Tag Archives: aubergine

Courgette & Aubergine Curry

The Art of Eating Well arrived on the same day as my first Riverford veg box. I was excited by both, so decided to create a slightly tweaked Hemsley & Hemsley recipe to make room for my extra veggies.

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The result? A sweet, aromatic medley of vegetables that was the perfect antidote to the blisteringly cold weather. So here is my version of Jasmine and Melissa’s recipe – one I’ll make word for word when there’s less veg in town.

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Serves 2 (with yummy leftovers for lunch the next day)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil (or coconut oil if you’re as good as the girls)
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 thumb sized piece of root ginger, grated
  • 3 large garlic clothes, diced
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 1 large aubergine, chopped into chunks
  • 3 large tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 large purple carrot, diced (thank you Riverford)
  • 1 large courgette, diced
  • 4 Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 lime (grated zest and juice)
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • a handful of chopped fresh herbs (I could only get parsley, which tasted lovely)
  • 1/4 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1 tin of coconut milk

Method

  • Heat the oil in a large pan and lightly fry the garlic, leaks, mushrooms and onion until soft
  • Add the diced carrot, coconut milk and vegetable stock and stir well
  • After six minutes, add the aubergine and stir
  • After ten minutes, add the tomato courgette and lime zest
  • After six minutes, add the maple syrup, lime juice and fresh herbs
  • Serve in a bowl with a scattering of herbs and toasted cashew nuts

Ottolenghi, Islington

When I’ve had the hardest of weeks, I believe in treating myself. Perhaps a new dress, a shiny pair of shoes, a relaxing, money wasting manicure or delicious food at a restaurant I can’t afford.

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Yotam Ottolenghi was put on this earth to create beautiful food for women. Not that men wouldn’t enjoy his gorgeous creations, but I can’t see a blokey bloke appreciating the thought and precision that goes into his dishes.

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For this reason, I chose his lovely Islington restaurant as my Friday treat. The entire shop-cum-dining room is white, brought to life by vibrant food and flashes of red. Most people had booked, but despite being walk ins, we were quickly sat at the counter.

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Everything is made to share and it’s suggested you order three plates per person. Because of the complimentary, oh so delicious bread, we opted for five dishes – two cold and three hot – along with a glass of biodynamic Prosecco.

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Our drinks came first and were quickly returned. We couldn’t get our heads round the sandy coloured, misty, flat Prosecco, so went for a couple of glasses of biodynamic wine. This fared much better and we appreciated the waiter’s lack of annoyance when we made the change.

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Roasted Aubergine (£9) paired well with Walnut Yoghurt, Herbs & Spicy Walnuts – an inspired combination only Yotam could muster. The Grilled Pear (£9) was equally good. Golden and sweet, the fruit made a delightful contrast to the bitter leaves, crunchy pecans, hot chilli and intense Roquefort dressing.

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My favourite hot dish was the Poached Duck Egg with butternut squash, roasted mushrooms, glazed cranberries and buckwheat biscuit (£11). The egg itself was a sight for sore eyes, somehow moulded to resemble a flower in bud. The mixture beneath was curried, sweet and multi-textured, tying everything together.

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We also ordered Pan Fried Pollock (£11), which was tasty, but a tad overcooked. However, The Quail (£11) was delicious, covered in grains of sharp mustard and sitting on a refreshing bed of chopped fruits and fresh pea shoots.

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You’d be mad to turn down pudding. We had a gorgeous passion fruit pie that was almost too good to eat…almost.

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The bill wasn’t cheap, but this dinner was a treat. Yotam is one of my favourite chefs and Ottolenghi didn’t disappoint when it came to the food, staff, atmosphere and general prettiness. So for that ladies, I’m giving it a LLE Rating of 8/10.

Ottolenghi, 237 Upper Street, London N1 2TZ

Ottolenghi on Urbanspoon

The House of Ho, Soho

When I booked The House of Ho for my birthday, I got some worrying looks. ‘I know you’re newly single S, but is this really the route to happiness?’. Turns out it was, so despite their concerns, my friends dutifully followed me to dark, debaucherous Soho.

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If this was the 70s, my post would be very different, more exciting and – let’s face it – confined to a diary as the wondrous internet was still a figment of TimBL’s imagination . But as it’s 2014, I will focus on what The House of Ho really is – a relatively new Vietnamese restaurant full of lively Londoners of all ages, gender and sexual orientation.

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We kicked off dinner with a bottle of Prosecco and a few dishes from the ‘Light & Raw’ section of the menu. Crab Pomelo Salad (£7) was, fittingly, ‘light’, refreshing and full of texture, and Duck Pho Cuon Rice Noodle Rolls (£5.50) were a lot like cold Dim Sum…in a good way.

