Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Good Cook Cookbook Review

Having enjoyed the television series very much I borrowed The Good Cook by Simon Hopkinson from the library. I have the Bibendum cookbook which is co-authored by Simon and have also borrowed his Roast Chicken and Other Stories book as I often read that it is one of the favoured cookery books by lots of people. I found it to be a collection of recipes for ingredients which I don't particularly like which was a shame.

This book is well presented and has quirky chapter names like 'Big cow, little cow' and 'Ham, bacon and a little pig'. I definitely prefer the fish and vegetarian dishes over the full-on meat dishes such as the game and tripe recipes. It seems to be a slightly less adventurous version of his Roast Chicken book with lots more photos!

There are photos for around 2 thirds of the recipes I'd say. Nice big portions of everything, it looks like you could easily achieve everything at home which is great. Food to eat rather than admire. Not all the recipes from the show are in the book which is shame. No steak and perfectly cooked chips or roast chicken. I'm not sure how many people who watched the show would make Salt Ox Tongue or Roast Teal. The desserts are non-fussy, the marmelade sponge with cointreau custard sounds particularly lovely. The first dish I made was the Homemade gravadlax and Mustard Sauce, using the mustard sauce for a potato salad. It has to be started 2 days before you want to eat the salmon but I was quite impressed by the final result, though the fish still stayed rather salty even after washing the coating away carefully. The dill wasn't overpowering and I thought it looked really pretty. I'd like to try this dish again.

Next I made the lentils from the Cotechino Sausage, Lentils and Mustard Fruits recipe. It was a nice accompaniment for confit duck. I usually use mustard and cream with lentils so this was a good change. I always like to find new accompaniment recipes and this one will be used again - but I still rather like the cream and mustard version!I also made the Chicken Liver Mousse and I can safely say that I will never be making it again. It is such a disgusting process!! By the time I'd made it I really didn't fancy eating it, plus it was horribly pink, probably as I put a little too much liver into the mix. It tasted right but the texture was a little too soft even though I cooked it for longer than needed. We had a little one of ramekin but the rest went to the cats - who mostly turned their noses up too! Oh well, I've learnt to buy this instead, once I've blocked out seeing the horrid bloody cocktail you need to make it! Bleurgh! Sorry if I've put anyone off this dish!

Not sure I'll be buying this as most of the dishes I like were featured on the show and therefore are on the BBC Food site. A few of the other recipes I have in other books so I think my money is going elsewhere. Plus I recieved 5 new cookery books for my birthday yesterday (woo!) and another on it's way from Amazon as a little gift to myself!Apart from being sickened by chicken livers I also had a food request from my brother - Corn Dogs. Unhealthy, not the greatest quality of ingredients but god did they taste good! Simon Rimmer made them on Something For The Weekend a few weeks ago and they looked easy enough to make. We didn't have the sticks so we completely coated the frankfurters. The polenta batter was absolutely identical to other versions I've eaten and they were just so wrong and so right! Yum.

I also made the Pulled Brisket Chilli from Jamie's Summer show on Channel 4 which was delicious. The meat completely fell apart, I added a dried habanero chilli for a little depth. The sauce was really liquid so I wouldn't have been able to serve it in tortillas like Jamie did but I have happy to have it with rice anyway. Lovely.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

London Eating

It's been a pretty busy August, first Whitby, then I went to visit my friend in Edinburgh and had a jolly good time at the Fringe (I urge everyone to see Alex Horne in a venue near you!) and then I went to spend a week in London seeing shows and binge-eating cupcakes and sushi! I was so sad to read that Betty Blue Eyes was closing early after seeing the show the night before, it was so good. As were the 5 other shows I saw! Phew! Very busy! A new Laduree shop opened in Covent Garden in May, a fact I didn't know till we were walking past. A nice discovery! It was pretty impossible not to walk away with some macarons.From left to right we got: pistachio, raspberry, salted caramel, lemon and thyme, rose, liquorice, blackcurrant and violet and orange blossom. La Mama thought the pistachio, liquorice and orange blossom were the best flavour but found the cream centres a little sickly. I however preferred the cream ones and liked the rose, lemon and salted caramel ones the best. It's inspired me to have a go again at making some. I really wanted to try their seasonal strawberry and mint macaron but I was told it was too warm for them to sell it. Not quite sure why they could sell the others.

Also saw some beautiful flavours of macarons at the Real Food Festival on the Southbank from Cafe On, really interesting combinations.

We ate sushi everyday, there are so many great places in London and we needed quick and filling food between shopping/gallery visiting and shows. This lovely lot came from the Japan Centre. Such good prices and really popular.

Delicious salmon sushi.

A new obsession - soft shell crab tempura. Not the prettiest thing but gorgeous.

