Monthly Archives

June 2014

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Yolk @ The Faltering Fullback

June 29, 2014

The Faltering Fullback is a big rugby pub in Stroud Green. Just past the Finsbury Park station. Downstairs it’s very much your standard pub. But it has an unusual garden area. There are maybe 8 different levels of wooden terrace with tables and even a gazebos. Have a look at the gallery on their website for some photos.

Anyway, we saw on twitter that Yolk had taken over their kitchen from now until the 3rd of August. So on a sunny Sunday we walked up, ordered most of the menu and some drinks from the bar, and sat in the sun on their terraces.

Everything on the Yolk menu revolves around eggs. So french toast. It’s fluffy but not insubstantial and had a nice citrusy tartness to it. Not too sweet. Served with mascarpone and a berry coulis.

Eggs benedict.

Their signature scotch egg. Which was kind of an odd breakfast choice but is just perfect.

Another shot where it’s been cut in half. Probably cooked in a sous vide before being covered in the moreish sausage mix and deep fried.

Spaghetti carbonara. A really perfect example. It’s such a nice simple pasta dish but about 80% of the time someone’s screwed it up by adding cream. The only sauce here is the egg yolk and a little cheese.

Yolk is well worth a visit for breakfast or a light dinner / bar snack. You’ll have to follow them on twitter to keep track of them once they leave Stroud Green. Though they could totally take over one of the empty cafe’s on Blackstock Road and stick around. I’d eat that pasta once a week.

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Dotori, a wonderful Korean restaurant in Finsbury Park

June 27, 2014

Korean food is one of my favourite things. So we are very lucky that Finsbury Park has an absolutely fantastic Korean restaurant called Dotori. It doesn’t really need any more publicity because it is always fully booked. And when you do make a reservation and get one of the 30 seats in this tiny restaurant you can watch the staff turning away a constant stream of attempted walk ins.

Dotori has a Korean / Japanese menu. Which is usually a warning sign but not in this case. They really do manage to do each one well and the dishes don’t over lap. It’s not fusion. More a selection of the greatest hits from both cuisines.

Having said that we never order any of the Japanese dishes and stick with the straight Korean options. The sushi is fine. But who wants sushi when you can have a dolsot bibimbap or kimchi jigae?

An actual Korean meal isn’t organised into courses. The main dishes would be served with rice and any amount of side dishes. Known as banchan.

In Korea the banchan is free and refilled… but this is London so you’ll have to order what you want and pay for it like everything else. You do get a little iceberg lettuce and tomato salad on the house. So there is that.

The Oi, or cucumber, Kimchi.

Kimchi Pajeon. A crispy, greasy, slightly sour pancake made with big chunks of kimchi. The seafood version is also good.

The Mafa tofu deopbab. A large portion of deep fried tofu in a sweet, red spicy sauced served on rice.

Bibimbap is a signature Korean dish. Hot rice, topped with various options. You then mix it up with your desired amount of fermented pepper paste (gochujang) and eat. This is the bulgoggi dolsot. Thinly sliced grilled beef, served in a stone pot that arrives at the table sizzling hot and keeps everything warm while you’re eating it.

I can’t recommend Dotori enough. On top of the food being great it’s also very reasonably priced. The meal above, not including drinks but including service, only comes to £32. £16 each. Delicious, friendly, and reasonable. Perfect.


Dotori, Finsbury Park
3 Stroud Green Rd
London, UK N4 2DF
020.7263.3562

Dotori on Urbanspoon

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JUBO Korean Canteen

June 24, 2014

I just can’t get enough of Korean food. The sweet, deliciously salty, spicy Korean chilli paste Gochujang is used in a lot of dishes. I would worship at the altar of this condiment if this was kosher. Jubo bills itself as a Korean Canteen and serves up tasty, morsels of tapas-sized joy in Shoreditch that are ideal if you’re not in the mood for a large blowout meal. There are bigger platters available but true to its canteen style, we’ve always just ordered little tapas-style plates. The star of the menu is the Korean fried chicken (Yangnyeom Tongdak). Sticky, perfectly battered and satisfying. We ordered the “Hot” flavour fried chicken strips, which weren’t really all that hot to be honest. They were tasty though if a bit overly battered so my personal preference is their actual fried chicken wings. You just cannot beat fried chicken. Am so pleased I didn’t live in the medieval times when all they could do was roast chicken over a hastily constructed fire. Korean fried chicken is one of the luxuries of modern life, surely?

