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…

Adventures with Cleo part 1.

So as I mentioned in a previous blog, I was recently given a sourdough starter by Tom of Tom’s Feast. Using his recipe, I attempted my fist sourdough. Here is a pictorial account of this experiment.

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Cleo fed and rested.

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First bread making stage post rest period.

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Rest of the flour added and bread rested.

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After the final resting (yes that is a large pizza tray).

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Big, baked, and beautiful!

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

Warm Mexican-Style “Salad”

I’m in another weight loss phase. However, I’m determined to ensure that calorie limitation doesn’t turn to flavour deterioration. It’s all about portion control. Having said that, tonight I was in one of those moods when I just needed to sit down to a big plate of something. This warm Mexican-style salad hit the spot and turned out rather well.

Ingredients
Half an avocado
1 tomato
A quarter of a red onion
Half a yellow pepper
A handful of coriander
1 lemon
100 grams of yoghurt
Ground cumin
Oregano
Ground cinnamon
Tabasco
1 small time of re-fried beans

Method
1. Roughly chop the vegetables and coriander and place in a bowl. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and mix through

2. Place a pinch of each of the remaining herbs and spices in a pot and dry roast for about 30 seconds. Turn the heat down really low and add the yoghurt and a few drops of Tabasco. Gently heat until just warm. Be really careful not to overcook as this the yoghurt will split.

3. Heat the re-fried beans until warm. It’s fine to just pop them on a plate an pit them in a microwave for about a minute.

4. Place the vegetable mix on top of the heated beans and drizzle the yogurt mixture over the top.

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Yes, using canned beans is cheating and I’m sure it would taste better if I made them myself. But there are times, especially at the end of a difficult week when you just need something quick and easy that still tastes fantastic. Also because I’m in weight loss mode again I can tell you that this recipe has approximately 444 calories.

The Riding House Café

It was my mother’s birthday last weekend so I decided to take her out to lunch to celebrate. I’d been wanting to try the Riding House Café for some time, and it seemed the perfect venue. The café had the perfect ambience for the occasion. It was light, open and had a sense of casual sophistication.

After selecting our wine we set about deciding the menu for the afternoon. We were both in the mood for a leisurely meal so agreed to take a staggered approach to ordering. In addition to starters the café offers a range of small plates affording a tapas-style approach to dining. From amongst these we selected the beetroot carpaccio with sheep’s ricotta and the buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce (naturally). We also ordered an entrée-sized chorizo and squid salad with pickled chillies and saffron aïoli.

We started with the buffalo wings. Meat Liquor take note, they were delicious! While I cannot realistically vouch for their authenticity, they certainly adhered to the descriptions of “real” buffalo wings that my ex-Chicagoan had afforded me. The meat of the wings was full of flavour, and the sauce in which they were covered was genuinely spicy, but not overpoweringly so. The blue cheese sauce was just gorgeous! It had that wonderful rich, sweet mustiness of a blue cheese but was still sufficiently subtle to work with, rather than compete against the rest of the flavours. Just to note there were four wings, we just got a bit excited and I forgot to take a photo before we started eating.

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Judging that it would help to cleanse our pallet we progressed to the beetroot carpaccio next. This was a nice dish. Beetroot and goats cheese are of course a wonderful combination and this was no exception. However, I felt that the beetroot lacked flavour so the pleasurable contrast between the sweetness of this element and the sharpness of the cheese wasn’t as apparent as could have been expected.

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Finally we moved onto the chorizo and squid salad. Different elements were really good. I particularly enjoyed the chillies which were beautifully sweet with a nice touch of vinegariness. I also enjoyed the combination of the saffron aïoli with the chorizo. However, the squid was very disappointing. It was incredibly bland, to the point of tasting watery and was effectively redundant within this dish.

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Although we’d already eaten well there was still room for more and we decided to order a main to share. While there were a number of tempting options, we knew from the outset that it would have to be the longhorn beef burger with bone marrow. As soon as it arrived we knew we’d made the right choice. I’m not sure I have the words to describe how phenomenal this burger was. So much flavour. So much deliciousness. This is what beef is supposed to taste like. I’m not even going to attempt to convey this fully, it has to be experienced!