Walking back from Waterloo station after seeing The Railway Children (and then seeing Marcus Brigstocke again at the Comedy Store that night!) we came across the Real Food Festival at the Southbank. I wish we'd found it on the friday instead of at 5pm on sunday, I would have tried loads if we hadn't been rushing. I did find the time to drink a delicious fresh apple juice from one of the stalls and then try a coley fish taco from Luardos - fried fish, red cabbage, avocado, special sauce and mango with lots of lime. Amazing. It was great to see all the pretty food vans too.

Decided to have lunch at the National Dining Rooms again as it was so nice last time. Not so great this time around. Big plus was that we walked straight in, but they were obviously down on staff as it took an absolute age to order. I had a chicken, tarragon and leek pie which was quite small but filling. It was really nice but at almost £10 it's a bit too much. And I think our lovely waiter made a mistake last time by giving us a massive mixed salad in addition to our dishes as we certainly didn't get anything else this time :-( And I don't like that they add a 12.5% 'discretionary' service charge. Don't think I'll go again next London visit.

More sushi, this time from Wasabi. Had this selection twice as it was so yummy. The chicken katsu had a gorgeous chili sauce and the edamame and french bean salad was a nice addition to the sushi.

Also had a seafood noodle soup from them, lots of goodies inside including two mahoosive green-lipped mussels.

Then, after all this healthy sushi it was cake time! I visited The Hummingbird Bakery everyday as I wanted to try out all the sweet shop flavours! Greedy yes but I felt it had to be done! My days were slightly ruled by getting to the bakery on Wardour Street before all the cupcakes sold out but we made it! On the first day I saw the Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie which I've wanted to try for 2 years but they never baked it when I was around. It was nice but it didn't live up to my huge expectations, the flavours altogether were great but individually they weren't the nicest brownie/cheesecake/mousse. Oh well.

The first sweet shop cupcake to be had was the Rhubarb and Custard. The frosting was unexpected as it was actual set custard with a slight skin which was slightly disconcerting!! The flavours were great though.

There was some rhubarb compote in the middle which was nicely sweetened and also tasted like it was slightly spiced. It looked really pretty too.

The second day, as well as getting my Hummingbird fix I also bought a cupcake from Cox, Cookies and Cake in Soho. Have to say I felt quite dirty doing so, it's a pretty dark and seedy looking shop! They guy serving wasn't terribly forthcoming and there were no explanations of what the flavours were so I just went for the most Nathalie one on offer - the skull!

The frosting was a little runny so it didn't completely survive our day but it didn't do too badly. The flavour was chocolate and raspberry - chocolate cake with a raspberry centre and the frosting tasted like white chocolate. The skull was made of chocolate too with loads of glitter added which was cool. £4.25 though - ruddy hell! I kept the box for that price! I didn't really think it was worth it. The sponge was very moist and it was really difficult to eat. Shame as I really like Eric Lanlard. I've got their book from the library but haven't decided if it's one I'd want to buy yet.

Saturday was Flying Saucer day which was a lemony sponge with a sherbert frosting. I couldn't really tell there was sherbet in the buttercream but I found lovely bits of lemon zest and it was really tasty and a light flavour. I think their sponge is second-to-non and always consistent. I'd love to be able to produce cupcakes like this, mine are way too hit and miss.

Sunday was Sweet Peanut. This was La Mama's winner of cupcake of the week and I have to say it was up there with me too even though I'm not really keen on peanut. This was a lighter version of a usual peanut cupcake which was great, not so sickly and little nuggets of peanut in the mix.

Monday brought us Blackcurrant and Liquorice which I thought would be a favourite as it was so different to the usual cupcake fare but it was a little disappointing. The cake was supposed to be liquorice but I couldn't taste any hint and I don't particularly like blackcurrant so the jam in the middle wasn't the greatest for me. Shame as more liquorice would have balanced the flavour. Still a well made cake though.

I was looking forward to the Mint Humbug and it didn't disappoint. The sweet had melted a little on top by the end of the day but that was fine. It was a caramel and mint fest in both the sponge and frosting. Granted it was a little toothpastey but in a good way! Very refreshing and tasted exactly like a humbug. I'd like to try and make something like this myself.

I brought home the last cupcake I could try, the Chocolate Lime, along with a red velvet (which never, ever disappointments me, completely delicious). It wasn't my best, the chocolate cake was nice but the frosting was a little strange, a bit fake tasting. The cake and the frosting were nice together but I just couldn't put my finger on what made it taste a little odd.

The flavour I missed out was Rosy Apple which I'm sad about as they're my favourite sweets along with Pear Drops (I think they missed a trick there!). I don't think I did too badly on the cupcake front though, maybe one more cupcake would have made me burst in some sort of horrendous cake-eating explosion! Nice!

And finally I just had to include this eaterie I walked past one day - Herman Ze German!! It reminded me of German at school where the one word remembered for the rest of time was Currywurst! They sell them here! The name just made me giggle, maybe I'll try it next time.

