When eating out with vegetarian or pescetarian friends, it can be tricky to find a restaurant where their dietary needs are properly catered for… not just with the obligatory one or two clichéd dishes but with lots of appealing choices that are every bit as inventive as they could wish for.

Luckily, my vegetarian friend Sejal had heard about a place that might fit the bill, and better still, its location in Temple Fortune was virtually equidistant between us.

Cafe Also is attached to neighbouring business, Joseph’s Bookstore owned by Michael Joseph. I like to imagine a conversation where Joseph first expressed an interest “to open a cafe, also…

The cafe-restaurant sits on the corner of the block, with floor-to-ceiling windows along both fronts and a large door at the corner. Bookshop and cafe are connected by glass-panelled double doors and visitors to one are invited to check out the other.

CafeAlsoGoogleStreetView
Exterior, Google Street View

Inside, boxes of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables front the counter area, though sadly they’re not for sale; rather, they’re part of the cook’s larder, on display to customers. Second hand books line the shelves, including quite a few cookery book titles, if you’re so inclined.

Although the cafe opened back in 2001, owner Michael Joseph met current head chef Ali Al-Sersy just a couple of years ago. Egyptian-born Al-Sersy trained at Le Gavroche under the Roux brothers, and worked for the Qatari royal family, before opening his own restaurant Mims, first in New Barnet and then in Chelsea. At Cafe Also, he shares his unusual menu with a loyal local clientele. He goes to market several times a week to source fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, which inspire his appealing menu.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-185936

On my first visit, we asked for guidance, as the menu isn’t divided simply into starters, mains and desserts. First, the breakfast items are listed, followed by a section of dishes that we assume (from their price point) are starters or lighter meal options, and then main dishes; after these, a selection of mezze salads and lastly, sweet things. Some of our questions to staff about the small dishes suggested they may be too generous to enjoy as a starter, so we adjusted our order accordingly, with my friend choosing a plate from the mezze salad section to start her meal.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-191435 Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-191452

To begin, I chose roasted beetroot with homemade fromage blanc, pomegranate and orange essence (£6). I was completely bowled over by the beautifully presented plate that arrived and just as impressed with the perfect balance of flavours and textures – I would not have thought to combine these four key ingredients but as soon as I tasted them together, it made perfect sense.

My friend’s torched aubergine & tomato with barbequed oil and coriander (£2.50) was very generous for the price, and equally delicious. The aubergine was silky, smoky and beautifully complimented by the flavoured oil and coriander.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-194044

Her main dish of crisped adzuki beans with broccoli poached in celeriac and peach tea, & broccoli cornmeal (£12.50) was deemed both an unusual and delicious choice, quite unlike the usual cheese or tomato pasta dishes that are so commonly the vegetarian’s lot. The soft “loaf” was moist and full of flavour, a world-away from the dry nutloafs of old.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-194119 Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-194100

My hake with coconut, like, ginger, Chinese leaves & fondant potatoes (£13.50) was, as we’d now come to expect, a beautifully presented dish. I particularly loved that it was not swimming in a thick, gloopy sauce but that a light, fragrant sauce had been sparingly applied. It gave flavour but allowed the ingredients to shine in their own right. I had worried that fondant potatoes might be an odd match for the Asian flavour influences in the dish, but actually, they worked very well.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-203416 Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-203438

Both desserts, banana ice cream (£3.50) and pear and vanilla cake (£3.50), came decorated with what I know as pashmak (Persian candy floss).

My banana ice cream turned out to be an altogether more substantial dish than I’d imagined – a whole caramelised banana (served warm) and a serving of ice cream frozen into the same shape and served, whimsically, within a banana skin. Both were wonderful, though far larger a portion than I could manage.

The cake and ice cream were delicious too, simple and well made with pleasing texture and taste.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-114821 Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-120856

I returned just a week later for lunch with my mum; she’s pescetarian and seldom gets so much choice when eating out.

The menu was broadly the same, with a few small changes.

Fresh bread, made in house, was super; I’d guess egg-enriched.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-121555 Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-121651

Mum chose the vegetarian burger with cheese, smoked mushroom relish, tomato, mayo, leaves and chips (£8.50). She really liked both, the burger had a wonderful flavour. The only issue here was that it was so soft and sloppy that it almost immediately fell apart, making it difficult to eat a sandwich. She persevered with knife and fork. The chips were excellent.

Cafe-Also-Restaurant-London-121616

After being so impressed with my hake, I couldn’t resist ordering the grilled herbed wild black bream with broccoli sprouts and roasted new potatoes (£13.50) and it was every bit as tasty as I expected. I’m not sure why the potatoes were presented on sticks, since nothing else about the dish was finger-food format, but those quickly removed, it was another fine dish; fabulously fresh fish, perfectly cooked and paired with simply accompaniments and dressing.

This is the kind of fish dish I want to eat much, much more of.

Both visits impressed me greatly. I’d recommend Cafe Also as a superb choice, not only for pescetarians and vegetarians, but for omnivores like me who are looking for something a little different.

Temple Fortune may not be the first neighbourhood you think of for top dining in London, but Cafe Also is definitely worth the visit. Breakfast and lunch are served six days a week (except Monday) and dinner five days a week (Tuesday through to Saturday).

Cafe Also on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

We usually use our Magimix food processor for slicing and grating but it has a large footprint, and takes up valuable space on our worktop… And as it’s pretty heavy, it’s not hugely practical to put it away and get it back out each time we need it. Even though it’s a great appliance, I’m starting to resent the space it takes up more and more, and thinking about alternatives.

russell hobbs desire slice and go sensiohome slica
Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go; Sensiohome Slica

When I first saw these much smaller food slicers, I thought one of them might be a good option. They are a fair bit smaller than our food processor, so could be left out all the time, but they’re also light enough that it should be easy to grab them from the cupboard as and when needed. Of course, the functionality is reduced – we use our food processor to puree, blend and mix wet batters – but we have a very good blender that can do those tasks just as easily.

I was offered the opportunity to review two models by well known brands. We did some side-by-side testing to put both models through their paces.

As you can see, the Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go has a smaller footprint, which is great for households with limited space. The Sensiohome Slica is a little larger, but exactly the same height.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5332

The Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go comes with three attachments – slicing, shredding and grating.
The Sensiohome Slica comes with five attachments – fine slicing, coarse slicing, fine shredding, coarse shredding and grating.

The Desire Slice & Go has specially provided slots on the back in which to store the two attachments that are not currently in use.
The Sensiohome Slica doesn’t have any such storage for the four attachments not in use.

We found the Desire Slice & Go attachments very simple to change – they are held in place with the red screw-on cap.
In contrast, the Sensiohome Slica attachments were a real struggle to change, particularly to remove after use.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5334 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5336

The feeding funnels are similar in size – the Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go one is marginally smaller, requiring food to be cut into slightly smaller pieces before feeding through.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5345 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5348 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5351 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5353
Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5357 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5361 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5363 Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5365

We found that the Sensiohome Slica had more of a tendency to fling the extruded vegetables to the side, thus completely escaping the bowl we’d placed beneath it. A wider plate would help with this.
The Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go also did this, but to a much lesser extent.

By virtue of its additional attachments, the Sensiohome Slica allowed us to grate red cabbage, white cabbage and carrot more finely.
However, the Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go attachments grated the vegetables sufficiently finely for our purposes.

Although the motors are both rated at 150 watts, the Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go was significantly faster and more powerful, and the vegetables fed through without pressure, very quickly.
We found ourselves having to push vegetables down with the feeder insert and force them against and through the cutting blades.

After use, we found the Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go much easier to disassemble and clean.
The Sensiohome proved tricky to disassemble and clean, partly because pieces of food became stuck between blade and tube during use.