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The biggest ‘Light & Raw’ treat was Spicy Salmon Tartare (£7), which was topped with a raw quail’s egg yolk and encircled by chopped pistachio, Shiso (an Asian herb) and Jicama (a type of yam). Our waiter stopped us eating until we’d mixed all ingredients together into one, mushy lump. Turns out that lump was pretty damn good, especially when scooped with a cracker or two.

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Of the ‘Hot & Grilled’, the BBQ Baby Back Ribs (£6) felt too heavy next to the other, more delicate dishes, whereas bland Smokey Aubergine (£6) could have used some spicing up.

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‘Ho’s Dishes’ were much better – The ‘Shaking Beef’ was wonderfully succulent (£14) and Lemongrass Monkfish balanced sweet, sour and meaty fishiness, despite being a little chewy.

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I think we picked the best side (thank you Mr Waiter) as Morning Glory (Water Spinach at £4) was just as satisfying as its meatier counterparts, making us vow to replicate the dish at home.

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My friends’ mischievous faces gave pudding away – Molten Maru Chocolate (£6.50) with ice cream, a candle, Happy Birthday written in sauce and a rousing chorus of singers. It was eaten with relish, just as Birthday cake should be.

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The House of Ho combined interesting, delicate food with good prices and a fun, buzzing atmosphere, making it a perfect birthday treat and a worthy recipient of a LLE Rating of 7 / 10. 

House of Ho, 55-59 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 6HW 

The House of Ho on Urbanspoon

Okan, Brixton Village

Each time Shrove Tuesday comes around, I stuff my face with pancakes wondering why I don’t make them more often. They are so easy and versatile – this year’s combinations ranged from cheese, ham & mushroom to salted caramel & banana…via traditional lemon & sugar and the odd Nutella.

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I guess I’m just lazy, or eat so many I can’t bear the thought of more. So, for an alternative pancake experience, I turn to Okan – a tiny Japanese restaurant in the heart of Brixton village.

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Okan specialises in okonomiyaki – a savoury pancake that’s commonplace on the streets of Osaka, Japan’s second largest city. It means ‘as you like it’ and typically combines fermented cabbage (kimchi) with batter and a range of toppings.

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After our Otumami (starters) of warm, salty edamame (£2.20) and wonderfully aromatic Onasu (fried aubergine with soy, honey, ginger & miso dressing – £3.25), we ordered the Okan Special with prawn, squid and corn (£8.25), as well as a Kimchi & Pork (£7.95). This was topped off with a bottle of white wine (they also have a great range of Japanese beers and sake).

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Cooked in on steaming grills beside us, the okonomiyaki were large, thick and piping hot. The kimchi made them quite salty, but not to the point of unpleasant, and the fillings were in generous supply. The flavour was unique and took some getting used to, but it was refreshing to try something so different.

Okan was one of the first Brixton Village eateries –  no frills, charming and serves original food that transports you miles from the bustling streets of Brixton. For that, I’ll give it a LLE Rating of 8/10. A very happy – albeit belated -Pancake Day to you all.

Okan, Unit 39, Brixton Village, SW9 8PS

*To avoid embarrassment, it’s worth noting that Okan is Cash Only

Okan on Urbanspoon

The Gate, Angel

Can’t imagine life without meat or fish? Then go to The Gate for vegetable dishes that would beat lasagne to a pulp.

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The Islington branch is spacious, bright and colourful. I went on a busy Thursday evening and struggled to choose between the spread of ‘Indo-Iraqi Jewish’ dishes. Settling with the aubergine schnitzel (£13.75), I was eating within five minutes, making me wonder if it’d been ‘warmed up’ in the microwave.

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Three, golden crumbed slices of aubergine created a pyramid around a square of potato dauphinoise. To the side sat a pile of crispy curly kale, sprinkled with sugar and fried in a little too much oil for my liking. The schnitzel combined meaty aubergine with silky red peppers and strong cheddar cheese. It was a robust combination that I enjoyed down to the very last bite.

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I shared three scoops of ice cream with L – perfectly pleasant (£4.50), but not made on site, so no need to dwell. R was nailing her Stem Ginger Sponge Pudding (£6), keeping quiet until every bit of toffee sauce was licked from the plate.

The Gate won’t be for everyone – some of my friends wouldn’t dream of going to a meatless restaurant. But I found it interesting and surprisingly wholesome, so give it a LLE rating of 7/10.

The Gate, 370 St John Street, London EC1V 4NN

The Gate on Urbanspoon

Octagon Dining Room, Marylebone

I’ve to-d and fro-d about writing this. The restaurant’s in Home House, so unless you have membership – or know someone that does – it’s unlikely you’ll go. Then again, I made it in, so I guess anything’s possible.

