Real Foods Market on Southbank

Hooray! Real Foods Market is open during the week again throughout the Paralympics. This means I get to pop in for dinner before my Wednesday evening run.

Today I went to Community Kitchen for a delicious spicy lamb and chickpea tagine wrap. There were so many things that I loved about this meal. The flatbread is home-made and delicious. It’s also medium sized and thin. So often wraps are all pita and a little bit of filling. Not this one! It was filled so much that it was served with a fork.

The lamb was really lovely. What was fantastic was the balance of flavours. So often seasoning can be so strong that it overpowers the flavour of the meat. Not on this occasion. The spices complimented and enhanced the intense flavour of the lamb. Similarly the tagine really focussed on the natural taste of the chickpeas. This is not to suggest that it was bland, I actually lost the flavour of the minted yoghurt because of the strength of the other components.

The salad bed of tomato and red cabbage brought a wonderful fresh crunchiness. Lovely to have that contrast in texture. Without it, the wrap could have been a bit mushy-feeling, particularly given that the lamb was minced.

The whole meal was filling, and refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable! I’d definitely recommend it.

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Supperclub Summit: Mamalan, Two Hungry Girls & Wild Serai

When I first heard about the Supperclub Summit I was really excited. Yet somehow as the events approached I found that I still hadn’t gotten around to booking my attendance. Finally I sorted myself an and on Saturday I went along to the Mamalan, Two Hungry Girls & Wild Serai supperclub, a collaboration of three Asian supperclub chefs. Unusually, the event was held in the Goethe Institute. Every other supperclub I have attended has been held in somebody’s home. I suppose three chefs in one household kitchen would have been a little challenging.

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Upon arrival we were served a complimentary pink cocktail. Also unusually, wine was available for purchase. Supperclub are usually BYO events. The tables were simply laid and on the brown paper “tablecloth” the elements of our impending feast were described. Curiously, next to the fork was a red an gold envelope with a coin and a note asking us not to lose it. Prior to our meal we were introduced to the chefs, who explained that the meal would be served in the traditional banquet style. We were also reminded not to lose our envelopes.

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Our first entrée was a mini lamb bun. It was served streetfood style from crates hung around our waiters’ necks each had a coin jar for “payment”. This is where the contents of the red envelope came into play. The entrée itself was really nice and flavoursome. I added some of Mamalan’s excellent chilli oil to give it a bit of extra kick. Not as outstanding as other elements of the meal but a good, solid course all the same.

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Our next entrée was poached chicken with a spring onion and ginger dressing wrapped in lettuce leaves. This course was served in its components so we were able to construct it according to our tastes. I liked this approach to food. I’m generally not the greatest fan of poached chicken, but in this instance it worked well. There was a wonderful punchiness of ginger in the dressing.

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Alongside this we were served a wonderful Malaysian Nyonya salad of celery, mushrooms and beans. Really simple and fresh. I particularly liked the flavour of the mushrooms and couldn’t resist picking at it throughout the rest of the evening.

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Next were the much revered Mamalan’s pork and chive dumplings. They were perfectly cooked, crispy on one side, silkenly stodgy on the other. The flavours were amazing. Very complex but so well partnered that I couldn’t isolate any single element. Dipped in a mix of soy sauce, Chinese vinegar and chilli oil…perfect!

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Again this was accompanied by another fantastic salad. This time we were served a mix of pickled vegetables including white cabbage, carrot and cucumber. The pickle was sweet, tangy and beautifully refreshing. It didn’t last long at our table!

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Finally we moved onto the main courses (yes there was more than one). First out was the pork belly with crackling. And here I entered heaven. When the pork belly hit my tongue I had to take a little moment to close my eyes and just enjoy the pure pleasure of the flavour. I think my dining companions might have found that a little strange. Eh, whatever. Have to say. It was the best pork crackling that I have ever had! Thin, astonishingly crispy, and very well seasoned. Surprisingly this was served with English mustard, as well as broccoli and rice. I have to note that the rice was beautifully cooked. It was sticky without a hint of glugginess, and soft it just disintegrated in my mouth.

