In Pursuit of Roast Perfection

Who doesn’t love a roast? There are so many variations on it from meat free to a hint of an influence whether that’s spice or your accompaniments to new hot takes such as the roast wrap – which I believe is a roast dinner in a burrito style wrap and oh wait did I mention the wrap is a giant Yorkshire pudding? (Seriously – how have I not had one yet?)

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Picture: Aldi

It’s a versatile dinner and fascinatingly no two are exactly the same. Grandparents do it one way, aunts and uncles do it another, parents do it their way and you yourself will have your own mark to make on it. And the best way to do your way is to a) try something you wouldn’t normally, whether that’s at a friends or your local pub and b) get in the kitchen and have a go!

I’m usually lazy and opt for the first rather than the latter but as I am now keeping an eye on my spending more and more I have decided I should get back in the kitchen and actually make a roast myself.

I’ve done roast chicken, lamb, pork but never beef – I do eat beef I’ve just never made it at home by myself. Each of these meats I’ve usually messed around with techniques and methods and although none of them are perfected yet they are decent.

For example with my lamb I like to go full on meat surgery – honestly I clearly used to watch too much Grey’s Anatomy – and I like to make incisions all over the lamb leg and insert slivers of garlic throughout but ABSLOUTELY NO clove – I hate clove.

NB: By the end of writing this post I have come to realise that perfection is much like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. Or in the stomach of the be-nommer. Ha.

This weekend we decided to make a humble roast chicken. We have been hitting up the local butchers Billings Fishmongers and Butchers more often – Tony’s switched to minced steak for his Bolognese and honestly it’s lush! We got a whole chicken – organic, locally and responsibly reared and at £7 for a 3 and a half pound bird not too hard on the purse!

We prepared the chicken in our favourite thyme and lemon combo. I like to put some black peppercorns, sea salt, lots of garlic and thyme into a pestle and mortar – if you don’t have one you can blitz it up but I like a pestle and mortal because it’s anger management that’s cheaper than therapy!

I then mix some butter into the crush and slather the buttery mix liberally onto the bird. The trick is to get it right into all the nooks and crannies. We then stuffed the bird with a lemon cut into wedges. I like to do this because the lemons steam and keep the chicken moist and the lemon works well with the thyme.

How long do you need to put the chicken in the oven for?

We go by the rule of 20 mins for every pound and then 20 minutes extra.

The best way to check if your chicken is ready is to stab is in a reallu meaty part – if the liquid runs clear you’re all good – if you’ve got pinkish or bloody liquid that comes out you’re not so good at the maths problem I set you earlier – why don’t they put stuff like this in GCSE maths? – and you may have a particularly thick chick. In which case put it in for another 10 minutes and check again until you’re good to go.

 

Another important thing to remember is to leave your meat to rest for 15 minutes– sounds like I’ve lifted that straight off Masterchef but it makes a difference! Resting gives a chance for your meat to relax and redistribute the moisture. Not only is your meat going to be lush – you now have time to use all the lovely juices to add to your gravy to make it *chefs kiss* SUPERB.

 

We had our chicken with roast potatoes, roast carrot, creamy cheesy cauliflower and some chipolatas we picked up at the butchers when we got the chicken.

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Some points for your trimmings:

  • Think about when you’ll be putting each component in – timing is everything
  • Make sure you use roasting trays with enough room for your ingredients – if you pack everything in too tight you won’t be able to toss them around throughout cooking to make sure you get everything cooked / covered evenly.
  • When you’re roasting things like potatoes and carrots try to cut them all into relatively equal parts.
  • If you have potatoes that are small and large just halve the small ones and quarter the large ones
  • We like to parboil our potatoes, heat some olive oil in the roasting tin with garlic (whole cloves with the skin on) and then add the potatoes ones we’ve roughed them up in the pot Jamie Oliver style (man may have taken away turkey twizzlers but he’s left his mark in his own roastie way!)
  • Some people insist on using goose fat – even when it’s not Christmas – and some insist on coating their potatoes in semolina. Both of these are excellent ways to get a really crisp roast potato but we’re lazy and take the above short cuts.

 

Also on a side note – I’ve never made this cauliflower cheese thing before. We had it in the local pub The Greyhound – if you’re in South East London do check it out the roasts are lovely AND they offer a meat on meat on meat option where you can have all three of the meats on one plate and it’s a beautiful beast!