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The Octagon Dining Room is one of two restaurants in this exclusive private members club, famed for an eclectic clientele and fabulously avant-garde parties. The room is golden, sleek and relatively small, with soporific velvet armchairs and black, stone tables that nod towards the Asian fusion menu. Over head is a beautiful 1820s ceiling – a splendid contrast to what’s at eye-level.

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Sitting in luxury, we nibbled Edamame Beans, drank Sancerre and perused the menu. Our order was simple – a special sushi platter to share (£20), three Black Cod with a Miso-Mirin Marinade (£31 each) and sides of Steamed Jasmine Rice, Pak Choi and Baked Aubergine at £3 per dish.

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The fresh sushi platter combined California Rolls with Prawn Tempura & Avocado, Salmon & Avocado, Futo Maki, Salmon Nigiri and Tuna Roll. I’m a sashimi fan, but couldn’t deny the depth of flavour and meticulous preparation.

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It was my second time eating Black Cod and yet again it blew me away. Each sweet, succulent flake melted like butter in my mouth. It ruined any chance of remembering the sides – they were superfluous to my dish of dreams.

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I had the Jivara Chocolate “Pot” with Cherry Compote & Green Tea Curls for dessert (£7). It was deliciously chocolatey and maintained the meal’s artistic attention to detail.

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The Octagon Dining Room gets a LLE Rating of 7/10. It looses points for exclusivity, but gains many for the beautiful Black Cod. See you again dear fish.

Octagon Dining Room, Home House, 20 Portman Square, London W1H 6LW

Seven Nights in Sicily

If I learned anything in Sicily, it’s that Brits eat cake at the wrong time of the day. In the land of The Godfather, I had cake for breakfast…every morning. The benefit? It gave my body the chance to burn off my sweet fix during the day. Well, it would have done if I hadn’t eaten gelato every evening.

We went to Sicily for the sun, scenery, beaches and food. Louisa – the lovely lady we rented Villa Britannia from –  really helped us with this, particularly when it came to finding the best, most traditional restaurants in Taormina.

On night one, we were tired. I will kindly say we accidentally booked flights into the wrong side of the island – The Boyfriend knows the truth (don’t you). Nearly four hours on a plane, the same amount of time on a bus and a short taxi ride took us to Villa Britannia and Louisa, who quickly booked us dinner at L’Arco dei Cappuccini.

We were given a glass of Prosecco when we got to the restaurant, which was followed by wine, antipasti, primi and secondi. Nothing disappointed me, not the melt in the mouth fish carpaccio, the Tagliatelle con Vongole or the pan fried monkfish. Yes, the Sicilians eat a lot. But we soon grew accustomed to this.

We had pizza on the second night. The Boyfriend predicted it wouldn’t be great and, annoyingly for both of us, he was right. But luckily, the atmosphere at Granduca made up for it. As did the gelato afterwards.

By Wednesday, we craved something homemade. Louisa came to the rescue, letting us cook our take on Spaghetti (Tagliatelle) Carbonara at ‘home’.

We were out on the town again on Thursday. By that, I mean dinner at the beautiful Cucina Tipica Siciliana, followed by yet more gelato. Here, the best course was the Antipasti of deep fried courgette flowers stuffed with tuna. I’d only ever eaten the flowers stuffed with cheese, so fish came as a welcome change.

We were now over half way through our week in Sicily, so conversations were dominated by hypothetical questions like ‘if you were to live / buy a holiday home somewhere, where would it be?’ Ah, those wishful thoughts that make you feel a tiny bit better at the end of your holiday.

We visited Taverna Al Paladino on night five and the combination of friendly waiters and well priced food and wine gave us every reason to go back on the sixth night. It was here that we had Sicilian speciality Pasta alla Norma, which was simply delicious. Oh, and we also had mussels, tuna carpaccio, another serving of Spaghetti Con Vongole and bread, glorious bread.

We spent our final night at Hotel Principe di Villafranca in Palermo, a little gem we booked through Secret Escapes. The two words that sum up this hotel for me are ‘air conditioning’. For the first time in a week, we went from 40 degrees heat to a temperature that made me wish I’d brought a jumper. Food wise, we decided to eat in the hotel’s small restaurant. It wasn’t amazing, but I enjoyed the aubergine stack we had for starter and still managed to stuff enough food in my mouth to fall into a deep sleep before our early start the next day.

An entire week has past since Sicily and the thought of sitting in these restaurants feels like a dream. At least the UK heatwave, team GB’s medals and watching Bolt fly have softened the blow of work and a pretty hefty credit card bill.