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We were advised not to eat too much rice because we would need it for the next course. When it arrived I completely understood why. It was a mountain of chilli crab with the most wonderful sauce that I just wanted to drink it! Now on the scale of seafood preferences crab is pretty low on the list for me. However, it did lead to much table conversation and hilarity as we struggled to penetrate the crabs’ armour and ended up splattering ourselves and each other with crab juice and chilli sauce in the process.

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I was also a big fan of the mantou buns served with the meal. The crust had a subtle sweetness and the bread soft, had a beautiful grain and was gorgeously flavoured. Excellent for mopping up more of the delicious sauce.

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Another excellent salad accompanied this meal. This time it was a combination of pineapple, cucumber and chilli. It was beautiful and provided a refreshing contrast to the richness of the chilli crab.

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Once we’d had some time to clean ourselves with multiple serviettes and towelettes, we were provided with a delicious mango and cumquat palate cleanser – which do it’s job perfectly- before moving onto the spectacle that was dessert.

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We were presented with a halved log of bamboo hollowed out and filled with ice. On top were pieces of fruit (rambutan, watermelon, cantaloupe, apricots, and strawberries) and bowls of panacotta with peach and caramelised nuts, and honey ice-cream with dates and sweet lotus root. Fortunately The panacotta was nice, but nothing spectacular. The nuts were my favourite part. But the ice-cream was outstanding! The lotus root was interesting, but somehow it worked.

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We thought that was it and by this point the strain in my stomach was certainly telling me that this should have been the case. But no, to see us off we were given mini pandans and chocolate ganaches, and a cold tea that I really didn’t like. Both the pandam and ganache were really lovely, although I felt the latter was just a bit rich after such an extensive meal.

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Adventures with Eat St

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to sample the wares of some more of London’s street food delights. Coincidently, all of them are part of the Eat St movement. Actually it’s not that much of a coincidence because I took some annual leave and was finally able to get down to King’s Cross Boulevard.

Anyway, my first vendor was Motherflipper. A friend of mine had tried their burgers recently and given them the thumbs up, so my expectations were pretty high. I decide to resist the lure of candied bacon (still on my dieting stint) and opted for the chilli burger. The meat comes topped with cheddar and a chilli paste that includes chunks of red jalepenos. The burst is dressed with chilli mayonnaise, spinach, red onion, and pickled cucumber slices. I was a bit controversial and added ketchup and mustard as well. Sorry, but if there’s not fresh tomato in my burger, there has to be ketchup. Yes, I do know that the combination of condiments sounds insane, but trust me, it all worked. In fact I really liked the chilli mayonnaise which managed to hold it’s own distinct flavour against my additional condiments. I also liked that the chilli paste brought flavour to the meal, not just heat. It got a bit messy, but really that’s what you want from a good burger!

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My next place of culinary exploration was Ana Maes. I have to say I have been dying to try her food ever since I first read about it. Unfortunately ever time I’d come across her she was only only doing her mac and cheese. And while I overheard many comments of delight, it was really the meat I was interested in. This time I was not disappointed. In fact it exceeded my expectations. I was treated to pulled pork with homemade BBQ sauce, sesame coleslaw and homemade chilli beans. Oh my word it was amazing! I loved the depth of flavour of the chilli beans. Punchy heat and a good hit of cumin (just shy of too much). Good coleslaw. The inclusion of the sesame seeds was a little challenging but it did work. Mainly because without the heavy mayonnaise dressing it was really quite a fresh taste, breaking up the intense richness of the beans and pork. Speaking of the pork, it was sooooo worth waiting for. Tender, flavoursome, and delicious! I also really liked the BBQ sauce. I find supermarket jobs a little too sweet but this had a wonderful complex mixture of spices that was just…yum! Ana Mae’s, I’m a fan.

