Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ful medames foul medammas recipe

This is a trademark Damascene dish.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gigot d'agneau: perfect roast leg of lamb recipe

Once you've bought yourself a nice (organic, free-range) leg of lamb, you are entrusted the responsibility not to spoil it. It's a gift of nature that takes a lot of time and effort to mature, take very good care of it. Here are the ground rules you need to abide:
  1. If it is frozen, defrost is slowly: for example, in the fridge overnight. If you are in a rush, submerge it in cold water. This may make it lose some flavour though.
  2. Easy on spice: sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, sliced garlic and one herb should suffice.
  3. Best herbs to go with lamb are: mint, hyssop, rosemary, thyme.
  4. Poke the leg with a sharp knife and make sure the herbs, salt, pepper and garlic end up in each hole.
  5. Giving your lamb a light coat of vegetable oil will save it from burning and keep the juices inside.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 230 degrees and bake the lamb for 20 minutes. This will also help to seal the juices inside. Make sure it does not burn by covering the top with a piece of aluminium foil.
  7. Continue at 200 degrees for another 30-50 minutes depending on the size. Different ovens work differently so you really need to figure the right timing out on your own.
  8. It's better to undercook than to overcook: well done lamb gets chewy and loses it flavour. Medium rare - as on the picture above - is the best
  9. PLEASE: do not use ketchup, brown sauce and Tabasco. Those are designed to conceal the poor taste of low quality produce. Your gigot d'agneau deserves better!
  10. Roast veggies, particularly roots, are lamb's best companions. You can put a tray with sliced potatoes, parsnips, root celery, burdock, Jerusalem artichokes, pumpkin etc. underneath your leg of lamb so it gathers all the lovely juices dripping down.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rodizio Rico: Brazilian churrascaria@Islington

One of the most overused words in food writing is succulent. As protein-based life, we enjoy putting in us everything that approximates our inherent water content of 80%, hence the everlasting appeal of juicy cocks and sappy strawbs. The deepest layers of our ancestral collective memory dating from the arid Rift Valley's hominids compel us to crave anything evoking moisture.

It is no wonder then that Rodizio Rico, an all-you-can-eat Brazilian churrascaria (grill) restaurant on Islington Upper Street rides on this bandwagon too. Succulent is how they describe their fare. Unfortunately, what its passadors (meat carvers plying between the tables with skewerfuls of grilled animal pieces) offer has little backing to this claim. For £22.50 a head, it sure is hard to offer no-time-limit all-you-can-eat rib-eye steaks to everyone, so what you get is silverside (primarily used for corned beef Down Under), rump cover and chicken gizzards.

I am quite used to ordering my steak medium rare to have it medium but here there was no chance to employ that trick: the best I could get was half a notch before well done. Whether it could be down to the Health and Safety tyranny or something else I will never know.

The salad buffet is very New World, being large and colourful. It features deep-fried Middle Eastern pieces, bean-based Brazilian starters and stews, generic "international" salads and a lot of French fries. All of those had that unmistakeable imprint of the contempt a hard-nosed carnivore has for plant-based food. Dry falafels, sour olives, bland couscous, mayonnaise-heavy coleslaw, etc.: I made the effort to try them all but there was none that I would have another helping of.

I may sound pissy but you have to go there to believe the queues. We had to wait at the bar long enough to polish off a whole bottle of wine despite we had a reservation. My American friends were naturally outraged at this manifestation of the tempo brasileiro spirit. As always, I was the one who insisted on waiting patiently and giving the place a chance but this time around I was wrong.

Pro's: Easy to order as there's no menu.
Con's: Even a reservation won't save you from queueing. Airfield noise levels.
In a nutshell: Good place for a major protein re-fuel if you are not awfully fussy about your meat.

Rodizio Rico
77-78 Islington Upper Street
London N1 0NU

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kopparberg: Swedish pear cider

I love picnics. There's hardly a better drink for dining on the grass than cider and perry. Festively fizzy, naturally aromatic and with just enough alcohol content to get your delightfully buzzed but not inebriated. Up until recently, I had to wait to go to France to buy cider and perry there. The English varieties fall into the category of working-class booze and seem but a cheap flavourless alternative to beer.

However, Tesco's on High Street Kensington, a far cry from the Brixton branch, which mostly competes with Iceland in providing the essential components of the "White trash diet",
presented me with a lovely discovery. Kopparberg cider comes made from pears or apples and can also be alcohol-free. It could be down to Sweden being ruled by a bunch of Frenchies, their royal family, but Kopparberg tastes and smells as if it hails from Normandy. At 2.19 a small bottle it is not a bargain compared to the excellent champagne-sized 78-cent cider at Auchan but it sure can tide me over until my next grocery trip to Lille.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Scotch egg

Here they are in front of me like a pair of gigantic shaven and tanned highlander testicles. Despite the name, the blessed idea to deep-fry boiled eggs covered in sausage mince and breadcrumbs occurred to some English people at London's posh department store Fortnum & Mason. We can only guess what combination of circumstances and train of thought had led to this invention but these days Scotch eggs are a popular party snack from Minnesota to Jaipur and from Inverness to Lagos.

For some unfathomable reason, these days it is widely considered the ultimate picnic food. It is also a permanent fixture on gastropub menus. The picture below by Guardian's David Sillitoe may explain my incredulity about the whole Scotch egg hoopla.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bamboula@Brixton: Jamaican restaurant review

What are you taking pictures of?!!

An enraged Jamaican man pounces on us as I'm taking snapshots of our long-awaited dinner. The proprietor, as it turns out, works himself in a scary frenzy as the private party he is entertaining across the room from us are apparently nervous about any photographic euqipment deployed anywhere close to them. Perhaps, balacalvas would be a good solution for their phobia.

In the meantime, our dinner keeps arriving, one dish at a time.

We have long meant to visit this restaurant located right in front of the favourite haunt of Brixton's feral teenagers, across the road from the Lambeth Town Hall, but some other chow-hound opportunity would have always turned up.

About an hour before the closing time, warnings started coming, like in a vintage sci-fi movie where a mechanic female voice advises everyone to evacuate before the explosion. Never mind the

As one for the road, we get not even a sorry when the perfectly coiffed cashier chick shortchanges us of 20 quid. Like, big deal, mon.

Pro's: Good-tasting food, some less known Jamaican dishes.
Con's: Smallish portions. Rude-boi style customer service. Waitresses seemingly unaware of the fact of their gainful employment, while totally engrossed in "keeping it real" and working on their "street credibility".
In a nutshell: With so many other alternatives for West Indian fare in Brixton, give it a miss.