Monday, 18 September 2017

The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell

If you mentioned Clerkenwell to a serious foodie, their eyes would light up and their stomach do a backward somersault. The choice of venues paying homage to epicureans is obscene with the general standard being very high. The Modern Pantry is based in pretty St John's Square and presents an informal dining room providing an eclectic menu. Being a massive fan of Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, I was delighted to see many fusion dishes with little twists here and there. I opted for the highly acclaimed Prawn omelette to start. To be honest, although the flavours and textures worked well, I wasn't overcome, although the smoked chilli sambal was amazing. Meanwhile the sage infused fritters with that classic combo of goats cheese and beetroot rocked. Two glasses of crisp Vermentino matched each dish perfectly.

The mains were far more complex, but everything complimented each other and the dishes were expertly executed. The duck to some may have been a tad rare, but it only quacked once and its gameyness was offset wonderfully by the peach and accompanying vegetables, not to mention a glass of Malbec.  The chicken was soft and succulent, yet hearty too for an Autumn evening.

The atmosphere is very laid back, the service informal and all in all good value for money. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Chargrilled Thai Chicken Salad

Having one's origins in Thailand, the Coconut Monkey is always willing to try any recipe with Thai in the title. I've had endless different Thai chicken salads which vary in texture, variations of flavour, but mostly heat. Many people are put off by requiring an asbestos mouth to eat many Thai dishes, but this one based on Madeleine Shaw's recipe is fairly mild, yet packs a punch of crunch, freshness and zing.

Serves 2 : 2 skinless and boneless chicken breast, sliced in half horizontally, 1tsp turmeric, 1 red chilli, deseeded (half finely sliced, half finely chopped), 1 tbsp grated ginger, zest and juice of a lime, 25g cashew nuts, 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 little gem lettuces shredded, 4 spring onions finely sliced, 100g sugar snap peas finely sliced, handful finely chopped fresh basil, salt.

1.  Marinade the chicken in 1tbsp oil, turmeric, chopped chilli, ginger, lime zest and a dash of salt.
2. Heat the oven to 200c.
3. Toast off the nuts in a dry pan until golden then set aside.
4. Heat a Griddle pan over a high heat. Sear the chicken for about 2 minutes on each side. Place on a baking tray and cook through for 7-10 minutes.
5. In a bowl, add the lettuce, spring onions and sugar snap peas. Mix and then scatter over a serving plate.
6. Mix the lime juice with 2tbsp oil and some salt. Taste and adjust the acidity if required.
7. Once cooked, lay the chicken on the salad bed. Scatter over the nuts, the dressing, the basil leaves and the chilli strips.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Slow-Cooked Beef Short Ribs

Today it feels like Summer has just turned to Winter. So instead of the traditional Sunday Roast, some proper comfort food is in order, courtesy of Gordon F#?!ing Ramsay. Short beef ribs along with Lamb Shanks, Pigs Cheeks, Pulled Pork Shoulder etc. are amazing cuts of meat, full of flavour, yet amazing value too. The slow cooking allows the fat to render, moisturising and tenderising the meat and thus intensifying the taste.

Anyway, for two hungry souls you will need: 2 Thick cut beef short ribs, 1 head of garlic cut in half horizontally, 1 tbsp. tomato puree, 250ml red wine, 400ml beef stock, 100g pancetta lardons, 150g chestnut mushrooms halved, handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, seasoning.

1. Pour yourself a glass of wine. If you're only using 250ml, why not?
2. Pre-heat oven to 170 / Gas mark 3.
3. Season ribs, then brown on all sides in some olive oil in a deep roasting tray.
4. Add the garlic, cut side down followed by the tomato puree. After a minute, add the wine to deglaze. Bring up to the boil and reduce by half. Now add the stock, simmer for a couple of minutes and baste the ribs.
5. Remove from heat and cover with foil. Place in over for 3-4 hours, turning and basting every hour until the meat comes away from the bone.
6. Just before the ribs are done, fry the pancetta until golden. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender.
7. Transfer the ribs to a serving dish. Squeeze the garlic out into the sauce and blend.
8. Pour sauce over the ribs and top with the mushrooms, bacon and parsley.

Serve with steamed greens and chive mash and of course the remaining wine.

The Return of the Monkey

Where have the last few years gone? Well the Coconut Monkey has now relocated to East Anglia. I've still been eating my way around the world, but not always had the time to bore everyone with weird and wonderful food experiences, restaurant reviews and recipes. Until now!

During this time I crossed to the other side and back again and became a Vegetarian. I've fallen hopelessly in love with two women; Anna Jones and Madeleine Shaw. I've also bought a bigger house in order to store all my ingredients, gadgets, pots and pans. East Anglia is just a larder as far as I'm concerned. The quality of local ingredients is amazing, pork, game, fish, samphire etc. and the beer isn't bad either.

So hang on to your waist lines, the journey is just about to start again.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

More More Moro

I love the various inner London Foodie heavens like Islington, Blackheath, Charlotte Street etc and Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell is another sanctuary for Gastronauts to hang out. Arguably the pick of the restaurants is Moro which was one of the first high quality Spanish establishments to hit the London scene. In terms of taste, it's fine dining, however the food is fairly rustic and the atmosphere very laid back which is quite an amazing combination. It almost feels like you're on holiday.