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The most recent was Engine. Again I’d been wondering about this vendor for a while. My running group meets next to it before our Wednesday run, so I was visually quite familiar with their food. Having said that, I was hesitant to take the next step and give them a try because, having eaten Big Apple Hotdogs, I wasn’t sure that any other could live up to these standards. Still, this week we stuck around for food after the run, and I decided to overcome my initial reluctance and see how they compared. I opted for the BBQ hotdog served with homemade salted cucumber spears, red cabbage coleslaw and BBQ sauce. The pickles and coleslaw were really good. Absolutely spot on with the cabbage to dressing ratio. And I’m absolutely sure that had I not already discovered Apple Hotdogs, I would have been raving about the quality of the meat. So I guess it depends what the priority is. If it’s the combination of condiments, then Engine is the way to go. But if it’s the flavour of the meat, stick with Big Apple. For me, sorry Engine but Big Apple Hotdogs is still the best!

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On a separate note, yesterday to my delight I walked into Wholefoods in High Street Kensington and found the stall at the front selling Big Apple Hotdogs. I got a little bit excited. Needless to say I had to have one (I’d just run a total of 17.5km so I figured I’d earned it). This time it was a beef and pork dog. Condiments available included caramelised red onions and pickled cucumber spears. Oh so good, I was one happy woman! If only they were available to take away and cook yourself…

Jamie’s Fifteen birthday collaboration with Eat St Traders

I was incredibly excited when I heard about the collaboration with Eat St traders to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Fifteen. Working in Greenwich I’ve never had the opportunity to venture into Eat St’s mainstay in King’s Cross only at lunch times during the week. Such a frustration! So the prospect of having a whole range of Eat St traders available to sample on a weekend was too good an opportunity to miss.

It has to be said, the atmosphere when I arrived was fantastic. Food, drink music, and sunshine, what more could you ask for? Well actually the answer to that question was some of that food in my stomach! I wandered up and down the street a couple of times taking in the options available. Eventually I settled on The Bowler as my starting point. Yes, I’ve been there before (and loved it) but there was a different type of meatball available so I felt it was entirely legitimate to return (not that anyone needs an excuse to eat amazing food). This time I was able to sample a green chilli chicken meatball in coconut curry sauce. Once again I opted for the single shooter, aware that I wanted to have plenty of room to try the wares of other vendors. Once again I was astonished by the deliciousness that can be delivered by one meatball. The meat was so soft I’m sure it had been puréed rather than minced, if that makes sense. The green curry sauce was perfect. With strong flavours like Thai basil and coconut milk there’s always the risk that one will dominate the rest of the dish. No such misfortune here, the balance was just right. Of course now I feel the need to sit with the range of meatballs available and decide which is my favourite. A mission for another occasion.

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Next stop was Healthy Yummies pitched just next door. I’d never heard of them before but with the prospect of dived west bay scallops, celeriac purée, Gloucester spot bacon and seashore vegetables before me, I was more than willing to give them a try. Oh boy was it worth it! The celeriac purée was absolutely silken and had a wonderful subtle sweetness. The scallop was so robustly flavoured it actually tasted of the sea. I was interested to see that the scallop was served with beard intact. The bacon and vegetables were combined into a wonderfully acidic lemon dressing. It was a beautiful example of balancing sweet, salty, and sharp to simultaneously contrast and compliment each other. Absolutely amazing!

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Next stop was Yum Bun, for some slowly roasted free range Bluthburgh belly pork, spring onions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce in steamed bun. Available optional additions were kimchi and chilli sauce. I had both and would recommend doing so. The steamed bun was very soft and had quite a strong yeasty flavour. It meant that it had a prominent place in the overall flavour of the dish rather than just being a container for the filling. The pork belly was delicious and melt-in-your-mouth tender. I was really glad that I had both of the additional condiments. The kimchi brought a slight sourness which worked well with the flavour of the bread to contrast the sweetness of the hoisin sauce. The name is an under-estimation. This was an Incredibly Yum Bun!