Both models offer a continuous power and a pulse option. We used continuous power for our testing.

Spicy-Paprika-Coleslaw-Condensed-Milk-Cider-Vinegar-5376

We did a further experiment with a block of cheddar.

The Sensiohome Slica was completely unable to process the cheddar at all – the cheese gummed up the grater attachment and tube within seconds. We suspect this is because the attachment cutting edges aren’t sharp enough. We tried to push the cheese down against them using the tube feeder, but it didn’t help and we gave up and grated the cheese by hand.
The Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go handled the block of cheddar without any problems at all. I don’t know whether the blades are sharper, or whether Russell Hobbs have simply harnessed more power from the motor (both are 150 watts), but whatever the reason, the results were drastically different.

 

CONCLUSION

When it comes to pricing, both appliances are available for approximately the same price, if you shop around.

Amazon is currently offering the Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go for £29.88.
The Amazon price for the Sensiohome Slica is £44.53 however, you can find it for £25.89 at Argos or £24.99 on The A Range.

Clearly, Russell Hobbs Desire Slice & Go is ahead on virtually all counts – it has a smaller footprint, is faster and more effortless to use, the attachments are easier to insert and remove and it is easier to clean after use. It is also better able to handle dense or sticky ingredients such as cheese.
The Sensiohome Slica offers more granularity of grating or shredding size, and a very slightly wider feed tube but is difficult to assemble, disassemble and clean, lacks power in use and fails on key tests such as grating cheese.

 

Kavey Eats received product samples of both appliances, courtesy of Russell Hobbs and Sensiohome (MPL Group).

 

I can’t claim to be an expert in Lebanese food; not even close. It’s not even a cuisine I’ve cooked much at home.

But I did spend a most wonderful holiday in Lebanon a few years ago, in which our entire focus was to enjoy the delights of the Lebanese table.

Under the wing of our expert guides, we toured the country from north to south, from cosmopolitan city to village farm, from coast to mountain to valley, seeking out the best examples of traditional cuisine. We watched a butcher-baker make lamb filled pastries by selecting, butchering and mincing the meat, adding the requisite spices, filling the mixture into pastry cases and baking them in the wood-fired oven at the back of the shop; we sat in a casual coastal restaurant perched precariously above the waves themselves, eating fresh seafood that we’d helped select from a fishmonger only moments before; we learned how to make spicy soujuk sausages from a local chef, part of an enormous feast we helped cook; we learned about za’atar from humble expert Abu Kassem and his wife Fatima; we watched one of three sisters deftly shape and fill dough to create a spiral pastry that we devoured as soon as it was baked; we tried the best apricot jam in the world with warm halloumi, fresh out of the cooking vat and hand-strained labneh rich enough for royalty; we reeked of garlic after insisting on extra toum in the chicken wraps from our favourite Beiruti source of fast food, and followed it with ice cream from the oldest ice cream store in town, still making delicious mastic-based recipes; we visited wineries and honey farms; we wandered through markets, wondering at ingredients both familiar and un-; we ate at tiny stalls, in cosy cafes and elegant restaurants; we puffed on hookahs in between feasting on mezze and grilled meats … in short, we tasted Lebanon and we loved it!

Since that trip, I can’t say I’ve faithfully trekked around all London’s Lebanese restaurants, but the few I’ve tried have been a mixed bag. The chicken wrap with toum at Yalla Yalla took me straight back to Beirut but lacklustre mezze at other establishments have been bland and without the vitality we enjoyed in Lebanon.

Recently, I found out about a Lebanese restaurant in my neck of the woods; Southgate is just a 12 minute drive from me – far quicker than heading into central London on the tube. Warda is just a few paces from Southgate tube station and there are also a number of bus routes that service the immediate area; we were able to park just outside the restaurant, free after 6.30 pm.

The team behind Warda is an illustrious one: Pierre Hobeika and (chef) Youssef Harb first met in Beirut many years ago, working for the same restaurant. When Pierre came to London, Youssef followed shortly afterwards and the two have worked together for most of their careers since. Both worked at renowned Mayfair restaurant Fakhreldine before it closed in 2012 and jointly owned and managed another restaurant together in the noughties. Last year, Pierre and Youssef opened Warda, alongside a third partner, Mo (Alex) Housaini.

Here, they share authentic Lebanese cuisine, prepared and cooked to order using high quality ingredients.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6109 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6110

A few moment after we sat down, a colourful plate of salad was brought out – crunchy crudités and sharp, vinegary pickled chillies provided a lovely way to whet the appetite.

I was delighted to find Jallab (£3.50) in the non-alcoholic drinks list. Made with date and grape syrup, crushed ice and pine nuts, this sweet drink is one I enjoyed many times on our holiday. I bought some ready-made jallab syrup home with me and noticed immediately that Warda’s version has far more complexity of flavour, with a hint of smokiness that is a lovely balance against the sweet.

Pete was happy to start with a bottle of Almaza beer (£3.50) and later, a glass of Lebanese red wine called Plaisir du Vin, from Chateau Heritage. Selected by Pierre it was full-bodied, in a classic French style, and a suitably robust match for the punchy flavours of the food. The wine list is wonderfully affordable, by the way, with bottles starting at just £17 and a strong showing for Lebanese offerings.

As is traditional, we decided to start with a feast of mezze. We chose à la carte, with additional suggestions from Pierre. Warda also offers a number of set menus which include 6, 8 or 12 mezze with main courses, baklava and tea or coffee.

Several of the mezze come in a small or larger portion size, or by the piece for pastries, parcels and croquettes.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats b-6114 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6116

Baba ghanoush (£4.75/ £2.75) is delightfully smoky and rich and I love the texture, with strands of silky aubergine instead of a processed puree. This is a dish that can so easily be bland or oily; this one is neither.

I’m not usually a fan of okra yet I keep going back to the Bemieh bil zeit (£4.50/ £2.50), a rich stew of okra in a garlic, onion and tomato sauce.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6115 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6125

The innocuous sounding Al Rahib (£4.75/ £2.50), which translates to “the monk”, turns out to be one of my very favourites. It doesn’t look pretty but oh my, there’s something magical about the combination of grilled aubergine (smoky, like the baba ghanoush) with a salad of tomato, onion, parsley, mint and lemon. If I could eat this every day, I’d be happy.

Little Soujouk (£5.50) sausages and cherry tomatoes glisten with a coating of pomegranate molasses, the sharp-sweet syrup adding an extra note to the spiced meat. Pierre mentioned that they are superb dipped into the hoummos and he’s right, the combination is fabulous.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6124

Hoummos awarma (£5.75) – smooth rich hoummos topped with marinated lamb and pine nuts (and a drizzle of olive oil) – is another winner. The quality of the lamb is excellent and a bowl of this and pita bread would be a fine lunch on its own.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6119 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6120

The distinctive shape of Kibbé mekliyeh (£1.10 a piece) is so evocative, as is the perfectly spiced lamb mince, onion and pine nut mixture within these deep-fried bulgur parcels.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6117 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6127

Warak inab (£4.50 /£2.50) vine leaves filled with filled with parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions & rice provide a pleasingly citrussy counter note to the richness of the other mezze.