The kimchi slaw is simply delicious. Has a bit of a spicy kick to it and is nice and crunchy – a good sidekick for the chicken. I used to scoff at coleslaw but now I know better. When made well, it’s one of the best side dishes you can have with barbecue ribs or a fried chicken dish. The serving size was pretty small so I’d suggest one per person. Or maybe I’m just greedy.

We tried the steamed buns the last time we were here and they were great but this time it was a tad dry. This is the Pork Bun – slow-cooked pork belly, pickled cucumber, hoisin and sriracha. A bit like a Korean taco with a soft bun on the outside. There’s a vegetarian version with portobello mushroom, spring onion and hoisin sauce. Mmm hoisin sauce. Another sauce I could guzzle.

The best thing we ordered by far was the Soy Garlic Fried Chicken Wings. Oh boy. These were sweet and sticky but not overly so. Delicately battered and crispy, next time I’ll avoid the strips and go straight for these and a side bucket of kimchi slaw. Am also intrigued by their Bokkeubap – kimchi fried rice, bacon or spinach, sesame, spring onions and a sunny side up egg. Spotted melon chilli ice cream as well but then we had already paid up. Bummer.


Jubo London
68 Rivington Street
London EC2A 3AY
020.7033.0198
www.jubolondon.com

Jubo on Urbanspoon

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Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium

June 20, 2014

It will come as no revelation that I am fanatical about cats. If I see one on the street I’ll approach it and try to pet it even if it looks like the feline version of an escaped convict. They’re just so damn cute and fluffy. So it was with great fanfare that my reservation at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first cat cafe, arrived three months after the initial booking. Most likely due to health and safety laws, they don’t cook on the premises – all of the food is understandably pre-made. Domestic pets and food preparation should only mix in Pixar films, and I’m no food critic, but I recoiled a bit when the French chef/rat was chopping up vegetables for his Ratatouille dish.

Obviously people aren’t booking months in advance to come here just to eat cake and sandwiches. The stars of the show are the 11 or so roaming cats. If I just wanted a hot meal I’d be down at Five Guys scarfing chips and sitting on top of a tower of unshelled peanuts. Look at that tortoiseshell lolling about on her hammock all casual-like while my blood pressure starts to soar – all this and we haven’t even sat down yet. I have to mention that the temperature in there was turned WAY UP. To the point where I started to feel hot and bothered. The upstairs is definitely superior in both decor and atmosphere but we crept downstairs because that’s where the cats were at. HASHTAG YOLO.

Seeing as it was 9pm on a Monday night and we were feeling peckish without dinner, we ordered the Ploughman’s, an impressive tower of Brie, Red Leicester, Goat’s cheese and a smoked cheese served on a tiered plate with chutney, pork pie and a selection of fruit and bread. Generously portioned and actually quite a delightful snack, we nibbled on it throughout our two-hour time slot, occasionally pausing to go mad when a cat would casually saunter out. The cat cafe is two stories and we were sat in the basement level with a pack of teenagers. I’m not ashamed to admit that I behaved like I had never seen a cat before in my life. I must point out that the teenagers were even worse.

We also ordered a slice of the quiche of the day with a side salad and a balsamic glaze dressing. This was served cold and was adequate for what it was. Again, I’m sure no one comes here for the actual food. The cake selection looked amazing – unfortunately this visit clashed with a pious sugar detox so I was unable to partake. This is an error – if you come here go straight for their sweets and pastry selection which I’m told are delicious! I took some surreptitious snaps of the menu as I couldn’t find anything on their website – just in case anyone was curious. However, if you’re going to turn up and say stuff like “I’m a foodie, I can’t eat this”, then you’re best to go some place else.

After more photos and an overzealous attempt to lure the grey tabby onto my lap (I’m so creepy), we went to pay at the front desk area, which looks like your crazy Aunt Diane’s holding cell. It’s full of cat paraphernalia which I had to control myself around. I bought a cute psychedelic print Cat Oyster card holder, Lady Dinah tote bag (OBVIOUSLY) and a David Meowie card. I deliberated over the cat cushion cover my friend bought (jealous) and with a crazed look in my eye asked the staff when the Cat Meme Magnet set was going to be in stock again. At the moment, the website isn’t even taking any bookings as it is fully booked until October. If you’re a cat crazed lunatic like me, it’s totally worth it , if anything for the slightly surreal experience, so check their Twitter feed as they regularly tweet about cancellations.


Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium
152-154 Bethnal Green Road
Shoreditch
London E2 6DG
020.7729.0953
www.ladydinahs.com

Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium on Urbanspoon

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Twice cooked pork belly with star anise and oyster sauce

June 18, 2014

I’ve been cooking some variation on this recipe for ten years now. I always use pork belly, star anise, and oyster sauce. But the other ingredients depend on what is to hand. It takes a lot of cooking time but actual prep time is quite minimal. a 1.2 kilo piece of pork belly will feed 4. Total cooking time is 5+ hours.

Start by trimming it into a nice rectangle and deeply scoring the skin into large diamond shapes.

Then pork belly is then simmered in whatever aromatics you have at hand. Garlic, ginger, star anise, and coriander are all good. Half a cup of oyster sauce and the same of light soy give the eventual sauce some musky depth. Keep the heat very low and braise it for at least 2 hours.

By this point the piece of pork belly will be quite delicate and ready to fall apart. So gently get it into a baking dish and put it into a 160°C oven. Save the liquid that you cooked the pork in. You’ll be reducing this and adding some honey to make a sauce.

About half way through the cooking process. During this time you can strain and then reduce the cooking liquid, adding about half a cup of dark honey to neutralise some of the salt in the soy and oyster sauces. You’ll end up with a very thick, porky, gamy sauce.

Slice the pork belly along the pre scored lines.

You can see that the fat under the skin of the pork has almost entirely rendered, pork belly is really a self basting cut.

Serve it with some steamed shanghai and white rice.


1 kilo of pork belly
½ cup of Oyster Sauce
½ cup of light soy
star anise
large piece of ginger
bulb of garlic
½ cup of dark honey
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Akari

June 16, 2014

Akari is a neighbourhood Japanese restaurant in a converted pub. They haven’t made many changes to the interior so it has a relaxed feel. Old pub tables and the original bar. At the back of the room they’ve added a high bar which you can sit at and watch the sushi chefs at work.

When we visited it on Saturday night we ordered an eclectic meal for two. Starting with some tuna on a bed of nattō. Which I wanted to try because I just hadn’t had it before. It is fermented soy beans with a slimy, sticky, texture. Think a subtle marmite flavour. Served with some good quality chunks of tuna and spring onion.

Next up a salad of sliced pork belly, served cold with a sesame and miso dressing.

Chirashi is sushi rice with pickled ginger and various sashimi. Some of it, like the mackerel and prawns had been very lightly grilled. But mostly raw seafood on just warm, lightly vinegared rice. It’s a nice selection of properly fresh fish. A very satisfying dish. Though I felt like it could have used a bit more ginger? Something to brighten it up a bit.

We also tried their miso marinated cod. I’ve never had the Nobu original but this was a nice piece of fish. The miso marinade had penetrated all the way through. Crisp on the outside but not dry internally.

The miso soup they serve uses red miso. Which is nice for a change. It has a deeper, meatier flavour. Most places use lighter yellow miso in their soups.

Akari is good, the ingredients are fresh and well prepared. But some of the dishes (pork belly and chirashi) could use a bit more zest or complexity, I think we’ll have to go back some time to try just the sushi. Maybe when Jen is eating rice again…


Akari
196 Essex Road,
Islington,
London N1 8LZ
020.7226.9943
www.akarilondon.co.uk
Akari on Urbanspoon
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Brunch at Highbury Arts Club

June 15, 2014

Once upon a time, going for weekend brunch in the Highbury/Finsbury Park was limited to slumping off the nearest greasy spoon to enjoy whatever had the word “eggs” on the menu. The choices were dire. So dire that you would be forgiven for scrambling some eggs yourself, dumping ketchup on them and going back to sleep. We discovered the Highbury Arts Club a few months ago and not only is it a five minute walk away from home tucked on a corner in Highbury Barn, they sure know how to make a good breakfast. They have two mainstays on the regular menu, the Sydney and the Spanish, and a rotating specials menu on the blackboard. I had the Sydney breakfast – asparagus, free range bacon, free range poached egg and Hollandaise sauce with a sprinkle of parmesan on sourdough bread (there’s a choice of spinach and smoked salmon if you’re not into bacon). Served with a side salad, it felt like I was eating fresh, healthy food despite the generous helping of Hollandaise on top. Yum.

