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.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Junction Tavern, Kentish Town : Review

Hampstead Heath is one of my favourite parts of London. You can escape the noise of the city, walk for miles, enjoy splendid views of the capital and of course eat and drink yourself silly. On the whole, most of the eating places are of a decent standard, no more so that the plethora of gastropubs.

To the east of the heath you will find Fortess Road and the highly acclaimed Junction Tavern. review is odd as it is based on just the main courses. However, owing to a long, hot day devoted mainly to sampling real ale, that was all we could manage and besides the portions are pretty big.

The Lamp rump with black olive mash, wild mushrooms and a rich jus was perfect for soaking up all of the pints that I had knocked back during the day. Everything was well cooked and each individual component went well with the other. However, the Pan fried Sea Bass with fregola, mussels, tomatoes, samphire, chili and garlic was as good as anything I've ever eaten in a pub. Fregola are tiny pasta balls from Sardinia which are made from semolina and just go so well with fish. The bass was crispy on top and succulent underneath, the mussels were plump and sweet, the samphire had a lovely bite to it, whilst the fregola came somewhere in between. The sauce had that lovely spicy zing to it that clung to your lips leaving a long and satisfying taste. In fact, it was so good, I sacrificed dessert to finish off the rest of my partners.

The pub suits all tastes, had a nice conservatory and quite a large garden area. One course with a large glass of wine each came to about £40. Highly recommended.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Asian Sirloin Steak with Pak Choi

I try to restrict my intake of red meat and with respect to steak, if I have it, I normally like it plain with mushrooms, chips, salad etc. However, sometimes my near obsession with any flavour or cuisine east of Watford takes over and out comes the soy sauce, chili, lime etc.

This dish is very simple but tastes like something more sophisticated. Sometimes steak can be a heavy meal, but for some reason, the Asian dressing gives it a lighter, fresher touch. I feel that the meat must be cooked medium rare or not at all. I served with some steamed pak choy which gives great texture and steamed basmati rice which enhances the Asian theme.

Ingredients : (for 2) 2 Sirloin steaks about an inch thick, seasoning, finely chopped red chili, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 inch knob of ginger grated, 6tbsp soy sauce, juice of a lime, 2 tbsp olive oil.

1. Combine the chili with the garlic, ginger, soy, lime and olive oil. Taste and check for that ying / yang balance. It should be fresh and zingy, with a comfortable amount of heat and saltiness.
2. Head a griddle pan until very hot. Season steaks and drizzle with some olive oil. Cook for 2 minutes either side and set aside to rest.
3. In the meantime, cook the rice and pak choi.
4. To serve, scatter the vegetables over a warmed plate. Slice the steak at an angle and arrange over the greens. Now pour over the dressing and any juices from the meat.

Afghan Aubergines

Any mention of Afghanistan naturally raises thoughts of the awful conflict and the hordes of brave soldiers risking their lives on a daily basis. I really can't think of any positives about being there, although if I was there, I'd be quite happy to munch on this dish every day. I was delighted to receive Veggiestan, by Sally Butcher as a Xmas present last year. The front cover is stunning and thankfully the recipes on the inside match up.

Blending aubergine with yoghurt is nothing new, but to serve the vegetable hot creates something a little different. This is great to serve with some pitta bread as a shared starter or part of a meze. The textures are very comforting and the spices marry well with the yoghurt which carries quite a kick of its own thanks to all the raw garlic.

Ingredients : (for 2 people as a shared meze dish) large aubergine cut into 6mm slices, rapeseed oil, chopped onion, green chilli chopped, 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes, small bunch or chopped coriander. Yoghurt : 150ml thick yoghurt, 1tbsp lemon juice, 3 crushed garlic cloves, handful of chopped mint, seasoning

1. Place the aubergines in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave to bleed for half an hour, wash, then pat dry.
2. Sweat off the onion and chili until soft, then remove and set aside.
3. Now fry off the aubergine until brown on both sides, you may need to do this in batches.
4. When brown, sprinkle with the turmeric and then add the tomatoes, onions and chilli and 3/4 of the coriander. Add sufficient water so that the veg is covered, then place a lid on, reduce to a low heat and simmer for 20-30mins until sauce thickens.
5. In the meantime combine all of the sauce ingredients and chill.
6. To serve, check the aubergine mix for seasoning. Spread 3/4 of the yoghurt over the base of a plate. Top with the aubergines and tip the remaining yoghurt on top. Garnish with the remaining coriander and dive in.