The first bite of Sfiha pastries (£5.50) is another transporting moment, taking me straight back to the butcher-baker near Baalbeck. Pastry and spiced lamb are both spot on.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6131

Lastly, we try Samke harra (£6.00) – sea bass in a spicy tomato sauce, this one much lighter and fresher than the more intense flavours of the bemieh bil zeit. For a light eater, a portion of this with one or two salads would make a perfect meal.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6137 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6143

Already full, we intend to follow the magnificent mezze with just one grilled meat main, but Pierre is keen to add one of the non-grill specialities, steering us towards Five-spice lamb and bukhari rice (£14). This slow-cooked lamb shank dish is a revelation; like my reaction to several of the mezze, I am actually giddy and giggling with delight. The spicing is so beautifully balanced and the sauce has just a hint of sourness that reminds me of Persian meat stews. The lamb is, once again, superb quality meat and I can’t help but fall back on that old cliché – meltingly soft. As if that isn’t enough, the wonderfully savoury bukhari rice is richly jewelled with plump sultanas, cashews, walnuts, peanuts and tiny slivers of bright carrot.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6135 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6142

The Mixed meat grill (£12.50) gives us one each of lamb kafta (minced lamb kebab), taouk (marinated chicken cubes), lahim meshue (cubes of lamb) and chicken kafta (minced chicken kebab), served with a portion of vermicelli rice, an onion and herb salad and pungent toum (garlic sauce). Bought to the table covered in flatbread, to keep the kebabs warm, this dish is as good as all the rest.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6155 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6157

We had no intention of having dessert, but bow to the inevitable when we see Pierre’s crestfallen expression. When he realises that the Awamet (£4.50) fried fritters with orange blossom syrup we chose are not available, Pierre instead serves us a taster of the various desserts available.

First, Tehlayi Jnoubieh (£5), a selection of halwa, fig jam and carob syrup served with bread for dipping. Lebanese halwa is quite unlike the Indian semolina (sooji ka) halwa that I’m familiar with, which is thick, slightly sloppy when warm and a little more set when cool; instead it’s dry and firm and reminds me somewhat of nougat, albeit with a crumblier texture. Tiny whole figs preserved in an intensely sweet jam are a little too sweet for me. I am unexpectedly taken with the carob molasses, something I haven’t tried before. I’ve since discovered that it’s a speciality of the mountain region near to Beirut, and was a traditional alternative to sugar. Apparently, it’s particularly tasty mixed with tahini, something I must now try!

Also on the wooden board of treats is a half portion of Osmalyieh (£4.50), light and crunchy vermicelli biscuits with wonderfully fresh crème de lait topped with different fruit jams – orange blossom, strawberry and peach. Even as full as we are, we devour these little delights.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6161 Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6153

To try and wake up from our feast-induced torpor, we ask for Lebanese coffee (available with or without cardamom). Like Turkish coffee, it’s served shockingly strong, to be sipped cautiously from tiny cups. Usually, this coffee would be far too intense for me, but to my surprise, I enjoy it, though I only manage one cup.

At the end, assorted Baklawa (£4.50), beautiful morsels of honey, nuts and crunchy pastry.

Warda-Lebanese-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6152

It’s not often that a meal can so successfully transport me to another place – most commonly I’m disappointed by lack of authenticity and left shaking my head, wondering if the food I so enjoyed on holiday seemed special only through the euphoria of the holiday itself. At Warda, I was reminded just how excellent the food of Lebanon really is and exactly why I loved it so much.

On the short drive home, I make plans with Pete to return with family and friends “and oh, so and so would adore it too, wouldn’t they?” So it won’t be long before we are back, giggling our way through the menu.

The location right next to Southgate tube station (on the Piccadilly line) makes it an easy trip for those in other parts of town. If you’re a fan of Lebanese, I recommend you make the journey!

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Warda restaurant.

 

Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6185

Several months ago in early December, Pete and I had a lovely lunch at Rabot 1745, Hotel Chocolat’s newly-opened restaurant in the heart of Borough Market. More recently, we returned for breakfast, before a shopping expedition around the market.

My initial worries about the gimmicky nature of a themed restaurant were quickly assuaged. As we flicked through the lunch and dinner menu, it became clear that Rabot 1745’s “cocoa-centric” menu makes use of a wide range of elements derived from pod and bean – subtle cocoa accents are added via crunchy cocoa nibs, the fruity flesh of the cocoa pod, infused oils and vinegars, and only occasionally, actual chocolate.

Located in the heart of Borough Market, Rabot 1745 brings to Londoners what sister restaurant Boucan has delivered to St Lucians since 2011. The restaurant name comes from a cocoa plantation named The Rabot Estate, situated on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. First established in 1745, it was purchased by the founders of Hotel Chocolat eight years ago and has become a key part of the chain’s branding since. Although only a tiny volume of the chocolate they sell originates there, the Rabot 1745 name has been applied to their collection of rare, high quality chocolates from all around the world.

Downstairs are a Hotel Chocolat shop and a café, in which customers can order from a short menu of sweet and savoury items alongside their drink of choice – the range of hot chocolates is excellent.

Unusually, chocolate is made from bean to bar right here in the café – on site and on show. The norm is for cocoa farmers to have little involvement in the rest of the process, with most of the profits going to the big companies who buy cheap cocoa and transform it into a higher value end-product. So Rabot 1745′s farm to plate approach is particularly innovative and refreshing, especially when combined with the company’s Engaged Ethics programme to empower local cocoa farming communities.

Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6164 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6171
Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6166
Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6170 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6167

Upstairs, via stairs at the back of the cafe, is the restaurant, boasting a warm and elegant interior inspired by a traditional Saint Lucian plantation house. A day time visit will allow you to enjoy the sunlight flooding in through floor to ceiling windows overlooking Bedale street; or come in the evening for an altogether cosier ambience.

The menu, crafted by Executive Chef John Bentham, draws on culinary traditions from Britain and the Caribbean. This is most evident in the lunch and dinner offering – in December we enjoyed a scallop salad of perfectly seared plump Scottish scallops, colourful thinly sliced beetroot and watercress leaves in lightly curried cacao nib oil and a horseradish and white chocolate sauce; barley scotch eggs, a great vegetarian option, thanks to a non-sausage meat coating of nib-crusted pearl barley enveloping soft-cooked quail eggs, served with roasted root vegetables and a goat’s cheese dressing; an impressive 35-day aged galloway short horn rib-eye steak marinated in cacao, topped with slices of buttery marrow, accompanied by roast winter vegetables and a rich, glossy red wine and cacao gravy and roast saddle of rabbit rolled in smoked bacon, served with Armagnac-soaked prunes, roasted carrots, a white chocolate mash and another rich, glossy gravy. Desserts of Perigord walnut tart and rum baba served with cacao-infused cream didn’t disappoint.

Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6175 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6176

This time, we returned to try the breakfast menu, launched a couple of months ago.

The menu is fairly short, featuring a couple of fresh fruit and cereal options, a short list of hot dishes, a similarly brief list of bakery items and drinks. Helpfully, items that are Dairy Free, Gluten Free and Vegetarian are clearly labelled.

Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6178 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6188

We eschewed the invitation to start with a breakfast cocktail (£9 each), though the cacao bellini (featuring cacao pulp) and breakfast martini (with marmalade) might appeal if you want to push the boat out.

My smoothie power shot (£2.50) was the only disappointing element of the meal. Unpleasantly full of ice crystals, the tiny and surprisingly bland “smoothie” consisted of banana, oats and a dairy, almond or soy milk base. When it’s so easy to create smoothies that are both tasty and nutritious, there is no excuse for this offering, nor for the shot glass portion sold at a tall glass price.

A Monmouth Beans café latte (£2.50) and a hazelnut drinking chocolate (£3.50) were far more successful choices.

Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-5462 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6182

Pete was very happy with his Crispy Dry-Cure Bacon, Scrambled Eggs, Roast Tomatoes, Grilled Mushrooms (£8). Served on toast, good quality ingredients were well cooked and satisfying.

Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6184 Breakfast-Rabot1745-Restaurant-London-KFavelle-KaveyEats-6179

I could not resist ordering Lobster Slices, Lobster Hollandaise, Spinach, Poached Eggs (£12). For the price, I was delighted with the generous portion of sweet, succulent lobster meat at one end of my long slice of crunchy toast. Piled over spinach, perfectly poached eggs were napped with a rich Hollandaise; my only regret is that more sauce wasn’t provided, perhaps in a jug on the side.

Of course, there are many on-the-hoof breakfast options in Borough Market, from doughnuts, brownies and pastries to grilled cheese sandwiches, from fresh fruit smoothies to sausages in a hearty roll. But sometimes it’s good to relax on comfortable chairs at a nicely laid table, order delicious breakfast treats from a menu, and share a leisurely chat with your companion or read a good book or newspaper while you eat. For those occasions, Rabot 1745 fits the bill.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Rabot 1745.

Rabot 1745 on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

I’ve been trying to nail Southern Fried Chicken for quite some time.

Some recipes call for the chicken to be brined before cooking. Others marinade the meat in buttermilk instead. Some recipes don’t feature brine or marinade at all. Some cooks coat the chicken with nothing but flour and spices; others use buttermilk or an egg-and-milk mix to help the flour and spices adhere to the chicken. And of course, I’ve come across countless online recipes claiming to have cracked the secret spice blend for a KFC copycat, if that’s what you’re after…

The key problem for us has been in ensuring the chicken is cooked all the way through without overcooking the crispy coating. Of course, setting the right oil temperature helps a lot with that, as does the size of chicken pieces. But it’s remained my main point of difficulty.

When we received our Sous Vide Supreme, we poached chicken in it as one of our first experiments in getting a feel for how it worked and where the strengths of the technique lie. (For the record, the chicken was moist and evenly cooked, but no more so than if we’d poached it in our slow cooker).

But that experiment made it occur to me that we could sous vide the chicken first, to ensure that it was cooked right the way through and then apply the coating and deep fry.

Bingo! No more worries about the chicken being cooked at the core…

Of course, if you don’t have a sous vide machine, you can seal the chicken into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.

The next question is one of flavourings. The previous times I’ve made Southern Fried Chicken, I’ve blended my own spice mix in which I’ve included dried oregano, dried sage, dried rosemary, garlic powder, paprika, chilli powder, ground black pepper and salt. Of those, I’d say the core ingredients are oregano, paprika, chilli powder and garlic powder.

But this time I realised I had the perfect ready-made seasoning mix sitting in front of me – a tub of African Volcano Seasoning Rub (Medium). In case you can’t get hold of this, I’ve provided an alternative blend in the recipe below.

SousVide-Deep-Fried-KFC-Chicken-titled-5323

Southern Fried Chicken | Making Use of Sous Vide

Serves 2-3

Ingredients
6 boneless chicken thighs
150-200 ml (about 1 cup) buttermilk
150-200 grams (about 1 cup) plain flour
2-3 tablespoons African Volcano Seasoning Rub (or see note, below)
Salt and pepper

Note: You can substitute African Volcano Seasoning Rub with 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon chilli powder and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.

Method

  • Pre-heat your sous vide machine to 66 °C (151 °F).
  • Open out the chicken thighs and cut them into two or three pieces each.
  • Add one to two tablespoons of buttermilk to the chicken and coat all the pieces.
  • Spread the chicken out flat in a food-grade plastic pouch and seal with a vacuum sealer.
  • Cook for two hours in the sous vide machine.
    Note: If you don’t have a sous vide machine, seal the chicken and buttermilk into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach in water at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.

SousVide-Deep-Fried-KFC-Chicken-5317 SousVide-Deep-Fried-KFC-Chicken-5318

  • Before removing chicken from the water bath, prepare the plates of coating ready to dip and switch on your deep fat fryer to pre-heat to 170-175 °C.
  • Pour half a cup of buttermilk into a bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, spice blend and salt and pepper. Have an empty plate ready for floured chicken pieces.
  • Remove the chicken from the water bath, open the pouch, discard the juices and remove chicken pieces onto a plate or dish.
    Note: you don’t want the chicken to cool down in the centre, as you won’t be deep frying it for as long as usual, so allow it to cool for just a couple of minutes before continuing with the recipe.
  • As soon as the chicken has cooled enough to handle, dip each piece into the buttermilk and then into the seasoned flour, ensuring that plenty of flour has adhered to all surfaces of the chicken.

SousVide-Deep-Fried-KFC-Chicken-5319

  • Repeat for the rest of the chicken, adding more buttermilk to the dipping bowl as and when required.
    Ideally, if there are two of you, one person can fry the first batch while the second person dips and flours the remaining chicken.

SousVide-Deep-Fried-KFC-Chicken-5320

  • Fry in small batches, depending on the size of your deep fat fryer.
  • Ours took 5 minutes for the coating to crisp and brown. Increase cooking time if necessary, to achieve the necessary colour and texture.
  • Drain on to a paper towel and serve hot.

SousVide-Deep-Fried-KFC-Chicken-5328

Although that’s shop-bought coleslaw in the photographs, this southern fried chicken is even better served with my smoky paprika coleslaw, which can be made beforehand. Do give it a try.

 

Kavey Eats received a SousVide Supreme and vacuum sealer in exchange for sharing my experiences using the equipment.

 

After two trips to Japan in two years, I’ve fallen even more in love with Japanese food. Both holidays gave us plenty of opportunities to enjoy traditional washoku cuisine, particularly in the multi-course kaiseki ryori meals we enjoyed at a number of ryokans.

While sushi is increasingly popular in the UK, the many, many other dishes that make up this tasty cuisine have been less widely available. But in the last few years, particularly in London, Japanese food is growing its fan base and more and more Japanese restaurants are opening their doors. It’s not that we didn’t have Japanese restaurants before, but they certainly weren’t (and still aren’t) as ubiquitous as Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai…

I’ve written previously about London’s ramen awakening; after Wagamama popularised a simplified version, authentic ramen is now coming into its own.

Sushi remains a lunch-time favourite, sold by supermarkets and sandwich chains across the country, but Chef Toru Takahashi of Sushi Tetsu is one of a new generation bringing the higher end experience to the UK. I’ve not yet been, but it’s very high on my wish list!

Even kaiseki ryori is now available in London – another place that I’m enormously keen to visit is The Shiori, where Chef Takashi Takagi recreates a Kyoto-style kaiseki experience for enthusiastic London diners.

Chisou-5276

I learned about Chisou Japanese Restaurant during a chance encounter at a United Ramen pop-up I went to in January. A fellow diner told me about it, having recently taken up a job with them. Recently, he extended an invitation to visit and try their Japanese menu for myself. There are actually three restaurants in this mini-chain – the original Mayfair branch which opened in 2002, the Knightsbridge location I visited, which opened in 2010, and the newest one out in Chiswick, which opened in 2012.

Each restaurant has its own head chef – at Knightsbridge, Chef Ryota Tsuji is at the helm. The core menu is common to all three restaurants, but each head chef also offers a selection of their own specialities as well.

On the website, Chisou describe themselves as closer to an izakaya (casual Japanese bars that also serve food) than to a formal kaiseki restaurant, though I’d place the Knightsbridge restaurant somewhere between the two. It’s definitely more upmarket than most izakaya but not as rarefied as a traditional Kyoto kaiseki restaurant. The website is not great – clicking on Food (in the hope of seeing the menu) takes you to a long passage about private hire, which would be far better given its own section of the menu. Scroll down, down, down past all of that to eventually find the menu, laid out in sections you have to read one at a time. Use the sub-menu on the left to navigate between these. Frustratingly, prices are not listed – one of my pet hates; a complete website revamp would be a great investment!

Still, the menu has many appealing dishes including several that I haven’t much encountered in the UK.

I take friend and fellow Japanophile MiMi with me to review.