No more holidays planned for a while so I can get back to my cookbooks - already made a start on Simon Hopkinson's The Good Cook for next time.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Whitby in Food

This week I've been mostly galavanting to Whitby for a few days as my grandparents were over from France. Luckily we mostly had nice weather and the apartment we stayed in was stunning - The White Linen Guesthouse - they even had a Magpie cookbook in the kitchen! It's not the biggest of places so a couple of days would probably suffice, I think I ended up knowing every window display of each shop! But I came home with a few skull items from the various Gothic shops and I ate a lot of delicious seafood. I think the seafood would lure me back.

We had fish and chips to take away on our first night there, from Trenchers no less, James Martin's favourite place for fish and chips! Brilliant! We had haddock, cod and scampi plus chips, tartar sauce and mushy peas. I've never fancied eating mushy peas, they're far too bright green, but they were actually yummy. Glad I tried them again. The fish had loads of flavour and the scampi was really sweet and succulent. The chips weren't greasy, there were just too many of them and we only had 2 portions between 4!! Fish and chips certainly isn't my favourite meal but it was lovely. The next day we found a tiny little fishmongers who only sold around 5 different things, obviously incredibly fresh and local produce. We had the buy the prepared crab. Bit of buttered brown bread and the crab - perfect for tea that night. I adore brown crab meat, it has so much flavour.

We tried to eat at the Magpie Cafe that lunchtime but the queue was pretty huge so we walked (and walked) to try and find somewhere else that everyone fancied. Not the easiest of tasks but we decided to give a place called Mister Chips a go. The dodgy name really doesn't do the restaurant justice. There was the usual fish and chips but the specials sounded delicious so I had the Roasted Ling Fillets with Tiger Prawn Beignets, Steamed garlic, lemon and basil Samphire and Crispy straw Vegetables. 2 of us had the same thing. It looked beautiful and the fish was cooked perfectly. The samphire was amazing, so much flavour, definitely want to cook it like that at home. The beignets were light and fluffy and it was a nice surprise to find a prawn inside.

The grands both had the Pan-fried Seabream with Crushed New Potatoes infused with lemongrass, chilli, garlic and herbs, served with roast pepper and tomato salsa. I am reliably informed that it was tasty!

All dishes came with a side dish of all sorts of vegetables. It was a nice touch to have small amounts of lots of things to try. This is definitely a restaurant to try, just ignore the slightly dodgy name - no offence! We tried to make a reservation for the Magpie for the next day but they only have a few reservations per day and they had already been filled. We thought we'd try anyway for lunch and then eat somewhere else if it was way too busy. Thursday lunchtime - 11.45am - we walked straight in!! They're proud to have been in the Good Food Guide since 1980 and have a great reputation. The menu is absolutely huge and there are TV screens in the restaurant showing specials and which fish and seafood is available and which aren't

The grands both had the Magpie Trio which was salmon, scallops and wild seabass with a white wine, lemon and chive butter sauce on spinach. Big thumbs up on this dish.

I had the Chilled Seafood Taster with prawns, hot smoked salmon, poached salmon, anchovies, scallops, mop herring, an oyster, local mussels and local crab. Wow. This is my ideal sort of dish, lots of small portions of delicious things. I think the anchovies were the least exciting, but that's because I like the ones that taste of pure salt and these were in vinegar. No matter, there was plenty of other things to eat!

La Mama had a lobster salad, great local Whitby lobster. They're so lucky having these readily available. We bought both of the Magpie cookbooks which were signed so will look forward to cooking from those soon. The desserts sounded good but I couldn't fit anymore in. I did have a Bram(ble) Stoker ice cream later on though from a milkshake place selling Mr Moo's ice cream. The ice cream was gorgeous! Blackberry flavour which was really creamy and tasted of actual cream. I went back the next day and had a Plum and Damson Crumble ice cream. I also tried a Yorvale Turkish Delight ice cream from a place on the pier which was really light and delicate. I love being able to try unusual flavours.

We thought we'd put together a tasty ploughman's for our evening meal. Plenty of Wensleydale, not traditional but local, some gorgeous Yorkshire ham and a pork and apple pie from a butchers close to our accomodation.

Mmmm, tasty handmade pie.

On our last day we ate at Graveley's, alas no photos as I'd taken so many pictures of the Abbey I ran out of space on my memory card! The staff were lovely, as everyone had been on our whole trip. More lobster and crab was eaten which were great. Strangely the dishes came with a small portion of pasta salad as well as coleslaw and a green salad. But oh, the chips were amazing! You could taste they'd been cooked in beef dripping and they were absolutely perfect. Get rid of the pasta and give more chips!

We found a great local shop called The Shepherd's Purse who sold loads of wholefoods, local cheeses and most importantly for me - loose teas and spices. Bought some dried spearmint which I'd not seen before and some sumac and sweet paprika. It's great to be able to buy as much or as little as you want. I wanted to bring back some kippers from Fortunes but I'm not sure how they would have done on a 4 hour train journey, and how much other people would have appreciated the smell! They looked great though.

Whitby is well worth a visit if you want to eat copious amounts of fish and chips or some amazing local seafood.