I found a recipe online but honestly I made too much of the sauce so I’d say go with 50g of butter, 3 tablespoons of plain flour, as much cheese as you’d like and milk to the consistency you’d like – around 400ml give or take.

I melted the butter and flour together and slowly added the milk bit by bit – you can add the cheese once you’re at a consistency you’re happy with. Some people like it thick but remember the cheese will thicken it up again so you might need a dash of milk to get it to how you like again.

My next post will be on what to do with all the glorious leftovers – if you have any!

What are you must have side dishes and secrets to a perfect roast? Have you tried anything new recently with your beloved roast?

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10 things I hate about Hipster Cafes

I hate hipster cafes, with a passion.

1. I hate the pick n mix of curled moustaches, beards and man buns.

Well just the moustaches and the beards. The man buns can stay – they cute.

2. I hate when there’s something quirky on the menu which is meant to sound intriguing but ends up being a big disappointment.

I once paid £9 for a “gourmet hot dog” and it was so shit. Some kind of basic bun, basic sausage and McCain oven fries. I was pissed. I wanted to fight someone. That last bit may have been the cocktails but we can’t be certain.

3. I hate the music that’s way too loud for eating, drinking, chatting…

Oh how could anyone forget the “The music adds to the atmosphere and the food” to which I simply replied “Yeah I can’t actually hear myself think…” and to be fair I didn’t need to mull it over – that place was shit.

4. I hate the gimmicky takes on things that people think are so edgy.

Please don’t deconstruct things when you’re not an architect in any capacity.

5. I hate the up cycled furniture 

… because a lot of the time it’s just uncomfortable.

6. I hate the weird plates and by that I mean the all too familiar trend of putting food on anything but a plate.

Bring me full english in a dustbin lid and watch what happens to you. The only creative license restaurants can have with containers is what they put the tap water in and what I’m handed my bill in.

7. I hate how sometimes customer service is just non existent in some of these places.

I once sat in a dinky little cafe and it was SWELTERING. It was one of our annually allocated days of summer. You know those days where you are begging for some warmth and sunshine and instead the weather gods decide to burn everyone and everything… and the staff had the one fan in the cafe pointed at the person stood at the till… who wasn’t even stood there for more than a minute every 10 – 15 minutes. Meanwhile the rest of us muppets died a little bit inside every time said person stood up and sighed loud enough for us all to hear. That was last summer. I still haven’t been back.

NB: I’m not saying they shouldn’t make sure their employees are taken care of but spare a thought for the rest of us. Sharing is caring. And heat stroke kills.

8. I hate the snobbery you have to deal with sometimes. 

Then there was the hipster coffee shop where the man put my flat white into a glass and then proceeded to slam it down spilling some of the coffee. It wasn’t a lot that was spilt but it was enough for me to not pay for it. Why slam it down like that. When I got to the till to order this same guy had loudly sighed when I asked if they had any other milk alternatives (for the record I’m not vegan or lactose intolerant, I have IBS and find too much milk is not good for me) and then acted like I’d asked him to milk his own nipples to make my coffee – oh my god can you imagine hipster milk being the next big alternative milk?

Just give me the coffee and go please.

9.And most of all I hate the  general feel of uncomfortableness.

Quite frankly it’s that last point that all of the above lead to.

10. I hate how much often I go into these places.

You could say I’m my own worst enemy and I probably am. But for every 8 hipster establishments that make me want to throw myself into moving traffic there are a couple I’ll hit up and be genuinely impressed. Because as much as hipsters are annoying some of them are genuinely geeky and passionate about what they do and I salute them for it. I will bear the lame ones so I can enjoy the diamonds in the curated rough.

So… do you have any recommendations?

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Masala Wala Cafe – a repost!

Another old post!


So we were meant to go here last week but the place was closed as the owner was getting married (congratulations if you’re reading this!). Mother and daughter team Nabeela and Saima have been running this little gem for 3 years in South East London, Brockley.

It’s a minutes walk from the station and offers some wonderful and fresh home cooking, these dishes will show you the authentic roots from which some of ye old familiar ruby murrays hail from.

Dishes are available from a small menu which is on rotation – so unfortunately we’ve missed out this time on the keema curry and the keer (rice pudding) which is my fave.

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I think someone may have been looking forward to that keema.

We were both starving so opted to go all out and get a curry each with rice and homemade rotis to share with gajar ka achaar – homemade lemon and carrot pickle and raita to join the party.