Chisou-5277

We are warmly greeted by general manager (and sommelier) John who is a little disappointed that we’re not wine drinkers, and that we also turn down the offer of sake, but cheers up when we ask for umeshu (plum liqueur) instead. It’s lovely to be served our sweet Ozeki Kanjuku Umeshu (£6.50 glass) with a whole alcohol-pickled plum in each glass, which I greedily eat after finishing my drink.

Chisou-5280 Chisou-5281

Chewy, slightly fishy strands of seaweed with sesame seeds are a tasty nibble, placed on the table soon after we arrive. Edamame beans (£4.50) are served simply, in salt.

Chisou-5284 Chisou-5285

Horenso salad (£9.90), described as “ baby spinach topped with spicy prawns and sweet carrot, drizzled in yuzu vinaigrette” is artfully presented, though a little fussy. I’d like just a few more prawns, given the price tag, but the flavours are excellent. And the yuzu comes through loud and clear, which is good news since we both love it. When the dish arrives, we’ve forgotten the mention of sweet carrot on the menu, and wonder what the strange  orange fibres are made of – their flavour doesn’t clue us in to their carrot nature but they do add an interesting texture.

Hotate Carpaccio Yuzukosho Salt (£11.95) is described as wild-caught Alaskan scallop carpaccio served with yuzukosho and ponzu sauce. The scallops are delicious, served in thin sashimi slices. I can’t detect the yuzukosho (a salty spicy condiment made from yuzu citrus) very well but the dressing, rich in sesame, is refreshing.

Chisou-5286 Chisou-5293

Yakitori (£4.90) is disappointing. It’s offered coated in chef’s “special sauce” or lightly salted, and we choose the latter but find the yakitori woefully under seasoned. The chicken meat has very little flavour and these are a bland, chewy let-down.

Tempura Moriawase (£13.90) is another dish that I think is over-priced for the portion. The quality of the ingredients is good and the tempura is excellent – a lovely light batter cooked to a perfect crisp and not at all oily – but a plate of three prawns, one small piece of fish and a small number vegetables is not enough for the price.

Chisou-5288 Chisou-5291

Chawan Mushi (£7.50) is an absolute winner of a dish, one of the best of the night. Within the delicately flavoured savoury custard (that has just the right wobble and silken texture) are prawns, chicken and mushrooms. It immediately transports me back to the delicious chawan mushi I enjoyed in Japan and both MiMi and I agree we’d come back to Chisou for this dish in a heartbeat.

 Chisou-5299

The menu offers lots of choice on sashimi and sushi, but we decide to leave it in the hands of the chef, and order Sanpin Sashimi (£19.90). The chef selects three different types of fish from the catch of the day and three pieces of each are served. Knowing what I pay for excellent quality fresh sashimi at Atari-ya, the mark-up seems a touch high once again, but the quality of fish is decent.

Chisou-5305 Chisou-5302
Eel; Salmon belly

After asking about two pork belly dishes, we choose one of them along with Unagi Kabayaki (£25.80) and Aburi Sake Toro (£7.20), plus a bowl of plain boiled rice (£3) and Konomono (assorted pickles) (£4.10). In the end, we are eventually told that neither pork belly dish is available, but we have plenty with our two fish choices, so don’t bother choosing a replacement.

The unagi (eel) is beautifully cooked, coated with a traditional sweet barbecue sauce; the flesh is almost jelly like and full of flavour.

Likewise, the aburi sake toro (seared salmon belly), served with a yuzu soy sauce, is delicious and suitably fatty, as the cut suggests. Visually, they look similar, but flavours are quite distinct.

The pickles are very good: four contrasting colours, tastes and textures.

Chisou-5308

I don’t think either of us intend to have dessert but once we glance at the menu, we can’t resist the ice creams and sorbets; two scoops (£4.90).

My yuzu sorbet is the essence of yuzu, just as MiMi’s lychee sorbet is nothing but pure fruit flavour. Her green tea ice cream is decent (though not the best I’ve tasted). My soy and brown sugar ice cream is alright but the soy doesn’t come through at all, which is a shame – I had hoped for the classic flavour of soy and sugar combined, like the glaze on mitarashi dango. I am a little surprised at presentation of the ice creams – thus far in the meal, plates have been so carefully arranged but here the scoops are sloppily shaped and my bowl is actually quite messy.

Overall, our meal has been good, with some real highlights – the spinach and prawn salad, chawan mushi, pickles and unagi. Pricing is a little variable, with some dishes providing far better value than others. Including our two glasses of umeshu and a green tea, our bill would be approximately £70 a head – a lot even given the number of dishes we ordered. Judicious ordering would reduce that – swap out the sashimi and the unagi for three or four additional small dishes and you could bring that down by at least a tenner per person. That’s still at the top edge of what I’d pay. Then again, the restaurants is within a stone’s throw of Harrods and the multi-million-pound mansions of the very wealthy, so perhaps it is simply targeting its locale clientele.

Certainly there are many more dishes I’d like to try, including Buta Bara Kimuchi (£5.90) – belly pork stir fried with garlic and kimchi, Kani Karaage (£13.50) – deep fried soft shell crab with a ponzu dip, Kodako Nanban Age (£8.20) – deep fried and marinated baby octopus, Saikyo Yaki (£12.50) – grilled black cod in white miso, Wagyu Steak & Foie Gras Truffle Teriyaki (£24.50) – featuring 50 grams of Chilean wagyu rib eye, and Sake Chazuke (£4.90/£7.20) – plain rice served in a hot soup and sprinkled with flakes of salmon.

So yes, it’s expensive but the range of dishes and the quality of most of them means it’s worthy of consideration for a little taste of traditional Japanese washoku in London.

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Chisou Restaurant.

Chisou Japanese Restaurant Knightsbridge on Urbanspoon
Square Meal

 

Recently I started thinking more about ready meals, about other people’s cooking and eating habits and about our own thoughts on ready meals. Usually we have ready meals or ready-made components about once a week. I started musing on whether we could do 7 days in a row eating only ready meals each evening.

I decided to restrict our choices to a single range within one supermarket – Sainsbury’s were kind enough to step up and I chose their Taste The Difference Bistro range to put to the test.

Most of the meals within the Bistro range are priced at £7 (and serve two people); the lasagne costs £6. Some of the meals have felt better value at that price point than others.

For the last several weeks, the Bistro main meals have been part of a £10 meal deal which allows you to choose one main, one Bistro dessert and a bottle of wine. If you fancy dessert, and drink wine, I’d say it’s a fair offer, since the desserts are usually £3.50 and the wines around £5 a bottle.  You’ll have to do the legwork though; in our local store the shelves where the meal deal is promoted never have any wine displayed and my husband has to head to the wine section and root out the wines included in the deal. We took advantage of the meal deal twice. Without the meal deal, these are a little pricy, in my opinion.

Also, be aware that not all branches will stock the full range of Bistro meals or desserts. We generally found only 3 of the meals readily available each time we visited, with another 2 very occasionally in stock. None of the others are sold by our branch and I turned to the team at Sainsbury’s to help me source the rest.

In the end, availability issues (both in terms of us having a fully clear week and the lack of stock in our local branch) meant we weren’t able to stick to my plan to eat the ready meals back to back in a single week. We also ended up trying eight rather than seven items from the range.

We ate these ready meals below spread over a few weeks.

Bistro Chicken with Cider Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

This was a great start. The chicken remained moist during cooking, the creamy cider sauce was tasty and the roasted baby potatoes had a good texture and taste. The onions on top veered towards burnt, but overall, flavours were excellent. I would possibly buy this again, though there are other ready meals I’d choose in preference.

