Monthly Archives

April 2014

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Le Coq

April 30, 2014

Le Coq is a very simple concept. £17 for two courses, £22 for three. An entree, perfect chicken, and dessert along with a simple selection of sides, prosecco on tap, modest wine menu and some really good cocktails.

Sarah and I started with a couple of negronis and a side of pickles. 

The choice of appetisers and sides for your chicken change every week. You can look back over past weeks on their website. We had brown shrimp on pickled leeks with loads of capers and fried breadcrumbs. 

Next up was the chicken, which was served with baked white onion and some watercress. 
The chicken is actually fantastic. It is cooked very simply but the quality of the meat is obvious. It has depth of flavour, a firm texture, and just the right amount of fat under the crisp skin. 
I will say that our meal ended up being a oddly pickled onion heavy. But obviously this will won’t be the case next time I go… 
They also have very nice looking private dining area downstairs. I just poked my head around the corner because I saw the cushioned alcove. It’s £30-60 per head for private dining. Looked like you would comfortably fit 8 around the table. 
I was really impressed by how simple and perfect Le Coq is. As Sarah was saying. There are enough restaurants in London that you don’t have to do everything to be full every night. Just doing one thing really well is enough.   
Thanks for dinner Sarah x

Le Coq
292-294 Saint Paul's Rd
London, UK N1 2LH
020.7359.5055
www.le-coq.co.uk

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Sunday boil up (puha & pork, London style) with fried bread

April 27, 2014
It’s officially Spring in London but you wouldn’t know it. Outside of our apartment it is cold, windy, and miserable. So it was with some jealously that I read on Facebook that some friends of mine in Auckland were going for “a boil up and bloody marys” at  Three Lamps in Ponsonby. 
What exactly is a boil up? It’s a common method of Maori cooking. The clues in the name really. You boil all the ingredients up in a big stock pot and add dumplings or serve it with some kind of starch. Hopefully fried bread. Delicious savoury doughnuts. 

A real traditional recipe would include Puha (a kind of thistle), lots of pork bones, Kumara (a purple sweet potato), watercress, and maybe potatoes or pumpkin. 
But I’m in London. And too hungover to travel far in search of watercress or Puha. Which I would probably have to forage for. I don’t think people eat it here. 
So my substitute ingredients were spinach, carrots, potato and sweet potato. Without pork bones to create the stock I had to use lots of stock cubes for flavour. 

Fried bread is very simple to make. You just mix a cup of self raising flour with a teaspoon of salt (I added a bit of MSG as well), a little splash of oil, and enough water to make a non sticky dough. 

Add a bit of extra flour and you can flatten it out on a floured board with your hands. It should be about a centimetre thick. Cut it into smallish chunks and shallow fry it in a couple of centimetres of oil.

This simple bread is amazing at absorbing the boil up broth. It really makes the meal.

Serve them hot. Like most doughnuts that’s when they’re at their best.

Boil Up Method: Fill a large pot with water and 3 or 4 stock cubes. Bring it to the boil and add the pork a chopped up root vegetables. Cook for about an hour. Remove the bones from the pork and add the greens (puha, spinach, etc) and cook for a further twenty minutes. Taste it and add some salt if necessary.

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Tomato soup and grilled cheese

April 26, 2014

Possibly one of the simplest meals to create, but in terms of flavour, really complex. Growing up my mother would make and bottle tomato soup. I’m going to encourage her to post the recipe on her blog…

But seeing as she is all the way in New Zealand and I am in London I find it easier to just buy a can of tomato soup from the corner store. Tomato soup is one of those things (like ice cream, or ketchup) that there just isn’t that much point in making your own.

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Kale with bacon and garlic

April 22, 2014

Kale’s okay. When it is stir fried or steamed by itself though it has this odd flavour that puts me off a bit.

Adding bacon and garlic makes it fucking delicious. Dice your bacon and crush and chop some garlic. Then start frying the bacon in a little oil until it is crispy and brown. Now add the garlic, mix it up, and quickly add the kale. Mix it up, turn the heat down, and cover your wok or frying pan with a lid so that the kale can steam a little.

We ate it with some fried sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli, and a couple of spoonfuls of Lao Gan Ma’s Flavoured Chilli Sauce.

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Dak-Bokkeumtang (닭볶음탕)

April 19, 2014

This is a red spicy dish. Have a look at this Google image search for 닭볶음탕 to see a glorious red wall of chicken, potatoes, and onions. I first learned how to make it from Maangchi’s youtube channel where she walks you through fantastic, and simple, Korean food.

This dish does require one ingredient that is probably only available from one of those Asian groceries stores or on line. It’s called Gochujang. You can buy some online here and save yourself a trip, or if you have 30+ days, you can read about how to make gochujang at home in this post by Amy Kim. In essence it is a fermented paste made from red chillies, sugar, soy, and salt.