Honestly you could share a curry with rice or roti easily. Well. Unless you’re with me in which case I’ll be subjecting you to what I like to call “roti tax” or “you weren’t looking and I struck!”

Rice and roti

Roti and rice? We’re great believers in carbs on carbs!

Raita

Raita

 

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Pickle

The murgh masala consisted of slow cooked chicken falling off the bone and butternut squash. I know some people have a problem with chicken on the bone but I honestly don’t understand why when it’s miles better than boneless. Don’t be afraid of it.

I’m a keen cook but have yet to marry any meat curries with anything but potatoes (apart from peas in keema) so the butternut squash intrigued me. As a tomato based dish I found this a little sweet for my tastes but still well spiced.

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Murgh masala – slow cooked chicken with butternut squash

Aloo gosht is a fave of mine – one I’ve yet to master but mum will make when asked… by my brother… her favourite. The lamb was beautiful and tender but my only teeny tiny sadness was that I found the potatoes to be a little firm. Now honestly that’s just my personal preference and I’m sure there are people out there who’ll say the potatoes should be firm, and when they’re not they break away into the curry and they’re right. But a girl’s entitled to her potato preferences.

Aloo gosht – slow cooked lamb with potato

You can’t gave a curry and not have a hankering for a smooth cold lassi. And honestly this may be the best lassi I’ve ever had. I’ve never been their biggest fan as I usually end up sounding like Goldilocks – “this one’s too sweet…” “this one’s not sweet enough…” – but ladies and gents this one is “juuuuust right”. The difference? Not too sweet but with a good flavour of mango coming through, complimented by rose and pistachio. It’s genius.

Now like I said this is a menu on rotation so keer was off the table but we did have gajar halwa and Tony’s usual pistachio kulfi (honestly if it’s on the menu, he’s having it) ended with a chai and ginger and mint tea.

 

Now. I’m going to tell you a secret. You must promise not to disown me but I’m not a big fan of chai. I always find it too milky. So the mint and ginger was just perfect for me.

All in all a lovely meal – homemade and from the heart.

4 out of 5 noms.

http://masalawalacafe.co.uk/#menu

Honey & Co

This was my first review. Previously written. Still nom.

Now I warn you all this is my first ever restaurant review. So bear with me and ask me any questions if I’ve missed out any vital points. Also all the photography is done by me. So if you like it say so. If not, LEAVE IT…. yeah?

Anyway in the immortal words of Kel, (who is alive and well I hear after that awful rumour) “Awwwwh, here it goes”

***

Honey & Co is tucked away behind Warren St tube. This middle eastern delight is a cosy, warm and friendly place to hang out share some mezze – or not, some people don’t like to share. But I do. And that’s what we did.

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We got the mixed mezze, around a fiver. And how lovely it was, there were bits served up neither of us had tried before including what tasted like an exotic cheese straw and our favourite was this nommable cheese dip with garlic and coriander which you could probably eat a kilo of and then want to be disappointed in yourself for doing so, but really not care because it was THAT GOOD.

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Almost everything on the menu has a twist, familiar favourites become unfamiliar but not in the scary way some of these new and interesting places take their food, but in a opening of your mind and tastebuds to the wonders of moving outside of the comfortable expectations you have with middle eastern cuisine. The lamb shawarma is a shining example of this.

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The meat was obvious slow cooked and as a result was succulent, juicy and falling apart. It’s juices formed a sort of gravy, soaked up by the (HOME MADE MAY WE ADD – well the waitress did) flatbread.

Finally the deconstructed cheesecake. Deconstructed is such a difficult and tedious word and usually followed by the expectation of having some would be arty farty Masterchef wannabe – we’d like to point out at this point, something resembling an egg and a few sprinkles of freeze dried bacon does NOT constitute a fry up! However this was just as delicious had lost none of it’s sex appeal in it’s journey into abstraction.

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After the place had emptied out somewhat after the busy busy lunchtime rush – it’s clear word has spread about this place – we got chatting away with the waitresses who are not only lovely to talk to about anything including their own foodie ways – on in particular who had family links to the wine trade and was on her way to setting up her own street food outlet.

Overall a lovely atmosphere – truly that because for me that’s the thing I love about eating out, the experience of it all, in all honesty I think my partner in crime is the real foodie and I’m just a picky little sod.

This was definitely a 9 NOMS out of 10

A day out in Oxford

I know it’s been a while but here we are. It’s been a busy few weeks, months, half a year. The only way to put it is that I’ve got my fingers in a few pies at work – if only I had an actual pie for each one, ah just imagine.