SainsburysBistro-4571 SainsburysBistro-4574
SainsburysBistro-4577 SainsburysBistro-4580

 

Bistro Wiltshire Ham Gratin (£7, 800 grams)

Ham, green beans, cheddar cheese, potatoes and breadcrumbs – what’s not to like? We found this delicious and would be happy to buy this again.

SainsburysBistro-4587 SainsburysBistro-4590
SainsburysBistro-4592 SainsburysBistro-4597

 

Bistro Lasagne Al Forno With Slow Cooked Beef (£6, 710 grams)

The Bistro lasagne didn’t stack up at all well against premium lasagnes we’ve tried from other supermarkets. Although the ragu had a good flavour, it was lacking in moisture and it didn’t stand out well against the hard, chewy pasta. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I’d never have believed this was from a premium range and it’s definitely not worth £6.

SainsburysBistro-4644 SainsburysBistro-4645
SainsburysBistro-4647 SainsburysBistro-4650

 

Bistro Catalan Chicken (£7, 800 grams)

For us, this was definitely the weakest in the range. The chicken meat didn’t remain moist but that was a minor detail. The “Catalan” sauce was really unpleasant, with a horrible flavour reminiscent of a really cheap bottle sauce. There were also a couple of larger pieces of potato that remained a little hard, because they had not cooked sufficiently in the time.

SainsburysBistro-4877 SainsburysBistro-4885

 

Bistro Chicken with a Red Wine, Madeira & Mushroom Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

The cooking was split into two for this meal – part way through, a packet of sauce provided was poured over the chicken and the tray returned to the oven. Sadly, the sauce wasn’t great and didn’t live up to expectations on flavour. Onions and mushrooms didn’t benefit from being baked, with mushrooms turning out rubbery and dry and onions ending up a little burnt. The chicken breast wrapped in bacon was decent, but the so-so sauce was the dominant taste. By the time it was the turn of this dish, we were already bored of skin-on roasted new potatoes, though at least the small and size meant they did cook through properly.  I would not buy this again.

SainsburysBistro-4983 SainsburysBistro-4985 SainsburysBistro-4988
SainsburysBistro-4989 SainsburysBistro-4990 SainsburysBistro-4996

 

Bistro Chicken with Brie, Bacon & Cream Sauce (£7, 800 grams)

Yep, you guessed it – more skin-on roasted new potatoes. Like the previous dish, the sauce was poured over the vegetables part way through the cooking time. The cheese and bacon kept the chicken reasonably moist. The sauce was tasty though I didn’t feel it went very well with the choice of vegetables, and the vegetables didn’t suit the cooking method very well. The potatoes were properly cooked through. This meal tasted reasonably good but didn’t strike us as a particularly coherent plate.

SainsburysBistro-5221 SainsburysBistro-5223
SainsburysBistro-5224 SainsburysBistro-5226
SainsburysBistro-5228 SainsburysBistro-5232

 

Beef Bourguignon (£7, 800 grams)

When we picked this meal up we did start to wonder if the product development team were unaware of other ways to cook potatoes – peeled steamed potatoes would work better here, as would a good creamy mash. Skin-on roasted new potatoes, not so much! The flavours in the Bourguignon itself were good; if the stew were sold on its own, I’d consider buying it (though I’ve made my own previously), but as a complete meal with new potatoes, I wouldn’t buy it again.

SainsburysBistro-5242 SainsburysBistro-5243
SainsburysBistro-5247 SainsburysBistro-5249

 

Bistro Creamy Ham Hock & Chicken Pie (£7, 600 grams)

I think this would more accurately be called a gratin rather than a pie, as there’s no pastry in sight. Again, presentation was pretty poor here – it’s clear Sainsbury’s aren’t going for the dinner party demographic! At first glance, there didn’t seem to be much ham or chicken, but as soon as we dug under the surface, there was plenty there. This was a very tasty meal and I’d happily eat this again.

SainsburysBistro-5254 SainsburysBistro-5255
SainsburysBistro-5257 SainsburysBistro-5262

 

So the hit rate for great meals in the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bistro range was quite a bit lower than I expected, especially as chance meant we started strongly with two good choices. We tried eight meals in the range.

There were only three that I’d be happy to have again – the chicken with cider sauce, the Wiltshire ham gratin and the creamy ham hock and chicken “pie”.

Two were good in parts – the choice of potatoes let down the beef bourguignon and the side vegetables did the same for the chicken with brie, bacon and cream Sauce.

The lasagne, Catalan chicken and chicken with red wine, madeira and mushroom sauce were disappointing.

 

Our main supermarket is Waitrose; as we live a couple of minute’s walk away we are able to shop every couple of days rather than do a large weekly shop. We have had a far better hit rate with the ready meals we’ve bought there over the last several years. I’d hoped that the Sainsbury’s meals would hold up well, given that the price point is the same, but it wasn’t the case.

I’m hoping to do similar reviews of other premium ready meal ranges from some of the other supermarkets in coming months. Please let me know if there are any you particularly recommend I try (or avoid)!

 

With thanks to Sainsbury’s for providing the above ready meals for review.

 

I love biryani!

I mean the real deal, with beautifully spiced meat between layers of fragrant basmati rice…

NOT stir-fried rice with a few bits of meat thrown in, served with a side of sloppy vegetable curry, that is sold as biryani by so many curry houses across the UK. *rolls eyes*

Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the difference between pulao (pilaf) and biryani it is in the cooking method rather than the ingredients: rice is the core ingredient in a pulao, often supplemented by meat or vegetables, just like a biryani, however all the ingredients of a pulao are cooked together. In a biryani, the meat or vegetables are prepared separately, then assembled into a cooking pot with the rice, before the biryani is baked to finish. In some variations, the meat and rice are par-cooked before assembly, in others they are added raw.

Biryani” comes from the Persian birian / beryan, which is a reference to frying or roasting an ingredient before cooking it. The actual dish was likely spread across the wider region by merchants and other travellers many centuries ago.

Biryani was very popular in the kitchens of the Mughal Emperors who ruled between the early 16th century to the early 18th century and it remains a much-loved dish in India today.

The Mughals were a Central Asian Turko-Mongolic people who settled in the region in the Middle Ages; their influence on architecture, art and culture, government and cuisine was significant. Mughlai cuisine is today best represented by the cooking of North India (particularly Utter Pradesh and Delhi, where my mother and father are from, respectively), Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Hyderabadi area of Andhra Pradesh in South East India. It retains many influences from Persian and Afghani cuisine.

There are many versions of biryani but two of the best known in India are Lucknowi (Awadhi) biryani and Hyderabadi biryani. For a Lucknowi biryani, the meat is seared and cooked in water with spices, then drained. The resulting broth is used to cook the rice. Both the pukki (cooked) elements are then layered together in a deep pot, sealed and baked. Hyderabadi biryani uses the kutchi (raw) method whereby the meat is marinated and the rice is mixed with spiced yoghurt (but neither are cooked) before being assembled in a deep pot and baked. The flavours of the meat and rice components in a Hyderabadi biryani are quite distinct, as compared to the Lucknowi biryani where they are more homogenous.

Also popular is Calcutta biryani, which evolved from Lucknowi style when the last nawab of Awadh was exiled to Kolkata in 1856; in response to a recession which resulted in a scarcity of meat and expensive spices, his personal chef developed the habit of adding potatoes and wielding a lighter hand with the spicing.

What is common to most variations is the dum pukht method – once the food has been arranged in the cooking vessel, the lid is tightly sealed (traditionally using dough but foil or rubber-sealed lids are a modern-day substitute) and the pot is baked in an oven or fire; the steam keeps the ingredients moist and the aromas and juices are locked in.