Hansel went for the Spanish Breakfast – 2 fried eggs, potatoes and delicious Serrano ham. The potatoes were nice and crispy, almost like crisps while the runny egg yolk made a nice sauce over the whole thing. It’s nice to have a choice from the ubiquitous full English breakfast. The servings are great for a lighter breakfast but for just a pound you can make it a bigger serving.

From the special menu on the blackboard, we ordered a side of Chorizo Pincho – which literally just means Chorizo tapas. Perfectly grilled and nicely shaped into some kind of sausage sculpture, it came with some grilled sweet red pepper on the side. They were both slightly smoky with a really rich flavour.

In the evenings, they have live jazz on Thursday alongside a tapas menu so I know we’ll be back soon to sample their wine list and find out what Flan de queso (Spanish cheese pudding) and Arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding) taste like (I’m imagining something pretty spectactular). I mean CHEESE PUDDING?!


Highbury Arts Club
73 Highbury Park
London N5 1UA
07826.899499
www.highburyartsclub.com
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Home made caesar salad dressing

June 11, 2014

Jen is trying to limit her carbohydrate intake at the moment. And she also wanted a caesar salad for dinner. Since store bought dressings are close to 10% sugar (about the same as a coke) I made some for us for us. It’s much easier to dress the lettuce with this dressing if you make the dressing in a big bowl.

Ingredients from left:

5 parts mayonnaise
Pepper
3 parts grated parmesan
Salt
1 part dijon mustard
1 part anchovy fillets
1 part lemon juice.

Start by breaking up the anchovy fillets with the back of a fork and then whisk everything up together.

Keep on whisking it right up the side of the bowl before adding the romaine lettuce.

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Chicken liver and sage pâté

June 10, 2014

Chicken livers are cheap. Pâté is delicious. And home made pâté is much tastier than anything you can buy in a shop. Whenever I see chicken livers for sale in the supermarket I buy a kilo and make a bulk lot of it. A kilo today cost £2.

When you are buying livers they should be a vibrant, glossy, red. Free of spots or general blemishes.

You start by chopping a large onion and frying it on a low heat with a couple of tablespoons of butter. You’re not trying to brown the onions just soften them, so you’ll need to keep stirring them.

While the onions are cooking you can start chopping up the chicken livers. A whole liver is made of two lobes. Connected by veins and some gristle. As you chop them up into inch size pieces try to remove those veins.

Once the onions are completely translucent add the chopped liver and keep cooking it on a low heat. Liver is very delicate. Overcooking can make it rubbery. You want to keep gently cooking it and breaking it up with a wooden spoon until the liver and onion mixture gets to a point where it is mostly grey but there are still some pinkish parts. Now take off the heat and let it cool.

At this point the pâté is a blank canvas. At a minimum you should add salt and pepper. For this particular batch I chopped up some fresh sage and fried it in yet more butter until it was just crispy and added that. As well as a splash of sweet vermouth.

Now you have to turn it into a paste. You can use a potato masher, a food processor, or even pass it through a sieve depending on how fine you want the pâté to be.

Pâté oxidises (goes brown) and dries out very quickly. So to store it you can spoon the mix into a bowl, level off the top, and pour over some melted butter. This seals it and it can be kept refrigerated for a couple of weeks.

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Meatballs with tomato and coriander sauce

June 10, 2014

These make a very simple meal. Beef meatballs with a simple tomato sauce. Using coriander rather than parsley gives them a fresh Summer flavour.

I formed 8 meatballs out of 500 grammes of beef mince, heavily seasoned with salt and black pepper. Along with some softened onions that I cooked put didn’t use in the chicken liver and sage pâté.

Dump one can of plum tomatoes into a sauce pan with chopped coriander and some salt and pepper to taste. Cook it for a 10 minutes and taste carefully to make sure you’ve added enough salt. Just before you serve it add some more chopped coriander (add it late to keep it tasting fresh) and keep some to garnish with.

This is also an entry in the Summer series of the Four Seasons Food competition being hosted by Delicieux, Eat your Veg, and The Spicy Pear.