So for Tony’s birthday I planned a day trip to Oxford for the day. We visited Cambridge, York and Edinburgh in April and he mentioned then that he’s really love to go to Oxford and see all the old college buildings and quarters. So me being the best girlfriend in the world (*Lethal B impression* OBVIOUSLY) I booked trains with our Two Together rail card – which i recommend for such staycationing (I like it when people mush words together but this one sounds a bit too American for my liking).

So we started the day with a baked chorizo and egg breakfast at George Street Social. It was lush  – although both us greedy gannets could have done with a little more chorizo but that’s just us being cheeky meat lovers! The bread was fresh and to be honest it made me want to attempt  baking bread which is something I’ve never done before!

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We spent most of our day around the various colleges and went on a walking tour which took us all the way to a pub that we were told about on the way up to Oxford. Popular with visitors and tourists alike The Turf Tavern

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We stopped for a quick bite – so quick I couldn’t snap it! But we did get to try this yummy rum infused beer and you really could taste the rum!

After lots more walking around – 17k in steps according to my fitbit – we decided to have dinner in the town centre and although we got some recommendations for a local Thai and a nearby Caribbean eatery we decided on Jamie’s Italian.

Now a while back I remembered going past a Jamie’s something or other in St Paul’s. But I wasn’t willing to try it as I remember looking at the menu thinking “HOW MUCH?!”

But Jamie’s Italian seemed reasonable and even had a set menu for dinner so we agreed on this. And boy am I glad we did!

Starters

So I had this meat and cheese board which was magic in my mouth – you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into the sourcing of the produce for this board and the same with the breaded mushrooms Tony had as they weren’t your standard button mushrooms but a variety of mushrooms.

Mains

You’d think after 5 years we’d be able to simply order what we want of the menu but as a result of what I’ll call FOMOOTO – Fear Of Missing Out On Taste – we often struggle to agree on what we’ll have because we always think we’ll share everything. Errrr – WRONG! One of us will alway think the other got the better deal and it’s only recently we’ve started to just order two of the same thing which I don’t know why we didn’t do before but I guess it’s down to what tickles your pickle (ooh… pickles…)

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Our Famous Prawn Linguine – Garlic prawns, langoustine tails with fennel, tomatoes, chilli, saffron, fish broth and topped with rocket.

This is the point where I’m glad we didn’t order the same thing. Tony enjoyed his linguine but for me if could have done with more of a robust broth. But that’s just my take on it. We did wonder if this thick spaghetti was actually allowed to be called linguine. If in doubt – WIKI!

Linguine (/lɪŋˈɡwni/Italian: [liŋˈɡwiːne]) is a form of pasta – like fettuccine and trenette, but elliptical in section rather than flat. It is about 4 millimetres (0.16 in) in width, which is wider than spaghetti but not as wide as fettuccine. The name linguine means “little tongues” in Italian, where it is a plural of the feminine linguina. Linguine are also called trenette or bavette. A thinner version of linguine is called linguettine.

It was spaghetti. I think.

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Spicy Sausage Casrecce  – pork with fennel sausage ragu, n’duja salami, herby breadcrumbs and Parmesan

And here is my main. Now I did ask about the fennel in this dish because I can handle a little but I can’t deal with too much of it. It’s a taste I’m not overly keen on – like clove.

But like our waiter has advised there was just a touch for taste. And it really worked well with the pork. However I think they seeds were toasted – which is understandable as this is how you get the most flavour out of them – but as a result you has this small itty bitty crunch on occasion which was the only thing that let this dish down.

Jamie if you’re reading this – which let’s face it you’re probably not – I want to know if you could possibly swap the toasted seeds for some actual fennel in the ragu? If you don’t ask you don’t get!

And last but by no means least… dessert. 

Tony opted for something a bit richer  – and I was kicking myself for not bringing a candle to put in it, don’t laugh but I’m that person who keeps candles in my drawer at work for birthday cake emergencies! But my zesty tiramisu was the star of the evening. I always, always, always order tiramisu at italian restaurants and until this Ponti’s Kitchen held the title for best tiramisu. But Mr Oliver and his team have snatched it away… for now.

 

 

Notes Coffee – Kings Cross

It’s where we’ve always wanted to go for a quick coffee – although Tony is more the coffee fiend than me and my heart is all about the tea. So we started with tea and coffee when someone next to us had ordered a platter that gave us such food envy that we had to give into the needs and wants in our eyes and bellies.