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Having nibbled my way around I needed something more substantial to finish the meal. I was torn, but eventually the pull of Big Apple Hot Dogs was just too great. This time I selected the Big Frank. Soft, juicy, and delicious! I am an absolute fan and as with The Bowler I really want to sit down with the full range of options and work out which is my favourite. Hmm just realised the potential innuendo there. Moving on…

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It was fantastic to experience so many fantastic chefs and a shame that my diet wouldn’t allow me to try more. However, I am going to get to Eat St next week (hooray!) so hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on some of the ones I missed.

Foodcycle’s Forgotten Feast

This evening I attended Foodcycle’s Forgotten Feast at Fleet River Bakery. I’d heard about it on Twitter via Edible Experiences and was drawn by the prospect of obscure food.

Due to overcompensation for tube closures I arrived a little earlier than I intended. However I was invited in and quickly offered a glass of prosseco with beetroot purée. The beetroot brought a fruity sourness to the drink which was very interesting. Ok that doesn’t sound appealing, but it was nice if somewhat unusual. I took this as indicative of the evening ahead. Other guests arrived and the canapés soon followed. First offering was peperonata crostini: roasted red peppers on crisp bread. The peppers were beautifully sweet and the crostini perfectly crispy and full of flavour.

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Next out were bowls of beetroot hummus with more of the crostini for dipping. The dip was really smooth and creamy, far looser than a standard hummus. It was really sweet, taking on an almost candied quality. Yet there was the lovely savoury undertone of tahini which pulled it back to being a savoury starter.

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My favourite canapé was the courgette and feta fritters with spiced labneh. You can tell they were my favourites because I was so busy stuffing my face that I forgot to take a photo of them. The fritters had a touch of mint mixed into them which was really refreshing and complemented the feta really well. But the star of this dish was the spiced labneh. Something I’ve never had before but will make sure is part of my culinary experiences on the future. Just a wonderful mix of spices and the slight sharpness of the yoghurt. Exquisite!

At about 8pm our attention was drawn to Calvin from Foodcycle and the chef, Tom. I won’t recite their speeches but definitely check out Foodcycle’s website to find out about the inspirational work this charity undertakes in tackling food poverty. Also have a look Tom’s Feast to learn about his fantastic approach to food. To give you a hint 90% of the food we ate was donated from surplus and there was also a healthy (literally) dose of donated foraged food.

Having had our meal explained to us the salivation glands had kicked in and I was glad to be led to our seats. The evening centred on communal eating so we were seated at tables of eight. After sufficient time for introductions and for the conversation to begin to flow we were served our starters. This was a foraged wild salad of sea acer, orache, mustard, sweet cicely, and garlic flowers with mackerel escabeche and pickled carrots and courgettes. Vegetarian and vegan options were also available. All of the salad leaves were foraged and fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the sweet cicely which has a slightly furry texture and a subtle aniseed taste. The garlic flowers, as well as bringing the expected flavour and a slight pleasant nuttiness. The preserving process made the mackerel incredibly soft and also softened the intensity of flavour. Overall it was beautifully constructed dish, and unlike anything I’d had before.

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The main meal was served on serving platters an we spent our time chatting munching and passing plates up and down the table. We were treated to:
• rolled pigs head porchetta with wild horseradish, foraged watercress an rocket.
• home salted pollock and sole with mussels, butter, spinach, sorrel, wilted samphire and sea purslane
• roasted yellow peppers, capers and balsamic reduction
• oval tomatoes with salsa verde
• mushroom with oloroso and breadcrumbs
• grilled courgettes and radicchio, sesame seeds, labneh and cumin
• roasted carrots with cumin and parsley
• Ed’s lettuce salad
• Cleo the sourdough

Yes I did just write “Cleo the sourdough”. You’ve got to respect a chef who cares so much about his sourdough the he names it. Even better he very generously offered a portion of the starter to anyone who wanted it and encouraged us to pass it on ourselves. I’m exceedingly excited to try! Friends and family, if you want your own portion, just let me know.

Back to the main course. The pig’s head porchetta was really strange. Great flavour, but the consistency was a little challenging. Gelatinous and crunchy at the same time. Loved the pollock dish. Such a great flavour an the mussels were large and delicious. I particularly enjoyed the greens that accompanied it. Actually overall I think the vegetable dishes outshone the meat, they were that good! I loved the salsa verde. The dominant herb was mint and it had a wonderful freshness to its the mushrooms were so flavoursome an I wish there’d been more. The grilled courgettes were also fantastic, but with more of that wonderful labneh it couldn’t really go wrong. just a fantastic meal. We all ate way too much, conscious that this food ha all been forage or reclaimed, so we didn’t want it to go to waste.

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Despite having already eaten way too much, is there anyone in the world who wouldn’t find room for salt chocolate torte with caramelised beetroot and chantilly cream with beetroot syrup? If anyone can answer yes then I wish you’d been there so I could have eaten your portion too! It was amazing! The caramelised beetroot was fantastic. I want to learn how to do that to a beetroot. The torte was…I’m not sure I have the words. It was intense rich and chocolatey without being excessively sweet. So intense that the chantilly cream was needed to cut through it. Sorry, I’m salivating at the memory as I write this.

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It was a really lovely evening with interesting food that I would never have had the opportunity to try otherwise. Thanks to Foodcycle and Tom’s Feast. You’ll be seeing me again!


Read more about FoodCycle Forgotten Feast on Edible Experiences

Street Feast London meets Eat Street

The prospect of a whole new array of street food traders lured me back to Street Feast London tonight. I was particularly drawn by the partnership with Eat Street. Unable to get to Kings Cross during the day I welcomed the opportunity to sample some of these traders’ wares. Walking along the street to the carpark I was struck by the aromas of sizzling meat and I knew I was in for some good eating.

As always I did my research beforehand and arrived with a plan of action. Still, I took a little tour just to see the reality of what was available. My first port of call was Spit and Roast. Having read rave reviews of their buttermilk fried chicken, I was compelled to see whether I would agree with such high praise. I started with the sides of a corn muffin and gravy. This was really lovely. The muffin was light and had a savoury sweetness which worked surprisingly well with the meaty gravy. Then there was the chicken. The flavour of the meat was fantastic, but naturally it was the coating that was the star. It had been a beautiful deep golden brown and I was really pleased that it didn’t feel in the least bit greasy. The combination of spices was really good. I loved that the spices weren’t just about conveying heat, but delivered a wonderful flavour the was both complex and harmonious.

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Next on the list was Speck Mobile. sitting on the counter of this mobile van were samples of the grilled herbed Alpine cheese dumplings with sour cream and chive sauce. These were really nice. A strong cheesy flavour with a pleasing crunchy exterior. However, the options that really tempted me were the rare breed pork schnitzel Viennese style with potato and cucumber salad, and the Tyrolean speck dumplings with sauerkraut. Discussing my dilemma with the vendors led to a recommendation of the speck dumplings, their reasoning being that I would never have had anything like this before. It was excellent logic and I decided to follow their advice. This was an excellent decision. The sauerkraut was possibly the best I’ve ever had. It had a wonderful acidity without the overpowering vinegariness that is too often associated with this condiment. The slightly sweet gravy with which this dish was served may have aided this balance of flavours. The dumplings themselves were really tasty. The exterior was soft and doughy without being excessively stodgy. The speck filling was surprisingly meaty. The flavours of all the different elements combined perfectly to make a really enjoyable meal.

