Tag Archives: tomatoes

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

Cicchetti, Covent Garden

The Cheers theme tune sang in my head as I entered Cicchetti last Friday. Everyone was smiling and everybody knew our naaames. We were family. It was the Italian way.

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There were plenty more treats in store when it came to the food. Just like a good steakhouse parades its cuts of meat, our waiter / brother / friend showcased Cicchetti’s beautifully bulbus truffles.

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We smelt them long before they arrived at our booth, located to one side of the bright, marbled dining room. Two black funghi and one, rarer, White Alba truffle that would be used to make my dish of the night.

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Plates of antipasti, primi, carne and pesce appeared in front of us over the course of two and a half hours. I was struck by how fresh the ingredients were – tomatoes that sat like jewels on top of crisp Bruchetta (£4.85) could have been flown in from Italy that morning, and as for the creamy Burrata (£9.95), well I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a buffalo downstairs in the kitchen.

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Most impressive was the White Alba pasta, which came from the daily list of ‘specials’. Homemade ribbons, golden butter and large shavings of truffle were all this dish needed. It melted in my mouth, transporting me to my ‘happy place’.

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That’s not to say the Lobster Risotto (£12.95) and Squid Ink Ravioli stuffed with crab (£8.95) wasn’t divine, but when you taste nectar, you never go back…

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I couldn’t resist ordering a bowl of crisp, sweet, Zucchini Fritti (£4.90) and a couple of Queen Scallops (£10.95). Sitting pretty in their shells, they were lightly fried in olive oil with just a few, simple accompaniments – garlic, lemon and breadcrumbs.

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We weren’t all that impressed by dessert – probably our fault as we greedily ordered a mixed plate of puddings, which were far to heavy for our already overwhelmed stomachs.

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So, to finish on a high, I’ll leave you with the Funghi Crostini, also knowns as my second favourite dish of the night. The dark, meaty mushrooms glistened with butter, perfumed by fresh parsley. It was begging to be demolished, which is exactly what happened.

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If you want good, Italian food that you can afford on pay day, but not by the end of the month, Cicchetti is for you. It’s not as cool as Polpetto, or as pretentious as Bocca di Lupo, but it does serve lovely Italian food with a bright, friendly smile.

Cicchetti Covent Garden, 30 Wellington St London WC2E 7BD

Food 4/5 – Price 4/5 – Staff 5/5 – Atmosphere 4/5

San Carlo Cicchetti on Urbanspoon

The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead

Keats, Byron, Dickens, Stoker, me. No, I’m not trying to compare myself to these great writers and poets. As if. Instead, I’m including myself in the ever-increasing list of punters that have visited The Spaniards Inn.

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Built in 1585, this pub of literary dreams is filled with ladies, gentlemen and children from London and further afield. We went on a sunny Sunday, so rather than sit in the dark, cosy dining room, we found a spot in the huge, beautiful garden.

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Garden diners have to order at the bar, so after a brief look at the menu, we went for a Scotch Egg with Picalilli (£5) and Cornish Sardine Fillet (£7.50) to start, followed by good old Fish & Chips, or Sustainably Caught Cod in Cider & Tarragon Batter as they call it (£14).

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The sardine stole the starter show. Sitting on toasted sour dough, it had a lovely smokey flavour that was brightened by sweet and juicy confit heritage tomatoes. The Scotch Egg was fine, but I found the meat casing a tad mushy and couldn’t help but compare it to the pulled pork and chorizo wonder I’d devoured in Brixton Village the day before.

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The Fish & Chips were great. The batter was light, the double cooked chips crisp and the pea puree fresh as a daisy and laced with summery mint. No complaints there.

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We skipped dessert, deciding to wander round the Heath with an ice-cream. Had I relented, Orange Meringue with Raspberries & Strawberry Coulis would have been the obvious choice.

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I’ve already planned my next visit, so unsurprisingly, I’ll give The Spaniards Inn a LLE Rating of 8/10. Go with friends, family and out of towners who love great pub grub with a side of history.

The Spaniards Inn, Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London NW3 6JJ

Spaniards Inn on Urbanspoon

Rotorino, Dalston

I’ve always liked Stevie Parle’s face. He looks like one of the good guys; someone who enjoys life and isn’t afraid to show it. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this – even I am a bit – but I truly believe people’s personalities are reflected in their work. So, how could sunny, optimistic looking Stevie do any wrong?

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Because of Stevie’s face, The Dock Kitchen has been on my restaurant bucket list for the past few years. It’s still on there today, but at least I can now say I’ve eaten at his new, slightly cheaper restaurant Rotorino, which opened a couple of months ago on Kingsland Road.

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A diamond in the ‘no longer rough’ Dalston, Rotorino is made up of a large rectangular dining room that’s blue, brown and white all over, filled with wooden tables, black plastic chairs, a row of booths down one side and bright, loud patterns.

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I was right about the face; Stevie’s food is lovely. Inspired by gorgeous Italian cuisine, the menu is split into First, Second and Third courses, followed by the all important ‘Sweet’.

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We shared courses, which covered off refreshing Watermelon & Tomato Salad with chilli, mint and ricotta (£6), Buffalo Mozzarella with smashed broad beans, mint and a giant, claw like pod  (£6.50) and lightly battered Mixed Small Fish & Squid with Monk’s Beard and grease cutting fried lemon (£6). Nothing blew me away, but at the same time, not a crumb was left on the pretty, rustic plates.