LambBiryani-5218

Biryani is often served for celebratory feasts such as weddings, though most don’t take it quite as seriously as the two families involved in a cautionary tale that my friend alerted me to – a wedding was called off after an argument between the two families about whether chicken or mutton biryani should be served at the reception!

My mum, who grew up in Utter Pradesh, makes a delicious pukki method biryani, in the Lucknowi style. However, rather than using the liquid from the meat to cook the rice, she makes a fragrant lamb curry (with just a small volume of thick, clinging sauce rather than the usual generous gravy) and she flavours the rice with fresh coriander and mint and rose or kewra (screw pine flower) essence. Her recipe involves slowly caramelising onions, half of which go into the lamb curry and the rest of which are layered with the meat and rice when the biryani is assembled. The pot is sealed tightly and baked until the rice is cooked through.

You’ll notice that I specify basmati rice for this recipe – and that’s because it’s the most traditional rice used for Indian biryani. Of course there is the taste – basmati is a wonderfully fragrant rice – but it is also important that the grains remain separate after cooking; some rice varieties are much stickier or break down more on cooking. Longer grained basmati is prized over shorter grain, perhaps because rice must be carefully harvested and handled in order not to break the grains or just because it looks so elegant?

LambBiryani-5195 LambBiryani-5216

Tilda, the best known brand of Basmati rice in the UK, recently launched a new product into their range. They describe Tilda Grand as a longer grained basmati rice, particularly well suited to making biryani and other Indian and Persian rice dishes.

Mum comes from a Basmati growing region of India and has seen Basmati planted, growing and harvested many times. Her family in India buy large sacks of rice when it is newly harvested and store it to mature because the flavour gets better with age; indeed I remember mum telling me how her parents saved their oldest basmati rice to serve to guests and on special occasions. Since I was a child, mum has always bought Tilda Basmati rice, so I asked her to try the new Tilda Grand and give me her feedback.

She didn’t find it as fragrant as usual but confirmed that it cooked much the same as the rice she regularly uses and commented that the grains remained separate and were longer than standard. That said, the grains weren’t as long as she was expecting; she has come across significantly longer grained rice in India in recent years.

This biryani, made to my mum’s recipe, is the first I’ve ever made and it was utterly delicious!

 

Mamta’s Lucknowi-Style Lamb Biryani

I have halved mum’s original recipe. The amounts below serve 4 as a full meal.

Ingredients
For the rice
500 grams basmati rice
Large pinch salt
1.25 litres water
Small sprig mint leaves
Small sprig coriander leaves
For the meat
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
3 large onions (about 600 grams), peeled and thinly sliced
500 grams lamb or mutton leg or shoulder, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, grated or pureed
2-3 teaspoons (0.5 inch piece) ginger, finely chopped or grated
2 brown cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
3 green cardamoms, lightly crushed to crack pods open *
1-2 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark *
2 bay leaves *
4-5 black peppercorns *
4-5 cloves *
0.5 teaspoon black cumin seeds (use ordinary cumin seeds if you don’t have black) *
1-2 green chillies, slit lengthwise (adjust to your taste and strength of chillies)
0.5 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your taste)
1 teaspoon salt
60 ml (quarter cup) thick, full-fat natural yoghurt
100-150 grams chopped tomatoes
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Small bunch of mint leaves, chopped
Half a small lemon, cut into small pieces
For the biryani
1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
A few strands of saffron soaked in a tablespoon of warm water
A few drops of rose water and/or kewra (screw-pine flower) essence
Optional: Orange or jalebi food colour, dissolved in 1 teaspoo water
Optional quarter cup of cashew nuts or blanched almonds

Note: The quality of the meat is important, so do buy good quality lamb or mutton. I used lamb steaks for my biryani.

Method

  • In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil or ghee and fry the onions until they are dark brown, stirring regularly so they do not catch and burn. This is a slow process; mine took approximately half an hour.
  • Remove onions from the pan and set aside.
  • Add more oil to the pan if necessary, then add the whole spices (marked *) plus the ginger and garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes to release the aromas.
  • Add the lamb, salt and chilli powder and stir fry to brown the meat on all sides.
  • Add the yoghurt, tomatoes, two thirds of the mint and coriander that is listed for the meat, the sliced green chillies, lemon pieces and half of the fried onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is done and only a little thick gravy is left. This may take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the quality and cut of the meat.
  • Once the lamb curry is made, turn off the heat and set it aside.
  • While the meat is cooking, prepare the rice. Boil briskly with salt, the mint and coriander leaves listed for the rice until the rice is nearly cooked. (When you squash a grain between your fingers, only a hint of hardness should remain).
  • Drain, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process and set aside.
  • Grease a large oven proof dish or pan with ghee or vegetable oil.
  • Spread a third of the par-cooked rice across the base of the dish.
  • Spread a quarter of the reserved browned onions over the rice.

LambBiryani-5196

  • Sprinkle a little saffron water, rose and kewra essence over the rice.

LambBiryani-5200

  • Spread  half the lamb curry over the rice.

LambBiryani-5197

  • Repeat to add another layer of rice, onions, lamb curry and the saffron and flavourings.

LambBiryani-5201

  • Top with the last third of the rice, the remaining browned onions and another sprinkling of saffron and flavourings.

LambBiryani-5207

  • Dot the surface with a little ghee plus a few drops of colouring, if using.
  • Sprinkle cashew nuts or blanched almonds over top, if using.
  • Cover the pan tightly with foil and then the lid.
  • Preheat oven to 180° C (fan) and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve hot.

LambBiryani-5215

 

Kavey Eats received samples of Tilda Grand rice from Tilda; as usual, there was no obligation on my part to write about it or to review favourably.

 

I love Demarquette chocolates!

Run by talented (not to mention warm and cuddly) chocolatier Marc Demarquette and lovely partner Kim Sauer, this award-winning London chocolate company produces utterly delicious and beautiful hand-made chocolates. Not only do the chocolates taste fantastic and look stunning, they are made with carefully chosen high-quality ingredients, many of which are sourced from British producers. Even the chocolate is not off-the-shelf couverture but roasted, conched and blended to Demarquette recipes. A keen and critical eye is focused on ethical considerations too.

DemarquetteEaster2014-5174 DemarquetteEaster2014-5185-2

This year, chocoholics craving the very best quality Easter treats can enjoy Marc’s new Caramel Filled Easter Eggs. The size of quails’ eggs, these come in three flavours – dark chocolate with sea salted caramel, milk chocolate with key lime caramel and milk chocolate with banoffee caramel. The eggs are blue, green and yellow and feature a simple hand-painted design – each one is unique!

DemarquetteEaster2014-5173 DemarquetteEaster2014-5191
DemarquetteEaster2014-5187 DemarquetteEaster2014-5194

The salted caramels are a familiar Demarquette favourite, and just as good in egg form as the glossy domes I’m more familiar with. Both the key lime and banoffee caramel eggs are sweeter, because of the milk chocolate, with their core flavour coming through loud and clear; I like both but the banoffee is definitely my favourite!

Available by mail order, this box of 12 eggs is £19.95 plus delivery.

 

DISCOUNT CODE

I’m delighted to share a special discount code for readers of Kavey Eats.

Enter KAVEYEASTER to receive 15% off your online orders.

The code can be used to purchase any item from Demarquette’s range of chocolate treats.

Valid until 14th April 2014. Discount excludes postage. Minimum spend, excluding postage, is £15. Code cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers.

COMPETITION

Demarquette are kindly offering a box of 12 Caramel Filled Chocolate Easter Eggs to a reader of Kavey Eats. The prize includes delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

Please read the terms and conditions before entering.

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, sharing your idea for a new caramel filling flavour.
Please include your name and provide a valid email address.
If you are intending to tweet a bonus entry (see below), please include your twitter name in your blog comment.