What we decided on was the Veggie Platter – a trio of houmous, aubergine bruschetta, tomato and mozzarella bruschetta, marinated artichokes, marinated peppers and green olives – and the a chicken, pomegranate, puy lentils and quinoa (no we’re still not a hundred percent on the pronunciation – we get it’s KEEnwo-ah but deep down in my mind it’s kwino-ah).

It was all very delish. And I am so glad we gave into the food envy. Having said this we were so stuffed that we had no room for cake. No. Seriously. We didn’t. But that just means a return trip to taste all of the baked treats.

Okay. Some of the baked treats. I’m trying to be more sensible with my good. Trying.

Dishoom KX

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Now here is a place I’ve been wanting to go to for a while. Having had some nibbles at the Covent Garden branch I was quite excited to hear about this new branch opening in such a quirky and interesting setting. “Where is this little gem?!” I hear your internal narrator cry – well enquire with speculation, let’s be honest do you really trust the opinion of someone whose celery is some sort of evil and eats most of the food stuff that falls down her top? It’s off Granary Square which is behind Kings Cross station. This is surely becoming a hot spot for nommery. I would like to state that I have made up that word and would like the credit to be etched into my urn. HERE LIES THE DUST OF SAALENE. PURVEYOR AND CRITIC IN THE FIELD OF NOMMERY.

BACK TO THE FOOD ALREADY.

So this is a beautiful place to eat – why oh why didn’t I take any pictures?! Well I’ll tell you why. Because I wanted to get down to business. And eat.

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We shared a starter of prawns in a light and crispy batter. It was the only thing out of all that we ordered that I could complain about and even then I couldn’t complain much. For me the batter was a little too dough-ey but still a crispy hug for a perfectly cooked prawn with each bite.

But our main was what really impressed me – note main not mains we shared one grilled dish and two sides which as we weren’t so ravenous (yes that does happen sometimes!) was just right, with room for dessert. Of course.

The meat was exceptionally nom. The biggest meat related crime you can commit in our household – apart from rare meat, which seemingly never computes in an Indian household – is meat that hasn’t picked up all of it’s spices. My dad and I constantly take the piss out of each other’s cooking. And this is his weakness, especially when he’s made something in a rush.

A good grilled meat needs love and care in the lead up to it’s cooking. And what we had at Dishoom left me thinking they must have taken that lamb out, made it laugh, showered it in compliments (you know the real compliments that are actually about you rather than some horse crap that’s vague and could also apply to a Shetland pony – “You’re so cute” *neigh*). The lamb was delicious, so delicious we may or may not have fought over the last piece which NEVER RARELY happens.

The lamb was accompanied by Garlic Naan with lashings of ghee and raita. Boring? Whatevs. You can say what you want about average joe side dishes but if a restaurant can’t get the simple dishes right then something is up. I mean it’s an art. How many places have you been to and there’s something that is meant to be your reliable side dish and it’s been totally

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The food was spicy in the way I wish my own cooking was. Not too heavy handed nor too meek and mild – the perfect point at which it catches and holds the attention of your taste buds.

 

Chaijito

Chaijito

Salted Lassi

Salted Lassi

 

And I have to say. The service was impeccable. I mean sometimes you think it must be one of the toughest jobs to work and this is why I cannot stress this enough. TIP YOUR SERVER. And I can’t lie. If someone has really made your experience just laaaaavly then show them. And vice versa. If they’ve been crap then don’t. But like so crap they made you wonder why you ever bother going there.

As the beautiful and eloquent @quincyspice explains here.

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just a friendly reminder

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Now for dessert. YAY. I had the Memsahib’s Mess. Eton Mess. But better than I’ve ever had it. I took a gamble with this as it mentioned rose syrup and you can easily go overboard with it. But this was glorious. And I have to confess I went past Dishoom again recently and although I wasn’t hungry I was ready to stop off just for this dessert.

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All in all this was a great place to eat. Great food, great atmosphere, great service. The attention to detail is exquisite. Including these specially imported treats (our waiter saw me eyeing these up and brought me two bottles to see up close – what a guy!)

 

Thumbs Up Limca Thumbs up Saalene

 

 

Though I must admit before this place gets any more noms out of me I must try more of the menu! But for now a handsome 8 noms out of 10. 

Any recommendations on places to eat?

Have you tried any of the other dishes at this Dishoom branch or another?

Let me know!