Everything you order can be just placed in the middle of the table for all to share which is great for someone like me that wants to eat the whole menu. To start we had the Salmon Ceviche with pickled cucumber and seaweed which was light and delicate, a perfect way to start a meal on a summer evening. The Sardine fillets with tomato and aubergine really packed a punch. The aubergine was charred and caramelised in a way that I'd never tasted before and was incredible.

To follow, we opted for the Char grilled Lamb with Fattoush and Pistachio sauce. A melange of flavours, textures and colours arrived which all worked beautifully well with each other. The bream with cucumber, samphire, spiced labneh and farika looked far more simpler than it sounded but again sent one's taste buds into space. The only problem now was which desserts to choose.

I'm very nosey in restaurants and like to see what other people have on their plates. The couple alongside had the Yoghurt cake with pomegranate which looked quite sexy, so we ordered that and the rosewater and cardamom ice cream which marries two of my favourite ingredients together at the same time. The cake was slightly tangy and had sweet notes which gave a nice balance whilst the ice cream was divine, maybe even the best dish on the menu. The subtlety of this dessert was amazing as who'd have thought that the two scoops placed in a simple bowl would taste so good.

There is absolutely no doubt that I will return to Moro, not tomorrow but sooner rather than later. In the meantime I shall be attempting to recreate some Moorish magic from one of their three excellent recipe books.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Honey & Co : Warren Street

As I've been working 24/8 on my bistro lately, I have rarely eaten out, let alone venture into London. So tonight's cameo appearance was full of expectation and thankfully I wasn't let down.

I'm a big fan of middle eastern food and restaurants that bring traditional dishes from their homelands to mine. Therefore, Honey & Co was an apt choice. The restaurant is quite basic but has lots of quirky touches that transport you to destinations far away. The menu is short, but with everything being freshly prepared and equally as desirable, I still wanted everything.

To start we opted for a couple of salads. Advocado with tabule and pomegranate aroused ones taste buds whilst the quince, mint, honeyed hazelnuts and fresh curd cheese would have actually satisfied me for starter, main course and dessert.

To follow, the Jordanian lamb and rice casserole was both comforting and frustrating because I never wanted it to end. Succulent lamb blended with orange blossom infused rice, saffron yoghurt, almonds and raisins was a triumph. The rare beef with plums, sweet potato and a lemon dressing seemed a curious combination, but the flavours interacted well.

Dessert was amazing in as much as how can a deconstructed cheesecake taste better that a proper one. Answer : Use Kataifi pastry, use feta cheese and throw in some fresh oregano.

The wine list is very small, but this is complemented by some beautiful teas which refresh the palate equally as well. Even after dinner, getting out of the door is a struggle as one's attention is drawn to the mouthwatering array of cakes and homemade jams which at this time of year make useful xmas presents.

The chef Itamar is a top bloke, very passionate about his food, but sticking to his roots at the same time. There are obvious similarities between his cooking and such people as Ottolenghi and Sylvena Rowe, however this restaurant is more about good home cooking, comfort food Israeli style if you like. Casting the food and the chef aside however, the real star of the show is Rachael. She could sell ice cubes to Eskimos she's so nice. Very attentive, friendly and totally conversant with all of the dishes, she was a delightful maitre d.

I will definitely return, but maybe this time I'll bring a good book and stay for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Chicken, mango and avocado salad

Like many people, Monday is a day for using up leftovers from the previous day's roast. Turning everything into a curry is a bit of a cop out really and besides I 'm on a diet. I also had loads of fruit laying about due to the fact that I'm having my 25 a day at the moment. WTF goes with chicken I thought? I'll f'king ask Gordon Ramsey and there it was on page 83 of

Ok, his recipe uses smoked chicken but mine was so burnt it would have same effect! The book actually is really good, full of nutritious recipes which unfortunately make you feel like you have the energy to wash up afterwards, as opposed to falling asleep on the sofa whilst the Mrs does it.

Ingredients :  (for 2)

Half a cooked chicken torn into pieces, ripe avocado, ripe mango, 100g mixed leaves, tbsp toasted pine nuts, Dressing - tbsp orange juice, tbsp lemon juice, tsp wholegrain mustard, 2 tbsp ex virgin olive oil, seasoning

1. In a large bowl add the chicken to the leaves.
2. Peel the mango and working round the stone, cut into thin slices. Add to bowl.
3. Whisk all dressing ingredients together.
4. Halve the avocado, remove stone and peel carefully. Do this last to avoid discolouring. Add to bowl
5. Dress the salad and toss thoroughly. Decant to a serving plate and pile high. Sprinkle with the pine nuts.

How easy is that? The mango makes the dish taste and feel fresh, whilst the creaminess of the avocado and crunchy pine nuts offer good variations in texture. In terms of flavour it doesn't really compare to Asian salads, but it is full of nutrients and a perfect summer dish.