Saturday 21 April 2012

Pork and Fennel

I often am unsure of what to do with Fennel, but I had a couple of fennel bulbs in the fridge from my Abel and Cole box and I thought I could do something with pork with them, and it went down a treat, so I thought I ought to blog it because I will otherwise forget it, and it was a good way to make a relatively small amount of meat go a long way.

I sliced up the 2 fennel bulbs in the v-slicer and then fried them with a finely chopped onion until they were all going soft.  I sprinkled in a teaspoon of fennel seeds and then a teaspoon of ground cumin to aid digestion.  I then crumbled in the pack of pork mince (on a BOGOF in Ocado) and browned it, then added a teaspoon of Marigold powder, and a slosh of white wine.  At this point I added a small pack of baby new potatoes.

I left this to simmer for around 20 minutes, and at the very last minute I stirred in a splash of cream.
This was served with some greens and some lovely sourdough bread from Boyden's Kitchen of course.

Monday 16 April 2012

Meatless Monday on the fly - courgette curry

A friend on Twitter has been championing the protein rich savoury breakfast lately. Hers usually consist of daal, kale, avocados, poached eggs and recently chapattis too. What can I say, her photos have been building a craving in my soul, and today I tried to do something about it.
(If you want to see what inspired me, have a look on Twitter & Flickr at Monica Shaw's tweets & pics.)
I planned a daal and rice, I wanted to practice my chapatti making and thanks to Monica, I wanted some veg curried in some way too.  I looked in the fridge and saw the pack of baby courgette I had bought for dips and baby led weaning food, and decided to try something with that, thinking if I can't get my family to eat courgette curried in some way, then I'm giving up trying to get them to eat it again!
I sliced a couple of garlic cloves and fried them in a couple of teaspoons of ghee and then added a teaspoon of cumin seeds. I then added the sliced up courgettes and fried for about 5 mins til the slices were softened and starting to crisp at the edges.
I had used half a can of chopped tomatoes in the daal, and reserved the other half for dinner tomorrow, but I poured about an inch of water into the tomatoey tin and swished all the juice out into the pan. Waste not want not. I then halved a handful of organic cherry tomatoes (cos that's what I had, otherwise I would have used some of the tinned actual tomato or chopped up a couple of normal tomatoes.)
Then I sprinkled on half a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of my garam masala. I left this to cook on a fairly high heat, to smush the tomatoes down, and then just before serving I stirred in a dollop of natural yoghurt. 
I have to say, I did myself proud, the flavour was exactly what I'd been going for, and it perfectly complemented the creamy smooth masoor daal. Littl'Un had 4 helpings, including the last 2 slices from Papa's plate. Papa had 3 helpings. Yes, Papa who won't eat courgette!
I have to add a note that I also served a really yummy salad of sprouted beans and lentils with half a mixed leaf bag, dressed with olive oil and blackcurrant & rosemary vinegar by Womersley Foods. The sweetness was the perfect dimension needed to complete the experience for this meal.

Sunday 15 April 2012


I'd heard much about Dishoom over the past few months, and followed them on Twitter, and drooled over the online menu, and read reviews, and seen people tweet about how lovely it is there, and so when my older kids were both away over the school Easter holidays for a couple of days at one point, I seized on the opportunity and took my good friend GodPapa to lunch there, to thank him for all the help and support he has been providing particularly the last few months since the Littlest was born.  GodPapa and I are both similar in our foodie tastes, and as Dishoom is all about sharing, it seemed the perfect place to go to together. 

The decor is charming and fun, evoking the Bombay Cafe feel, with the retro Indian posters and sepia family photos on the walls, lazy ceiling fans and the cabinets of medicines and tonics in the loo cubicles.  The joss stick smell made me smile as we walked in, and the music widened my grin further.  I had spent time in cafes in Bombay and Calcutta and Delhi in my childhood, the effect was there undoubtedly, with a safe, hip, western feel, so I didn't feel it was so authentic I couldn't drink the water, but not so copied that I felt I was in a theme park.

The welcome was warm and friendly, and we didn't at all feel unwelcome with a baby, even though it was lunchtime and all the other customers seemed to be office workers and locals.  Our waiter wasn't exactly smiling and friendly, but he was solicitous and not unfriendly. He explained how the menu works and recommended 2 to 3 small dishes per person, but our budget was unlikely to stretch to that, and to be honest, the 1-2 dishes were ordered per person were WAY too much!  To be fair, he did suggest that we might not need the plain rice, but we pointed out that the biryani rice might be too spicy to give Littlest with the daal.

I ordered a fantastic Bombay Virgin Colada to drink - pineapple, coconut milk with a twist of various herbs and spices and decorated with paan masala which gave a heady scent to the drink too.  GodPapa had a refreshing nimbu pani, which he loved as it wasn't sweet, and was really palate cleansing.

Our pau bhaji arrived first, and tasted just as it does when my sister-in-law makes it. The buttery crunchy toasted bun - the pau - with the spicy unctuous veg mash to spread on top, with a crunch of raw sweet onion to bring out the zing. The portion was perfect.

The other dishes all arrived together, house black daal, lamb biryani, rumali roti (literally handkerchief bread,) perfect plain rice and the special of the day - phaldari kofta, as well as a bowl of raita as suggested by the waiter.  A trio of chutneys were brought and described, and the waiter even offered an extra bowl instead of a plate for Littlest, without my having to ask. I just wish the waiter had smiled a bit!