Dak-Bokkeumtang at the 40 minute mark, about time to turn on the rice. 

 Dak-bokkeumtang Method: Chop some chicken thighs into bite size pieces. Brown them in a stock pan with some oil. Once browned cover the chicken with water and let it keep cooking.

In a small bowl mix up a few big tablespoons of gochujang with some vinegar, red pepper flakes, soy sauce, and sugar. Mix it to your own taste. I like 4 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 1.

Pour that into the pot with the chicken and cook for 30 minutes.

Chop up equal quantities of brown onions, potatoes, and carrots. Put them into the pot and add some water if you need to. Cook for another 30 minutes.

It’s great with some rice and toasted sesame seeds.

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Home made Green Sriracha

April 18, 2014

Everyone loves Sriracha. But I’ve never seen a green chilli version available so I thought I would make one at home. This green version is sweeter and more lightly flavoured but definitely hot. It went really well with a pork loin that I cooked as the meat course for a classic italian meal last night. You are going to need some kind of food processor to make this. I have a Cuisinart mini food processor that does the trick.

The ingredients you’ll need are some green chillies, a clove of garlic, sugar, and white vinegar. Start by chopping the green chillies and peeling the garlic. I left the seeds in for a hotter and slightly more rustic version.

The Mini Cuisinart pre chopping.

After processing the chillies and garlic pour them out into a sauce pan and add sugar, salt, and vinegar to taste. Try to limit the amount of vinegar. The sauce shouldn’t be watery at any point.

Cook it over a low heat for a couple of minutes. This helps mellow out the garlic and integrate all the flavours together. Now put it back into the food processor and give it one more blend.

At this stage you could pass it through a sieve if you were really concerned about getting a smooth consistency. But it doesn’t really need it. Proper sriracha is also fermented for a week or more. I didn’t do that this time but it’s something to experiment with in the future. If you are interested in buying one of those Mini Cuisinart’s you should grab it here. I recommend it as the perfect apartment food processor.

UPDATE 2014/04/30: Looks like there is at least one commercial version available now. But not available in London, yet.

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Yipin China

April 16, 2014
After years of lamenting the lack of authentic Chinese food in North London I was surprised to find Yipin China right in my very backyard. Tucked away behind Vue Islington in Angel, it torments me to think of the wasted years lazily chewing on pale, greasy noodles while this Hunanese culinary haven was a 15 minute bus ride away. And after five visits, including on on Chinese New Year, I can safely say this is some of the most authentic, fresh and flavourful Chinese food I’ve had in London. For those who don’t feel confident about what to order, Yipin’s menu is art-directed within a moment of its life with vivid photographs. One of my favourite dishes is Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork. Slightly sweet, it melts in your mouth but isn’t too salty and can stand on its own without rice. 

Two out of three of us at dinner were being pious and abstaining from eating rice like it was 1999 – at many Chinese restaurants this would prove to be a problem, the inferior ones tend to rely on over salting their dishes so you end up wandering around with an unquenchable thirst for hours. Each dish we tried at Yipin had its own distinct flavour that complemented each other without overpowering your tastebuds.

Look at those colours! Gong Bao Prawns with Cashew Nuts from their Sichuan menu. If I could worship at the altar of this concoction I would. Every time we order this I end up hoarding my prawns on the edge of my plate to save for last. This is one of their sweeter dishes so is perfect for anyone at the table who aren’t in the mood to blow their heads off with hot chilli.

The Dry-Wok Squid from Yipin’s Hunanese menu was the least popular dish at the table. Spicy enough to choke on if you’re not careful, even the most seasoned chilli eater thought it was a bit overwhelming. This one definitely needed steamed rice to soak up the spices. 

Make no mistake, Yipin’s menu is meat and offal heavy but their vegetable and tofu dishes pull their own weight. I’d be just as delighted eating a fully vegetarian meal here. The refreshing cucumber starter is balanced with vinegar and chilli while the bean curd tastes a lot better than it looks – slightly salted with a pleasantly chewy texture. The universal favourite is the Blanched Spinach in sesame sauce. It tastes like spinach smothered in peanut butter. Praise the lord! Not an exclamation you hear often in a Chinese restaurant but there you have it. Yipin is worth a trek up to Islington for anyone looking for authentic Hunanese and Sichuan food without battling through hordes of tourists with bags of paper lanterns. And the service is always lovely –  not the default withering glare that you sometimes get in Chinatown for daring to ask for more napkins. I mean really, you should bring your own or stay home. 
70-72 Liverpool Rd
London N1 0QD
0207 354 3388
Nearest tube: Angel
www.yipinchina.co.uk

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