London Lately

I must admit that I’ve been quite mischievous in not sharing with you all of the fabulous eating experiences I’ve had in London lately. Mostly because I am too wrapped up in the eating to take photos and partly because time seems to have flown by without a second to stop and write about it.

Excuses aside, I’d love to share my food adventures from a few weeks ago with you when a friend from home (up north) came down for a long overdue visit. Blessed with glorious sunshine I took her straight to the South Bank Real Food Market on Saturday afternoon, somewhere I haven’t been for years and which I probably overlook due to my aversion to busy places at the weekend. Crowds aside, we were greeted by a fantastic array of colours and aromas, every stall offering something completely different. After several laps to ensure we were making a well informed decision we chose our lunch. A glass of chilled prosecco from Grays and Feather and a hot,spicy chicken tikka naan wrap from The Indians Next Doorphoto 4photo 1 photo 3Finding a tiny little spot of free space we perched on the popular staircase in the spring sunshine to dive in to our naan wraps. The chicken was incredibly well cooked, juicy yet charred with a healthy level of spice, cooled with a yoghurt raita and simple salad, all encased in the freshly baked naan bread. A recipe we both decided we would be recreating at home.

We then wandered in and around the stalls, marvelling at the beautiful displays of produce on offer whilst I dilly dallied taking photos:

photo 3photo 5photo 4photo 2Deciding on one purchase from the market, we headed straight back to Cocoa Hernando to gobble up yet more samples of their new chocolate Herb and Spice Collection. With my friend deciding on “Mexico” (dark chocolate and chipotle chilli) and me firmly settled on “Himalaya” (milk chocolate with pink diamond salt) we set off along the river to walk off our lunch.

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That evening we had tickets to the new show Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (well worth a trip) at the Savoy Theatre. I chose Covent Garden as the handiest area for dinner and used my friend’s imminent birthday as an excuse to take her to Opera Tavern to celebrate with copious amounts of pink prosecco. The Prosecco Rosato, Beato Bartolomeo was absolutely delicious accompanying the plethora of tapas dishes we ordered. Unfortunately for you, this was one of those occasions where I was too excited by the food and polished off most of the dishes too quickly before realising I hadn’t taken any photos. My favourite dish by far was the confit of Old Spot pork belly with rosemary scented cannellini beans, needless to say there are no photos of that particular dish… Second favourite were the deconstructed “patatas bravas”, crispy chunky chips with a sumptuous tomato sauce and homemade aioli (blurry photo below).

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Dessert included more prosecco and a delicious rhubarb, marscapone and salted shortbread eton mess.

The next day, still in search of more new eating experiences, we ventured to Shoreditch to experience Dishoom. If you have never been, I implore you to visit. The restaurant is themed around the old style cafes of Bombay, opened by Persian immigrants and frequented by all walks of life. The details of the restaurant fit out are impressive from the dark wood furniture to the old fashioned books on the walls. The decor is entirely welcoming and invites you to leisurely while away the hours with a paper and a chai latte.

The brunch menu is so different to anything I’ve seen before that it took us the length of one pot of tea to decide what to have.photo 1photo 5

In the end, each of us decided on a bacon naan, with chilli tomato jam and cream cheese, as well as the butter, honey granola and Keralan vanilla yoghurt. Both were exceptional. Well worth a visit!

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The Big Brunch Debate

I am always happy to join a debate. In this instance the subject of much contention is a divisive one; the best choice for a Sunday brunch. In my opinion this meal has the propensity to be the highlight of any weekend, probably second only to a Sunday roast. Executed well, brunch can revive and restore us, bring us together and fuel us for an entire day. Brunch should be savoured, slowly and sociably. I am confident that embracing the full immersion into an indulgent Sunday brunch can bring great happiness and content to even the most debilitated and jaded morning afters.  I must confess now that I am not an aficionado of the full English breakfast, bringing with it too many elements and confusion, leading to a lack of cohesion and no area to focus your hunger on. For me, I like to address my attention to one or two core ingredients, usually reaching for bacon (back or streaky, always smoked) or sausages (hefty Cumberland or skinny chipolatas), occasionally both.

In this sense I suppose you could label me something of a purist. I like my main ingredients cooked well and served to excess, normally supplemented by some form of comforting carbohydrate vehicle. Whether that means American style thick and spongy pancakes, dripping in maple syrup and topped with gloriously salty, crisp streaky bacon, or my personal favourite, fat and juicy Cumberland sausages cooked to a caramel crusted golden brown, served in a warm and steamy, generously buttered baguette. Brunch should be taken seriously, this meal needs to be copious in both size and calorific content and above all else it should be comforting and restorative. Perhaps you will subsequently need a nap or a lie down, but what else did you have planned for Sunday morning?

This Sunday’s choice, inspired by Saturday night’s drunken brie purchase, consisted of a bacon and brie sandwich anointed with chipotle spiced ketchup. There is nothing new to the concept of salty bacon married with creamy, mild brie, yet, where I would usually reach for the cranberry sauce to sweeten my bacon and brie pairing, I decided to opt for the sweet and smoky chipotle chilli to enhance this savoury/creamy combination. The ketchup I used was a standard offering from my supermarket but please use any you can get your hands on or prefer. Chillies can in fact provide a sumptuous sweetness, whilst some may be hot, or verging on dangerously spicy, this sweet and spicy ketchup added a mouth-watering third element to my Sunday morning sandwich.

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This is barely a recipe, more of an assembly task at best, but I am happy to advise on the fundamentals.

I used smoked back bacon (three slices per portion).

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And a mild French brie, around four long slices should work.

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Sandwiched in-between two slices of buttered – please use real butter –  wholemeal bloomer (no crusty white loaf was available but this would be the preference).

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Grill the bacon on a high heat on both sides until the fat is crisp, golden and sizzling.

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Place the bacon on to your buttered and “ketchup’d” bread of choice and immediately top with brie to speed up the “oozing” process.

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 Slice, devour and enjoy alongside a steaming mug of tea.     

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