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Now I have to confess I was the one to ask for the dessert menu. I should have known better. Two glasses of wine in and I was having to convince my mother not to have a little lie down on the couch at which we’d been seated. Clearly will power had left our company some time ago. Probably after the first glass of wine. So instead of birthday cake we ended up sharing two desserts. The first was a chocolate fondant with coconut ice-cream. I have to say I wasn’t a fan of the ice-cream, it was just a bit bland. However the fondant was excellent. It had a wonderful richness and intensity but wasn’t excessively sweet enabling us to really savour the flavour of the chocolate. It also had the perfect balance of pudding exterior and gooey centre.

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The second dessert was cinnamon donut balls with a custard centre served with a glass of chocolate sauce and cream. Utterly decadent. Once again the flavours were well balanced so that it wasn’t excessively sweet. I was really pleased to be able to taste all the different elements in each mouthful.

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Ok, we overindulged. But the food was so good that we couldn’t resist it and will certainly return for another helping.

Wheelers of St James

Some time ago I purchased a voucher (£30 for 3 course mean with half bottle of wine) for a meal at Marco Pierre White’s Wheeler’s of St James. In need of a quiet weekend after working way too many hours during the week I decided to cash in and take myself out for a bit of culinary pampering. I was surprised to be able to secure a reservation on a Saturday night so easily. Arriving a little early for my reservation at 7:30pm, I was also acutely aware of how few people there were in the restaurant. Maybe Wheelers is a place were people come to dine later in the evening? The table was fully prepared for me despite my premature attendance, including my special limited menu associated with my voucher. I was pleased to see five different options for each course, I’d anticipated only three. However, I did notice that there was no vegetarian option available within the list of main courses, something that others looking to make the most of such deals may need to be aware of.

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For my starter I selected the potted duck with peppercorn and toasted sourdough. I chose to scrape the duck fat off the top knowing how much food I had ahead of me. I felt it was necessary to make some concession to calories. The flavour of the patê was excellent. I really liked the balance of duck and peppercorn, such that the peppercorn was an equal partner, not just a flavour enhancer to the duck. The sourdough was nice, but a third slice was really necessary given the volume of patê.

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I opted for the ribeye steak (medium rare) with triple cooked chips and béarnaise sauce for my main course. The dish also included green beans and roasted cherry tomatoes. This is the point at which the meal started going a little awry. The beans were just shy of being clearly overcooked. So although the flavour was fine the texture wasn’t as pleasant as it should have been. The steak had a good flavour, but it wasn’t striking in any way. It was a little chewy and I think in this instance I would have had a better experience if the steak had been cooked medium. The béarnaise sauce was nice, but again nothing exciting in any way (contrasting greatly with somewhere like Gaucho where I quite happily sit with a pot of béarnaise sauce and eat it by the spoonful). I really enjoyed the roasted cherry tomatoes, and it’s possibly quite telling that I felt most positive about this aspect of the dish. As for the triple cooked chips…well actually I good them to be quite inconsistent. A couple were really crunchy, to the extent that you would expect of triple cooked chips. Others were more chewy, and then some were the same consistency as chips cooked in the standard manner. While it was a nice dish overall there was just nothing that really blew me away.

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I was really torn when it came to dessert. I’d seen the rhubarb crumble and it looked really nice. However I’ve tried rhubarb only once before and didn’t really enjoy it. I was also intrigued by the pannacotta but wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the consistency. So int he end I stuck with my standard preference for sticky toffee pudding knowing that at least I’d have some frame of reference for assessing the quality of this dish. Again I just wasn’t sure about this. The flavour was really good, however the texture just wasn’t right. The pudding had clearly been produced on mass and then cut into individual squares, and I was provided with a jug of caramel sauce to pour over the top. The consistency of the pudding was, well inconsistent. In some places it was beautifully soft, in others it was almost chewy. The ice-cream was clearly inferior to that which I’d been served at Hush Brasserie. So although it tasted good, but it just wasn’t quite right.

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Overall I was left with the sense that I’d been served with a solid, genuinely good meal, but not a great meal. I have to say, I expected better. I might have been just a pleb with a voucher, but surely there is a standard to maintain even in such circumstances.