dip them into the raspberry jam and yoghurt provided while sipping on our coffee.

Midsummer house, Cambridge 15

Altogether our bill came up to £225 for two for two tasting menus costing £90 each. Service throughout was fairly prompt and efficient.

Food – 9.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 7.0
Value – 5.0


*Guide to restaurant food ratings

I usually do my restaurant write-ups either the same night of the meal or the day after but in this case I waited a week before I even began. Partly this was simply because I was busy, but also to give me a week’s time to let the excitement die down a bit. In a week’s retrospect, it was still a great meal, easily one of the better ones even among the upper echelons of fine dining.

We both loved the not-so-standard cooking styles which still didn’t forget that the most important thing to a dish should be the flavour and taste. To our tastebuds, the various ingredients melded together well in perfect harmony and the cooking was technically well executed too. To be fair though, I wasn’t a huge fan of the desserts and while I liked the first of the three it was quite simple while the latter two were simply not to my tastes.

Best bit: the entire experience, really couldn’t pick a favourite course here.
Worst bit: the PigPig went to the washroom after another girl had used it only to find some stains of vomit on the toilet bowl and the lingering smell in the air. Considering how fine she looked before and after, she must’ve been bulimic. Waste of food.


Midsummer House
Midsummer Common
Cambridge
CB4 1HA
Email: reservations@midsummerhouse.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 01223 369299
Official website
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Sake-Steamed Clams (Asari no Sakamushi)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The wild boar has been bugging me about recreating this dish ever since he tasted it at Koya not too long ago. This is apparently a very common dish at an izakaya 居酒屋 (a Japanese bar or pub offering a variety of small dishes). It is boozy, briny and you can actually taste the natural flavours and sweetness of the clams. Absolutely delicious.

Sake-Steamed Clams (Asari no Sakamushi)

The key to success is using very fresh clams, so make good friends with your local fishmonger. Nothing is worse than eating half a pot of spoiled clams. Fresh clams can be gritty, so soak them in brine for a couple of hours to remove all the grit and sand from the inside and outside of the clams. Some may suggest soaking in water with a bit of cornmeal as the clams will ingest the cornmeal and spit out any sand that is inside. I personally have not tried this as salt water sounded like an easier option.

Sake-Steamed Clams (Asari no Sakamushi) 1

This dish is extremely easy. With just a few ingredients, you can enjoy this tasty dish in less than 10 minutes.
Ingredients: serves 2 as a starter
  • 500 g fresh clams
  • 1/2 tbs butter
  • 1 stalk spring onion - chopped
  • 1/2 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs mirin
  • Salt

Directions:
  • Clean the clams and soak in brine (1 tsp salt in 2 1/2 cups water) for at least 1 hr. Rinse.
  • Melt butter in a pot.
  • Add the white part of spring onion. Stir fry until fragrant.
  • Mix in clams.
  • Pour in sake, water and mirin.
  • Cover and bring the liquid to boil at high heat.
  • As soon as the clam shells are open, remove from heat and season to taste with salt.
  • Stir in the green part of spring onion.
  • Remember to discard any clams that do not open as they may be contaminated.
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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Monday, 18 October 2010

I like pancakes but I truly love waffles. Although pancake and waffle recipes are very similar, or some may say that waffles are just pancakes with holes, the textures are totally different. The golden honeycombed surface is what makes waffles superior. While pancakes are light and fluffy, waffles, with the extra "holes", can crispy on the outside and light and tender on the inside. Imagine biting into the crispy nooks and crannies of the waffle filled with syrup, butter AND ice-cream - ahhh, pure ecstasy!

OK, I think I got a bit carried away, this post is not about crispy waffles, but light and fluffy pancakes. Waffle episode to be continued...just wait till I get my hands on a waffle iron. A Belgian waffle maker to be precise as it makes taller and thicker waffles. The batter for Belgian waffles is also different, the egg whites are beaten to a thick foam and then added to the yolks and flour mixture. So not only you get a crispy surface but also a light and fluffy interior. OK, OK, I know. PANCAKES.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes 2

I came across this recipe at the patent and the pantry. These light and fluffy baby pancakes were hard to resist. Unlike normal basic pancake recipes, this recipe involves separating the egg yolks and egg whites, beating the egg whites to stiff glossy peaks and then folding the egg whites into a lemon-ricotta mixture. The pancakes were like baby souffles - light and airy. The creaminess of the ricotta and the light lemon flavour made a great combo.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Ingredients:
Adapted from Patent and the Pantry
For pancakes:
  • 4 eggs separated
  • 250 g ricotta
  • 3 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs salted butter
For strawberry topping:
  • Strawberries - diced
  • Sugar
For peanut butter topping:
  • Peanut butter
  • Milk - warm

Directions:
  • Mix together strawberries and a bit of sugar (about 1 tbs of sugar for 1 cup of strawberries) in a bowl, let site for about 15 mins.
  • For peanut butter topping, just add enough milk to make a pourable mixture.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks, ricotta cheese, sugar, flour and lemon zest.
  • In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff glossy peaks form.
  • Stir about one-quarter of the whites into the ricotta mixture, then fold in the remaining whites gently.
  • Melt butter in pan over medium heat, drop batter on using small ladle or large spoon.
  • Flatten slightly, then let cook for about two minutes per side until lightly browned.
  • Top with macerated strawberries and/or creamy peanut butter topping.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with PB

So, do you prefer pancakes or waffles?