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There was one last stop I had to make: The Bowler. You have to respect a man who describes his balls as “sloppy and slutty” to prospective customers. His meatballs that is. Friggin’. Amazing. Meatballs. Having sampled so much already I restricted myself to the meatball shooter, which is a single meatball served with a “tasty tangy tomato sauce”, cumin cream and fresh chopped coriander. I have absolutely no idea how he managed to get so much flavour into this sample-sized portion. I was absolutely blown away. The meat was astonishingly soft. I didn’t really have to chew it, it just disintegrated in my mouth. The sauce was more of a chutney with sultanas and chunks of tomato and..oh lots of wonderful things. The flavours hit me in waves starting with the meat which I swear had a hint of cumin in it, followed by fruitiness, then tanginess, then a final glowing heat of chilli. It was so good that I wanted to go back for a second helping, and only managed to restrain myself by looking at photos of the food I’d eaten to remind myself that I didn’t need to eat any more. I know, this is another gushing review, but it’s totally warranted.

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Hackney Homemade

I’d been wanting to check out Hackney Homemade for weeks but just hadn’t been able to get there. I’d heard about it over Twitter and it sounded like two of my favourite things combined (markets and food). Finally on Saturday I managed to find the time to check it out.

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I purposefully restrained myself at the post-run brunch to ensure that I had plenty of room to sample the different offerings available. This meant that by the time I arrived I was famished. Fortunately I’d done some research beforehand so had a vague meal-plan in mind. The market was smaller and there were fewer people attending than I’d anticipated. Of course this had the benefit that I was able to get to the food straight away, so I wasn’t complaining.

My first port of call was Alley Katsu. I do like a good katsu curry, and I was really pleased with the sample I was given before I made my purchase. I opted for a children’s sized portion, reasoning that although I was hungry, there would likely be plenty of other wares that I would want to try. Even then, the serving was sufficient to be a full meal. The flavour of the chicken was really lovely. I was particularly impressed with the quality and strength of the breadcrumb. Usually I find breadcrumb is about texture, but this clearly brought and added dimension of flavour to the dish. The curry was nice, although I prefer mine with a little more kick. I was able to achieve this with the addition of the sweet chilli sauce made available. However this extra flavour distracted from the taste of the curry. The rice was well cooked and I liked the sweet sharpness of the pickled cucumber slices. This would have been better without the addition of the chilli sauce because this meant the whole dish was pushed towards sweetness, thereby limiting the contrast of flavours.

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I took quite some time wandering around the different options available. Nothing was really calling out to me begging me to try it. Eventually I settled upon El Mosset, which offered a range of croquettes. Rather than deciding for myself I asked for recommendations. As a result I tried one ham and manchego and one mushroom and onion croquette. The croquettes were pre-cooked and reheated in a pan. Unfortunately this method was inadequate and left most of my croquettes still cold. Still I liked that that there were chunks of ingredients like ham and mushrooms, rather than everything having been blended into a homogenous mush. The strength of the flavour of the mushrooms was also particularly pleasing. I also tried a spinach and tomato brioche. It was nice, but to be honest I wasn’t overwhelmed.

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I probably should have stopped eating at this point. However as I was munching my samples from El Mosset I was able to watch a quesadilla being made at Vadasz Deli. I was utterly intrigued and had to give it a try. There were three fillings available:
• pulled pork
• beef brisket
• black beans

I stayed traditionally Mexican(ish) and went for pulled pork with black beans and cheese. The chef, Nick makes his own tortilla as they are needed, and cooks the quesadilla there and then so they’re wonderfully fresh. It was Mexico in a mouthful! Really, really good! Each quesadilla (or bagel, but why would you?) was served with what was effectively a tour around the world of pickles. From sauerkraut to sour cucumbers to jalapeños to pickled cabbage and more, all homemade. There were also some really yummy crisp breads which I think had been seasoned with paprika. While they were really interesting to try in and of themselves I’m not sure they complimented the quesadilla. Still,
although I was incredibly full by the end of the meal I was really glad that I tried this.

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