Archive for January, 2010

The White Hart, SE1

A 10oz classic British beef burger in a toasted sesame bun, with a spicy Bloody Mary ketchup. They also come with the optional extras such as Mature cheddar and bacon, Chorizo, salsa and guacamole or Goats’ cheese and red onion chutney.  My tests will try to focus on the classic burgers with no additions other than the standard condiments.

The classic burger comes with some Cos lettuce and a slice of beefsteak tomato. It was a big, inch thick burger, and juicy.  So juicy that the bun fell apart midway through eating, which is a shame.  There’s a certain pleasure in eating a juicy mushroom burger, when the juices dribble down your arm as your eating, which is fine at home, but eating out I think buns should be able to tolerate the juice of a burger.

Chips were standard style pub chips, probably frozen as they have the same shapes as many other pubs, not crisp and fluffy like the best chips can be, these were a tad dry.  The Bloody Mary ketchup was good, adding a nice zing to the burger, but couldn’t make up for the poor chips.

The veggie with me had the vegetarian platter.  She adored the Moroccan spiced courgettes, coated in a Moroccan spiced batter.  I thought they were surprisingly good too, but the deep fried falafels were too greasy as a partner forcing you to eat the carrot crudités to counteract the oil.

Great pub, good ales, good beers, perry cider, 3 other ciders.  Great jukebox, listened to some Lamb tracks, DJ Shadow, Portishead, Air and Massive Attack.  90s throwback that I am.


A fabulous non-Christmas Pudding

Even though it’s long after Christmas, and most of you will be thankfully glad for that, last night I finally finished a pudding that was almost 2 months in the making. And it didn’t need the loving attention of ‘feeding’ with booze like some of my charming colleagues.

Way back at the end of last November I read about this gorgeous sounding pudding over at Not Without Salt. I can’t quite figure out whether it should be Gingerbread Tart with Cranberry Curd or Cranberry Meringue Pie? The former downplays the crisp, soft meringue top, but the latter omits the warm spiciness of the gingerbread base. Either way, it seemed to me that it would be a perfect addition to a Christmas or Boxing Day table.

Our Christmas plans were to head out to a small hamlet near Chamonix in France, this is where my future parents-in-law have been going for a few months to escape the grey and wet English winters. So I made the curd and transferred it to a container to take abroad, along with some jars for home use. The day before we jetted off I put the container of curd into a bright pink cooler bag to keep it cool for the journey and left it in the fridge. That’s where it stayed. The penny dropped halfway to the airport. I was cheesed off to say the least.

A month passes and some dear friends came round for dinner yesterday. They’re due to depart London in the next few weeks, bound for the brave new world of career opportunity in Edinburgh, we will miss the frequency of their company. All the more reason to give a good kitchen send off!

The cranberry curd was from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess and makes about 5 jars.

Cranberry Curd

500g cranberries

200ml water

100g salted butter

500g caster sugar

6 large eggs

Place the cranberries and water in a saucepan, cover and cook on a low heat until tender and popped. Push through a sieve and put the fruit puree back into a saucepan. Add the butter and sugar, melting them gently. Beat the eggs in a bowl and sieve them into the saucepan. Stir the curd constantly over a medium heat until it has thickened. This requires patience as you don’t want to speed things up and curdle the mixture. When it has thickened, it should coat the back of a spoon. Let cool a little before pouring into the jars. Keep in the fridge.

Gingerbread base

This made 3 balls of dough, if you half the recipe you’ll have enough for two 12″ tart tins. I also substituted black treacle for the un-sulfured molasses

Meringue top

I was under a bit of pressure completing a roast dinner so skipped the Not Without Salt meringue top and went for a simple meringue made with 4 egg whites and 240g sugar.

Once assembled it went into a fan oven at around 200C for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Old weathered books

It certainly looks older than it actually is, but tonight my copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian cooking was gently coaxed from the corner of the kitchen bookshelf, from where it’s been sitting untouched for the last couple of months.

Loaned, but more likely, given by Future-Mother-in-Law about 6 years ago the frayed edges of the purple hard back have an almost velvety feel. Inside the pages are brown and slightly brittle, with the odd mystery brown spot, similar to the papery liver-spotted hands of the very old. The recipes themselves have some of the plainest and most forgettable names I have ever seen: aubergine with tomatoes, lentils with spinach, pressed bean curd with cabbage, it doesn’t fill me with inspiration. However, a glance at Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food has similar plain names, the difference I think is in the language that Slater uses, with more oozing and drizzling.

Eastern Vegetarian cooking lacks the beautiful shallow depth of field photography that are popular in many of my cookery books, instead there are plain drawings of vegetables and diagrams for preparation; it really is a book from before the era of celebrity cooks and bloggers I guess.

This stew seemed like a good bet on a wet and windy September afternoon and had me going back for seconds and thirds.

Potato Stew (China) from Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking

Hearty stew
2 fl oz veg oil
2 cloves garlic peeled and lightly crushed
2 5p piece sized slices of ginger, lightly crushed
340g potatoes peeled, cut into 4 cm cubes
225g green beans or leafy veg
2 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 4 cm long segments
180g mushrooms
2fl oz Chinese dark soy sauce
4 tsp sugar
2 tbs shaohsing wine or dry sherry

On a medium high flame, add garlic and ginger, fry for 15 seconds, then add potatoes beans and carrots. Fry for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms. Stir & fry for 1 minute and add 500ml water, the soy sauce sugar and wine. Bring to the boil, then cover, lower the heat and simmer for 20 mins or until tender. When tender, remove the cover and turn the heat to high, boiling away most of liquid. Ideally you want to be left with 1/2 cm sauce at the bottom. Stir the vegetables gently as you boil liquid down. Remove the ginger and garlic if you wish prior to serving.

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