Bonus Entry – Twitter
Once you have entered via the blog, give yourself an extra entry via twitter!
Follow
@Kavey and @DemarquetteChoc on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a box of @DemarquetteChoc caramel filled easter eggs from Kavey Eats! 
http://goo.gl/nKkfw1 #KaveyEatsDemarquette
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES, TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 11 April 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address.
  • By entering this competition, you give permission for your email address to be collected and provided to Demarquette Ltd, for marketing purposes. Kavey Eats will store the data until the end of April 2014 only.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey and @DemarquetteChoc at the time of notification.
  • Twitter entries without an associated blog comment are not valid. Please include your twitter name in your blog comment to make the association clear.
  • The winners will be notified by email. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a box of 12 Demarquette caramel filled easter eggs, as shown above. Delivery within the UK is included.
  • The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prize is offered and provided by Demarquette Ltd.

 

Kavey Eats received a review sample from Demarquette.

 

During our two recent holidays to Japan, we discovered a real love for yakiniku.*

I was determined to recreate this indoor barbecue experience at home. But there were obstacles: no smokeless charcoal; no indoor barbecue container; no working extractor fan in the kitchen (it died and we’ve not had it fixed); and it can be tricky to find the kind of tender and beautifully marbled beef that is prevalent in Japan.

The first two, I decided to ignore. The third too, though we opened the large kitchen window as wide as it would go. And Provenance Butcher came to the rescue on the fourth.

Founded by a team of three Kiwis and a Brit, this Nottinghill-based butcher’s shop opened just eight months ago. None of the founders have a background in the butchery business – Erin, Guy and Tom grew up on farms in New Zealand and Brit Struan gave up a career in marketing to retrain as a butcher a few years ago – but all four are committed to sourcing and supplying top quality meat. The team have a deep love for 100% grass fed beef, which they currently source from New Zealand wagyu herds. These cattle spend their entire lives outdoors, eat a natural grass diet and are not given growth promoters, hormones or antibiotics. The meat is broken into sub-primal cuts at a New Zealand processing plant, vacuum-packed and transported to the UK by boat. It’s chilled rather than frozen, so further wet-ages during the six week journey. Here, it’s butchered into individual cuts, ready for the customer. Of course, Provenance also sell lamb, pork and chicken and this they source in the UK; the lamb comes from two British farms, one in North Yorkshire and the other in Wales; two fourth-generation farming brothers in Staffordshire supply free range pork and chicken.

When they asked if I’d like to try their New Zealand wagyu I figured it would be perfect for my yakiniku experiment.

One of the cuts they sent was Flat Iron. According to this 2012 article in The Wall Street Journal, Flat Iron is filleted out of the chuck. Care must be taken to avoid a line of tough connective tissue running through the top blade of the shoulder area and, as there are only two such steaks in each cow, many butchers don’t bother, hence the cut is not that widely available. In the UK, it’s more traditionally known as Butler’s Steak or Feather Blade; the Aussies and Kiwis call it Oyster Blade.

Regardless of what name it goes by, it’s a very tender cut that is perfectly suited to being cooked rare or medium rare.

HomeYakiniku-5128 HomeYakiniku-5130

When our Provenance wagyu Flat Iron arrived, we were hugely impressed at the deep colour and beautiful marbling of fat.

Pete sliced this 500 gram piece thinly across the grain. I arranged some of the slices on a plate and the rest I submerged in a bowl of miso yakiniku marinade (see recipe, below).

HomeYakiniku-5134 HomeYakiniku-5135

As well as the marinade, we had three sauces in which to dip cooked meat – some beaten raw egg (with a few drops of soy mixed in), a goma (sesame) dipping sauce and another yakiniku sauce I made with dark soy sauce, sesame oil, shichimi (seven spice powder), sugar, fresh ginger and garlic.

The raw egg dip didn’t add much (I was way too stingy with the soy) and my yakiniku dipping sauce just wasn’t very balanced – way too much sesame oil and soy, not enough sugar, ginger and garlic. We quickly discarded these as failed experiments.

Our favourites proved to be the miso yakiniku marinade (which we dunked beef into before cooking) and the goma sauce (which we dipped the non-marinaded strips of beef into once cooked). We bought our goma sauce back from Japan; it’s Mizkan brand, a Japanese vinegar and condiments producer and available online from Japan Centre.

HomeYakiniku-5142 HomeYakiniku-5141

Vegetable wise, we had some thin spring onions, mild long peppers (from our local Turkish grocery store) and thinly sliced sweet potato. We’d meant to have mushrooms too, but forgot to buy them!

The sweet potato didn’t cook well, blackening on the outside before softening at all inside. It’s definitely a vegetable we’ve been served in Japanese yakiniku restaurants so I’m wondering if they par-cooked it first, though I hadn’t thought so at the time. Or perhaps some varieties of sweet potatoes are better suited than others? I am on the hunt for the answer!

The spring onions and peppers worked very well.

HomeYakiniku-5144 HomeYakiniku-5146

We used a disposable barbecue, which Pete lit outside, and bought in once the worst of the initial smoke had died down. We placed it over some old cork boards on a folding garden table we’d set up in the kitchen. It worked well enough, and wasn’t as smoky as we’d feared (though the smell did linger in the house for several hours afterwards). But the main weakness was that the disposable barbecue didn’t generate the level of heat we needed for a sufficiently long time, which meant the last several items took too long to cook.

HomeYakiniku-5154 HomeYakiniku-121219
HomeYakiniku-113725 HomeYakiniku-5153 HomeYakiniku-5157

Oops! It was only when Pete took the disposable barbecue back outside that we discovered this little scene underneath!

HomeYakiniku-5159

All that said, I was utterly delighted with our first home yakiniku!

I was also hugely impressed with the New Zealand grass fed wagyu which was full of flavour and wonderfully melt-in-the-mouth because of its beautiful marbling.

 

For next time:

  • I want to find food-grade smokeless charcoal – the British brands I have found seem to be sold for use in fireplaces rather than barbeques. What I’d like to use is Japanese binchōtan, a white charcoal produced from Ubame oak steamed at high temperatures; it is prized for burning characteristics which include very little smoke, low temperatures and a long burning time. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty expensive.
  • I’ll need to source a small bucket barbecue that can safely be used indoors.
  • And perhaps a cast iron trivet or a concrete paving slab might fare better than our cork boards to protect our table from the heat of the barbecue; they did protect the table but didn’t survive themselves!
  • The miso yakiniku marinade was super but I need to find a better recipe for the yakiniku dipping sauce. I might investigate some other tasty dipping sauces too.
  • We definitely need more vegetables and I’ll need to think harder about which ones will work well and whether they need to be par-cooked ahead of time.

 

Miso Yakiniku Marinade

Ingredients
100 ml light soy sauce
1 tablespoon miso
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon garlic, grated or pureed
1 tablespoon ginger, grated or pureed
1-2 teaspoons shichimi (Japanese seven spice mix) or half to 1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon cooking sake
1 tablespoon mirin (slightly sweet Japanese rice wine) or additional tablespoon of sake plus teaspoon of sugar

Method

  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Either heat gently in a saucepan or for 10 to 20 seconds in a microwave. This helps all the ingredients to melt and combine more easily.
  • Add sliced beef to marinade about 30 minutes before cooking.

Note: As we were using this as a marinade, the slightly runny texture suited us well. However, if you’d like a thicker yakiniku sauce, continue to heat gently to reduce and thicken.

 

* Read more about the history of yakiniku in Japan and what to expect at a yakiniku restaurant.

Kavey Eats received samples of New Zealand grass fed wagyu from Provenance Butchers.

© 2006 - 2014 Kavita Favelle Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha