Monthly Archives

August 2014


Home cooking, Vancouver edition

August 31, 2014

Jen and I were in Vancouver recently for our much belated proper wedding reception. It was an amazing experience. Jen’s mother went out of her way to personally ensure that I put on 5 kilos by feeding us every 2 hours. These are just a couple of the meals that I took semi decent photos of.

Thit nướng. This was very simply prepared. Thick cut pork belly, marinated in fish sauce and crushed garlic. Char grilled over gas. Served with vietnamese herbs (basil, mint, lettuce) and some vermicelli. And then of course the nước chấm dipping sauce you can see in the first picture. So ridiculously tasty.

If it was just a couple of us then someone might whip up a bowl of noodles with chicken broth, a thinly sliced plain omelette, spring onions, and as much shrimp paste and sriracha as you needed.

Along with that some fresh youtiao. Which I had never had before. But are long Chinese fried bread. They reminded me of maori bread and were delicious used in the same way. As crispy dumplings in the savoury broth.

Every morning there was a big pot of congee on the stove. I’m going to do an actual congee post soon. It was a real revelation. Light enough to be eaten every day. And not the boring sludge that is porridge. I watched it being made carefully enough so hopefully I’ll be able to recreate it to a similar high standard.


The Hemingford Arms, Islington: Thai pub food

August 14, 2014

Before I moved to the UK, the idea of eating Thai food in a pub was akin to eating sushi in a petrol station. Heinous! Maybe acceptable after 2am? Debatable. The Hemingford Arms in Islington is a small, charming pub in a residential area in Islington tucked away on a side street away from the stampeding prams careening down Upper Street. Predictably I had the pad thai with prawns. Highly enjoyable. I’ve definitely had my fair share of sub-par thai food in pubs and the food here is really nice. It’s just really simple, no frills Thai food – I mean, I wasn’t transported to a beach in Phuket but I was sitting in an English pub after all.

The Red Curry Chicken came with some crunchy red and green peppers and was mild and coconutty. I have yet to find an incredible Thai restaurant in London but if you’re hungry and looking for a cosy atmosphere in a local pub (and you live in North London), this beats standard pub fare any day.

The Hemingford Arms
158 Hemingford Road
N1 1DF

The Hemingford Arms on Urbanspoon


Lap Cheong with rice and spring onions

August 12, 2014

Lap Cheong is the generic term for cured, dried Chinese sausage. I’ve tried using it a few times now. The first time I bought them I had no idea what to do with them and tried to use them like chorizo. Which absolutely does not work. They need to be steamed or boiled before being sliced up and used in a stir fry. They are sweet and spiced. Kind of like a delicious meat candy. I’m definitely going to be buying and using it often.

Cooking the sausages along with the rice.

Post steaming ready to slice

Sliced and about to be mixed with the steamed rice, some coriander, and spring onions fried in peanut oil. See it really does look like meat candy.

A really simple and delicious one bowl meal. We added a bit of soy to taste as we were eating it.


Iced tea on the cheap

August 6, 2014

We’ve been basking in London’s heatwave. Most nights I’ve been making very lightly sweetened ice tea.

It’s easy to make cold tea. But hard to make it taste nice. It’s got to be really strong. That’s the trick.

If I’m making three or four glasses I’ll use 6 tea bags, and a couple of table spoons of sugar in a cup. Fill it with boiling water and let it stew for a few minutes.

Fill a jug (or a couple of glasses) with ice. You can add lemon, mint. I’ve been putting in a bit of Amaretto. Because, well, alcoholism. And it kind of ends up tasting like Dr Pepper.

Pour the hot tea over the ice and let it sit for another few minutes. The longer you leave it the weaker it will taste as the ice melts and dilutes the tea.

Salut! Here’s hoping this heat lasts for another few months. Again, the key is really strong tea over lots of ice. Otherwise you just end up with a drink that doesn’t really taste of anything. Nothing worse than cold tea.


8 Hoxton Square

August 1, 2014

Well there is nothing I love more than being surprised. One day we were lurching around Shoreditch on a weekday looking for somewhere to have lunch and stumbled across 8 Hoxton Square. I had never heard of it before and was feeling like a tightwad so almost didn’t go in – sometimes you just want to eat a burrito on the street. Hansel was like stop being a miser etc etc. But I’m so glad we ended up going in. Sitting on the outdoor terrace basking in the sun is so much better than sitting hunched over a plastic counter at Chipotle, I’ll give you that. I had the Whole Plaice with brown shrimps, samphire, capers and fennel and as you can see from the above, it was divine. Perfectly cooked, the flavours all worked so well together – nothing was overwhelming. It just tasted so fresh and was deliciously enhanced with fresh lemon.

I love places that have free bread. It’s just such an old-fashioned treat. A bit salty and oily with bits of bacon in it. What’s not to like?

The Baked sardines with chilli, pistachio, pomegranate and cucumber yoghurt was a really interesting combination of flavours. Light and flavourful, I never would have thought to combine pomegranate with sardines unless Ottolenghi told me to do it.

The Runner Beans were so much better than I thought they’d be. They don’t look like the most exciting thing but liberally sprinkled with almonds and some oil and lemon juice – who knew beans could be this tasty?

These chips with aioli were the ideal companion to a light lunch of fish and beans. They tasted triple cooked – crispy on the outside and a bit fluffy on the inside. The table next to us all ordered dessert while I gawped at them. The menu changes daily which is even more incentive to go back.

8 Hoxton Square
N1 6NU

8 Hoxton Square on Urbanspoon