Thursday, 12 October 2017

Charred corn, kale and sweet potato salad.

Remember I said that recently I had fallen for a woman or two. Well one of them is a lady called Anna Jones. One of the most important things in life is trust. When I saw the list of ingredients for this dish, I thought, Really? But as I trust Anna implicitly, I went for it and its now in my top 10 salads. It has a great variety of textures, tastes, heat and colour. What is most satisfying and the clever bit is that you can taste each item individually, yet it all works collectively. Anna has just released her third book, but this one comes from her debut publication

For 4 people you will need : 4 sweet potatoes unpeeled and cut into bite sized chunks, 1 tsp paprika, cumin seeds and runny honey, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 200g bag of kale, juice of half a lime, 2 corn on the cob, 2 ripe avocado peeled and finely sliced, seasoning. (For the dressing : juice of the other half of the lime, handful of cashews, small bunch of coriander, 2 tbsp. coconut milk and water)

1. Preheat oven to 200c
2. Place potatoes on tray and sprinkle with the oil, paprika, cumin, honey and seasoning. Toss together and roast for 40 minutes until golden and crispy.
3. Empty the kale onto a board and chop down and of the large pieces and discard the stems. Place in a bowl, squeeze over the lime and some salt. Scrunch together, this will break down some of the fibres and make the raw kale more pliable.
4. Heat a griddle pan until hot then roast off the corn on each side. Once charred, remove the kernels and add to the kale with the cooked potatoes and avocado.
5. Blend the dressing ingredient together until you get a silky sauce. Check the seasoning and acidity.
6. Pour over the salad, get your hands in and toss gently.

I tend to serve the potatoes and corn warm rather than hot. As there's so much going on already, there's no need to serve it with anything else, except maybe a cheeky glass of sauvignon blanc.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Euskal Etxea, Barcelona : Restaurant review

To many blokes out there, a basque night out may set the pulses racing. I'm no different. Spain has a varied culinary scene, however Basque cooking from the North West is one of my favourites. They have their own tapas which are called pintxos and are usually served on small rounds of toast.

In the heart of the El Born area of Barcelona which is just food heaven, Euskal Etxea provides a fantastic insight into one of the worlds great cuisines. This falls into the category of food porn, your eyes light up as soon as you walk in, you want to try everything on offer and never want to leave. You forget about what anything costs and just become embroiled in the whole atmosphere.

Anyway, down to the food. Everything was perfecto as they say in Spain, but the highlights were: Black pudding and Serrano ham, Crispy tartlets filled with a membrillo paste and topped with cream cheese, Anchovies with pickles, Serrano ham, Bombas - round croquettas filled with ham and cheese, topped with aioli and a mackerel paste topped with crab. The bar / restaurant teems with life and the food provides a natural source of conversation. I remember a while ago when the so called 'best job in the world' was advertised, a caretakers job on a desert island. Well, chief taster is this place can't be far behind.

Monday, 2 October 2017

9 Reinas, Barcelona : Restaurant review

Being a big fan of Argentinian steak, expectations were high and we weren't disappointed. What I like about these restaurants is that they allow the main ingredient to be the star of the show. Of course, one can order sauces, sides etc., but they don't overshadow what IMO is the finest beef on the planet. After a delightful amuse bouche and some bread, we both opted for the 200g fillet. It was simply presented alongside both sweet and new potatoes, and to accompany, we had an array of grilled vegetables including asparagus, chicory, artichoke and wild mushrooms. The meat was incredibly tender and moist, but most of all, it just mooed of beef. To compliment such a fine piece of meat, the waiter suggested an excellent Malbec that was only 22E.

Dessert was tempting, but wanting to savour every last after taste of the beef and wine, not to mention my ever expanding waistline, it was declined. The service is very professional, yet friendly and the d├ęcor is simple, yet chic. Highly recommended.

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.