The biryani had obviously been baked with the traditional dough lid, you can see the remains on the edge of the  bowl above, it was fragrant and deeply satisfying, the meat was so tender I was able to pop shreds into Littlest's mouth, and the rice was spiced, but not spicy.  The black daal was stunning.  Creamy, buttery, rich, comforting - my mouth is watering as I think about it. It was the real star of the show, and even GodPapa admitted that it was better than his (I'd have to say it was even better than the Gurdwara daal, and that's saying something too!)  The roti lived up to its name, it was thin as a handkerchief, and soft and lovely.  The only let-down was the special, which was quite expensive, and though tasty with a well flavoured gravy and bursts of sharp pomegranate, it got boring quickly and just didn't feel worth the £3 more it cost than the next most expensive thing we ordered.  I must admit I'd never heard of phaldari kofta, and I was actually alarmed upon googling to read that it is meant to contain raw banana as this wasn't mentioned anywhere, and as I know of people with severe banana allergy, I felt concerned. I can't imagine I would ever check for bananas in a curry!  Having looked at a mention online of Dishoom's phaldari, it seems they may not use banana or plantain, but as this seems to be the defining factor of a phaldari, I'm not sure what this dish was actually going for. I'm surprised, because the other dishes were unfailingly authentic tasting, but as a hit-rate, this was still definitely a fantastic meal.

I would certainly go again with more of the family, there were certainly things the littler people would enjoy, and Big'Un would love all the food, spicy included.  I'd certainly try the puddings next time, and I'd be more likely to stick to small plates for sharing, and try more things, rather than getting bigger dishes to share. 

I'd just like to add that the Twitter presence of Dishoom seems lovely too, to the point of even asking me to elucidate on a veiled reference to my only staff-gripe! Lovely people, lovely food, prices that were totally in line with a Covent Garden restaurant, not extreme, and a fabulously fun atmosphere.

Monday 9 April 2012

Boyden's Kitchen - some visual blogging today

 sausage roll

 chorizo frittata

 sinful looking stack of pastries

 teapots and cups all ready to go

the focaccia I wrote about on Saturday

 focaccia with peppers

chelsea buns and eccles cakes

my sausage roll and salad platter, served on a board

Little Sparrow tea, served with a little timer so you can let it brew fully

 fritatta and salad on a board

 artisan bread and gorgeous fruits for sale

and Little Sparrow Teas

Saturday 7 April 2012

Boyden's Kitchen

A few weeks ago, my dear MamaClaire posted on her facebook wall about a new craft cafe opening soon in our area, just minutes walk from our homes, school and my parents' home. I was intrigued by the idea, and then went onto the website and my intrigue ramped up to full-blown excitement. Knitting, food, tea, book clubs, family-friendly... what more could I ask??!

Opening day was today, and although I'd been asked to provide a cake for the Bishop's visit on Sunday, so needed time to bake (and boy what a recipe I chose, more on that another time...) I was not going to miss the first day excitement, and what a lot of excitement it was!

We trundled down on foot after a good giggle at GodPapa who asked if we'd be driving (he hadn't figured out how close it is!) and after an initial worry about whether it would be too crowded, we were happy to note that even very full and busy, there was plenty of space, to park the pushchair and spread out around their big table and relax. 

Ben seemed to remember us from our stop-by a couple of weeks back, and was helpful in seating us to our satisfaction. And that seemed to be the theme of the place - nothing seems to be too much trouble, and everyone seems happy to help.

There were only drinks "menus" up on the blackboard above the till and counters, and that was choice enough.  I plumped for a rooibos and cherry tea, Papa went for the Masala Chai, both supplied by Little Sparrow Tea and brewed in lovely cheery red teapots with removable strainers "because we hate over-stewed tea" (though I never know what one should DO with a removed infuser, even though I have 2 teapots with them at home too!)  Tea was served in lovely eclectic china cups, and the food plates were random but lovely too.  They also serve Monmouth coffee, which the coffee drinkers appreciated, and also Fentimans fizzies and Chegworth Valley juices. Littl'Un had the pear, and it was really smooth and creamy.

There wasn't a lot of savoury food on view, but there were some very tempting looking basket baked focaccia style breads (this really needs a photo to show you, so I will just HAVE to go back soon) so I plumped for one topped with leek and goat cheese, and it was GORGEOUS, and Papa had a beetroot leafy goatcheesey salad so we shared both, and they worked well.  We recommended Womersley foods dressings to them to complete the salad, and Anna noted down the name, which was typical of how you feel the staff care and are listening.  Littl'Un needed lunch too, and Ben was more than happy to make her a lovely simple (good quality) ham and cheese sandwich on lovely white bloomer bread, which she loved, and we also had a couple of bacon and avo baguettes which were perfect in their flavour and ripeness, which is rare when eating out.

We did have a few sweet things, and Littl'Un had a her face painted really spectacularly by Miss Lala, and was so happy there the whole time, that we never even had to break out the colouring books and activities we had brought with us!
I had a lovely chat with Anna about babies, knitting and more (her son is just a month older than mine) and I really felt included and a sense of belonging.

At the back of the shop, I finally found the knitting yarn and craft sales corner, having already spent a few minutes wandering and mentally building a shopping list of jams and breads and other groceries on sale from shelves tucked away in corners, but adding to the display effect in the shop.

Prices were very very reasonable, well within Credit Crunch budget, so not just an aspirational place to go to, it's very real and accessible.

We were all thoroughly impressed all round and look forward to becoming regulars, getting involved in events & I could even see myself looking for a job there when the Littlest is bigger... (and that's saying something from a die-hard stay at home mum!)