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Goodman - Steak & Fun with Polaroid

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Many a blogger had covered this steakhouse already, so I’ll make this review relatively brief, but basically since so many people agree that Goodman serves a pretty mean steak I had to get myself in on the action too.

Goodman, London 04

We organised a group of friends to meet up for a meal and managed to rope up eight of us in total. Shown to the very comfortable leather chairs, we were promptly given jugs of tap water and a couple baskets of bread (I didn’t try as I didn’t want to spoil my appetite) prior to our friendly waiter appearing with a tray of meats.

Goodman, London 01

Partly educational, he demonstrated the different cuts available – starting from the bottom right is the sirloin and going anti-clockwise is the fillet, rib-eye, porterhouse and bone in rib-eye. He also told us the different weights of the cuts on show but I just plain forgot now. He also explained what is a porterhouse and the difference between a porterhouse and a t-bone – a porterhouse is essentially a cut with a sirloin on one side and a fillet on the other while a t-bone is pretty much the same as a porterhouse but a bit further down the animal and contains a smaller proportion of fillet.

Goodman, London 05

We wanted to try a couple different types of meat and cuts and were aiming for about 350g each so probably a total of 2.8kg. The waiter did say that choosing a cut with bone means we would need to remove about 15% of the weight to accommodate. In reality, we ended up with 1kg of US porterhouse and 850g of Irish bone in rib-eye, except that we had double that so it was easier for the eight of us to share the meat. So yeah we ended up with 3.7kg, which I only found out later on the bill and it worked out to nearly 400g each. Oh well.

So yes we chose just two different cuts – porterhouse and bone in rib-eye – as well as two different sources of meat. The waiter explained that the US beef was corn-fed so slightly sweeter while the English (Belted Galloway on the board) was grass fed and supposed to be beefier in taste. Meanwhile, the Irish was corn-fed for the last 60 days so had a blend in between the English and the US.

Goodman, London 11

Finally, onto eating the actual meat. As we were sharing platters of steaks, the kitchen sliced the steaks for us, exposing the beautiful pink meat inside (medium rare requested for). I have to say though that the fillet side of the porterhouse was overcooked on our plate. Generally, the surface had a great charred smoky taste and smell while the meat was pretty tender except for the sirloin bit of the porterhouse, similar to my previous experience in Hawksmoor.

Goodman, London 06

In regards to the taste of the meat itself, I don’t think I could really differentiate the two sources (my poor weak sorry taste buds). However, of the four among us who had sampled Hawksmoor before, three of us found the meat here less beefy than the Longhorn breed at Hawksmoor. Also, the beef is less seasoned here.

Goodman, London 08

To be fair, the sauces provided are fairly good particularly the red wine with blue cheese one which pretty much everyone loved.

Goodman, London 07

We chose a variety of sides to share such as chips (just normal chips, no triple cooked stuff), creamed spinach with gruyere and mushrooms. All of them were good actually.

For desserts, we tried three of them – sundae with brownies and lots and lots of whipped cream, triple chocolate mousse and a caramel parfait. I would suggest avoiding the sundae unless you actually enjoy whipped cream but the mousse and the parfait were both pretty good. The PigPig and another female accomplice then decided to have a glass of Tokaji each, which was actually pretty good.

Goodman, London 02

Altogether, the bill came up to nearly £500 for the entire table which included two bottles of wine (I had no input into the wine choosing. It made more sense for my friends who are in a wine tasting course to choose it) costing £39 and £60 each.

Food – 7.0
Service – 6.0
Atmosphere – 6.0
Value – 5.0


*Guide to restaurant food ratings

The steak and the cooking of it was actually of a very good quality and we all enjoyed our meal there as not only was the steak good, but so was the sauces and the side dishes while the service was friendly and helpful. Yet, Hawksmoor still provides better tasting steak at very similar prices. Still, there is no shame in coming second best to Hawksmoor in serving steak, much as there is no shame in running the 100m race in 9.60 seconds to come second to Usain Bolt.

Best bit: the PigPig whipping out her Polaroid and snapping pictures of everybody.
Worst bit: overeating.

Goodman, London 10

Goodman
26 Maddox Street
Mayfair,
W1S 1QH
Tel: +44(020) 7499 3776
Official website

Goodman on Urbanspoon


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