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Second was a small bowl of Pistachio Casarecce (£7.50) and Sausage Gnochetti Sardi (£8). I often find restaurant pasta boring, but this was not the case here. The first creatively combined crushed pistachio, basil, garlic and olive oil (YUM), whilst the latter delightfully combined slow-cooked sausage, red wine, chilli and breadcrumbs.

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For Third, we shared Sasso Chicken (£14.50) and Pork & Veal Meatballs (£9.50) from the ‘stove’, with a side of Chickpeas topped with fried breadcrumbs (who could resist!).

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The meatballs were tasty enough and my favourite part of the bird was the juice drenched bread that sat beneath it. But it was the chickpeas that stole the show – so simple, they reminded me how satisfying vegetarian living can be.

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I must pause to tell you that there were three, not two of us at this dinner. I wouldn’t want you trying to tackle this much food, believing they’ll be room for pudding – something that should never be missed.

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It was L’s birthday, so a candle topped Chocolate Cake (£5) was quietly ordered on a trip to the bathroom. It was divine – chocolate, honeycomb, pistachio and soured cream should get engaged, married and live happily ever after.

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Stevie did me proud, just like I knew he would. I enjoyed each and every dish, although some stood out more than others. The restaurant was buzzing and will now be my little oasis of calm (and tasty food) in bustling Dalston. I’m giving Rotorino a LLE Rating of 8/10.

Rotorino, 434 Kingsland Rd, London E8 4AA

Rotorino on Urbanspoon

The Modern Pantry, Farringdon

Perhaps it was the beautiful morning, or seeing my friend’s lovely face, but I honestly couldn’t fault our brunch at The Modern Pantry.

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The building itself deserves a mention. I’d be happy to call it home, with its exposed brickwork, sunlit rooms, wooden floors and gorgeous exterior. Even in the rain, this place would feel special.

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We drank lattes (£2.80), hot chocolate (£3) and Prosecco (£6 a glass). We ate oozing poached eggs, buttery spinach, roasted garlic infused tomatoes, grilled, salty halloumi and granary toast (£8.80). It was a fresh, modern take on a fry up that would have been followed by Raspberry & Ricotta Pancakes, but our stomachs couldn’t cope with that level of greediness.

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I’m looking for an excuse to go back for lunch or dinner – I’m sure it won’t take much. Until then, I’ll give The Modern Pantry top LLE marks for brunch and wish the delightful waiters a very happy weekend.

47-48 St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4JJ

Modern Pantry on Urbanspoon

Beagle, Shoreditch

After a quick drink in Cottons Rum Shack, followed by an even quicker, forced conversation with Henry Holland outside his ice-cream van, we arrived at Beagle – the restaurant I’ve wanted to go to for months, partly because of reviews, partly because I like anything associated with dogs.

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Located just off Kingsland Road, Beagle is unsurprisingly filled with local hipsters and ‘creative’ types. The striking interior makes the most out of being an old railway tunnel, made up of exposed brick walls, wooden furniture and a view through to the kitchen. Outside there are a few ‘unbookable’ tables, allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Our smiley waitress took us through the mouth-watering menu, pointing out two dishes already sold out. This felt like a lot, but as it happened, neither dish would have made our order anyway.

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The ‘special’ Chargrilled Squid was also in short supply, so we quickly ordered one as a starter. To accompany this, we went for Meinda & Pink Ox Heart Tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella & Basil (£7.50). The generous portion of squid had a lovely smokey finish, with each piece as tender as the last. Accompanying it was a mustardy sauce that we ate with relish.

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By contrast, the colourful salad was a little disappointing. With such a fancy name, the tomatoes didn’t sing like I expected. Nevertheless, the basil dressing was so deliciously garlicky, we insisted on more bread to mop the plate.

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For main, we went for Chargrilled Herdwick Lamb, Bobby Beans & Anchovy (£19.00) and Whole Lemon Sole, Kolhrabi, Radish & Chervil (£18.00). That, and sides of Duck Fat Chips (£4.50) and Grilled Sweetcorn (£3.50).

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The lamb was lovely and rare, but again, lacked the depth of flavour we’d hoped for (surprising, given the addition of anchovy). As for the Sole, the buttery, white meat melted in the mouth, brought to life by the crisp Kolhrabi salad – a vegetable I hadn’t eaten since my lunch at Dabbous.

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Grilled sweetcorn required no butter – always a good sign – but the chunky chips didn’t quite deliver on taste. Each crisp, golden finger was as good as any well-made chip, but lacked the meaty aroma expected from the duck fat.

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We shared Gooseberry Fool & Ginger Snap for dessert, which was creamy, light and filled with large chunks of fruit. It was even better spread on a ginger snap biscuit – a great end to the meal.

If I’m in the neighbourhood, I’ll probably go back to Beagle to chance a table outside. The atmosphere was great, the interior felt special and some of the dishes were fantastic. So, I will give this much hyped restaurant a LLE Rating of 7/10.

Beagle, 397-400 Geffrye Street, E2 8HZ

Beagle on Urbanspoon

Ben’s Pizza, New York

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As much as I love London’s sourdough pizza craze, nothing – and I mean nothing – beats a slice of New York’s finest.

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For less than $4, you can get a massive slice of wonderfully cheesy pizza that will make you wonder why you’ve ever eaten anything else.

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We grabbed a couple of slices from Ben’s Pizza in SoHo. The options were endless, but we kept it simple with a thin crust Margherita and a thick Sicilian, freshly made on the premises.

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We ate our pizza sitting by a basketball court in the sunshine. Each piece had a crisp base and a delightfully gooey filling. It was so American and so, so delicious.

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Not much more to say, other than go, eat and enjoy.

Ben’s Pizza, 177 Spring St,  New York, NY 10012