Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Roast pheasant

Japanese nabe hotpot: perfect winter food

hat can be better on a nippy winter evening than a hotpot steaming with the heart-warming aromas of  seafood, mushrooms and green vegetables. There is no recipe, really. You just get together with your friends or family and put all and sundry ingredients in a pot of boiling water, dunk them in a sauce of your choice and wash down with beer or sake.

Well, it's not really that random. First of all, you put a piece of kombu in the water to make aromatic broth. Then put ingredients starting from tougher to cook ones in approximately this order. First in go shiitake, carrots, daikon and bigger pieces of fish. I use chopped salmon heads, the abundant cartilege makes for a fantabulous depth of the soup's flavour. I am not a big fan of fish balls unless they are home-made. Next go green vegetables (hakusai/pakchoi, Savoy cabbage, Chinese broccoli, kailan), oyster mushrooms, shrimp, mussels, crab meat, squid, clams. Last follow the gentlest ones that only need to be warmed up: shimeji, konnyaku, bean sprouts, kikurage.

My favourite dip is mix of miso paste and mirin - Japanese style. Also great is mix of chili sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and pressed garlic - Thai style. Korean dip is gochujang, ground toasted sesame, pressed garlic and ground ginger. Vietnamese dip is lime juice, ground ginger, nuoc mam, chopped chillies and pal sugar. Chinese dip is soya sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, sesame oil and a sprikle of hot red pepper.

Once the last bits are fished out and devoured with thanks, beat an egg into the remaining broth and add harusame.  


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Strada@London: new menu

 don't need really any particular luring to dine at Strada. That's where I go when I'm in the mood for consistently enjoyable no-nonsense Italian classics. So when I was offered to taste their new menu with whomever I cared to come with, I jumped at the opportunity. In return I was asked to write an honest review. So here's the breakdown:

The starter, large green Castelvetrano olives were meaty and flavourful but the portion was on the skimpy side.

Antipasti platter - Parma ham, Napoli salami, speck ham from Trentino, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, vine-ripened tomatoes, olive tapenade and bruschetta pomodoro - was nice, same as usual, not enough for three men though. We were not allowed to order more.

I never order a bruschetta for a starter, to me it's a glorified sandwich and so did it turn out: grilled bread with some chopped tomatoes on top.

Risotto is easily the most abused Italian dish. The opportunity was not missed this time either: boring and watery, risotto verdure tasted like buttery rice porridge. It reminded me of my worst vegetarian days.

Rigatoni speck with bits of ham and broccoli reminded me of the lunch fare in my short time at kindergarten. Über-meh.

Orata al forno, whole grilled sea bream though was sublime: very fresh tasting and cooked to perfection, with scrumptious crunchy skin with just a sprinkle of salt and thyme and delicate juicy flesh. A side of exquisitely steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes kept it good company.

The dolci were run-off-the-mill forgettable factory-made pistaccio ice-cream and chocolate mousse. Nothing horrible but nothing to write home about either. Just something you can buy frozen in Lidl.

Overall, I was not impressed with the new menu. As a paying customer I would only order the grilled fish. However, I will keep coming to Strada for my regular favourites. And also for cacciuco, a Sicilian fish soup that was new but not on the tasting menu.  

I thank Strada for the opportunity, however, for the next time I would advise them to put their best, not the mediocre, on their tasting menu. Perhaps, just what they serve daily anyway?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monbazillac wine

his sweet and mellow wine, reminiscent of Muscat, goes well with mild cheese like Brillat Savarin.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brillat Savarin cheese

ade from triple cream (that's 75% fat for you!), Brillat-Savarin was created in the 1930s to be as indulgent and over-the-top as the man it is named after, the great French gastronome. It is produced industrially from pasteurised milk and tastes like a cross between Carpice des Anges and unripe Brie. When matured, it is sold as Pierre Robert, which has much more character and reminds less of ricotta.

We paired it with sweet and mellow Montbazillac wine, a congratulatory pat on the shoulder.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Wazemmes Market @ Lille, France

After a longish hiatus, we finally went again foraging for groceries in France. After a morning and early afternoon in the fine Palais de Beaux Arts, we spent the rest of our weekend stocking up on French yummies. 

Unlike our multicultural Brixton Market, French markets are predominantly, well, French, with some Maghrebi and Vietnamese fare to make it interesting. The quality and variety of produce is consistently superb while pricing, if not actually dirt-cheap, more competitive than in London or Amsterdam.

This time I have managed to find rock lobsters (which I thought were non-existent in Europe), Brillat-Savarin cheese (I had only read about it before) and Vitelotte potatoes (little purple buggers mostly of aesthetic appeal than any particularly special taste).

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bergerac Sec

rench wines can be hit or miss, never mind price or reputation. That is why I always go for Chilean when I need a shot of reliable white. A bit of risk-taking gets rewarded though, as was the case with this lovely Bergerac Sec: crystal-clear gooseberry and currant married with an after-hint of vanilla, la classe!