Sunday, September 30, 2012

K&S Reign, Streatham

A snake is something I'd never expected to see in a restaurant, but there is, as they say, a first for everything. Luckily this one was in a tank rather than on the menu, though I still think this qualifies as pushing a theme a bit too far.

K&S Reign has a not-entirely grammatical slogan "Let world's fusion be the flavour", and decor it describes as "organic quirky surroundings". There is a jungle theme - hence the snake - so you can expect plants, lots of wood, and a "Nature calls" sign on the toilets.

The theme continues to the menu, where spring rolls are reborn as "veg forest rolls", chips are "bamboo chips" (though as the menu explains, they are still made of potatoes), and so on. An array of flags on the menu are supposed to denote the country of origin of each dish, though mainly it made me realise how many world flags I am unable to identify. I had "chickpea array", which was basically hummus with a few olives and pitta bread, while the other half had "sardine oasis" - a salad of chopped sardines with onion and coriander, which he thought was lovely.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer into autumn

It's September and there's a real sense of being at a turning point of the year. On Saturday we spent the afternoon in the sunshine, and cooked a courgette pasta sauce in the evening. It was one of those dishes you slightly make up as you go along. I started by sweating some diced courgettes and garlic with a touch of chilli. It didn't seem to have quite enough interest to carry the pasta. I could have added some lemon and capers, but I didn't have either. I did have some lovely ripe tomatoes, which were a wonderful deep red right the way through to the middle. Into the pan they went for a couple of minutes while I took the stones out of a couple of handfuls of black olives. Served with some basil on top, it was summer on a plate.

Pasta with courgettes, tomatoes and olives

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Herne Hill market

My odyssey around London farmers' markets is proceeding at a somewhat snail-like pace. The trouble is that there are always so many other things to do in the city at the weekend.

But as luck would have it Herne Hill market coincided nicely with Lambeth Country Show, just an apple's throw away.

This market is run by City and Country Farmers' Markets, but it doesn't actually call itself a farmers' market. Alongside the normal farmers' market-type stalls there are stalls from local craftspeople and other local businesses.

The result works quite well, I think. I was impressed by the number of stalls, though I don't know whether this was a larger market than usual.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Racing pigs and London honey at the Lambeth Country Show

I hadn't long been in London when I visited last year's Lambeth Country Show in Brockwell Park. Now that I'm more of a city girl, the whole concept of having sheep, ducks, goats, owls and racing pigs in the middle of south London seems more bizarre than ever. Racing pigs? I hear you say - yes indeed.

But as this is a food blog, I suppose I'd better tell you about the edible aspects of it. There were the amazing fruit and vegetable sculptures once again, and a produce show displaying perfect plums, purple potatoes, tomatoes like jewels and lettuces as frilly and elaborate as any flower.

The fruit and vegetable carving competition (You can't see it so well here, but the carrot sculpture on the right is a version of Antony Gormley's Field for the British Isles artwork of 1993)
I tried some great cakes, including a Jamaican rum cake that was egg free and dairy-free and extremely tasty (made with wholegrain spelt flour, coconut oil and raw cane sugar by the Heavenly Cake Company).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trattoria da Aldo, Soho

I don't know why Italian food seems to hit the spot so often. It could be the comforting carbs of pizza and pasta, the associations of sunshine and good living, or the bold punchy flavours like olives and garlic. Whatever it is, when in doubt, or when you're just not feeling adventurous enough for an Eritrean or a Vietnamese meal, an Italian restaurant often seems like a good choice.

Trattoria da Aldo was one such recent choice. It's a homely place, slightly old-fashioned and in a part of Soho heaving with tourists, a fair few of whom were coming in the door by mid-evening. Quirky decor helps to distract from the fact that some of the tables are really very close together. It's not a place to go if you're plotting something.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A healthier (but just as delicious) cheese souffle

Are souffles just a lot of hot air or really rather fabulous? At the moment I'm inclining to the latter view. You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I made raspberry souffles, which wowed me because they were quite easy, impressive and still fairly low in fat.

So my eyes have been opened to the potential of a couple of eggs and an electric whisk. I've been thinking about ways to make them a bit healthier, too. Traditionally, savoury souffles have a roux of butter and flour as their base, possibly with the addition of milk to make more of a bechamel sauce - you then stir in some in the egg yolks and whatever flavourings you are using, followed by the beaten egg whites. So the butter obviously ups the saturated content a lot. And as I found with my raspberry souffles, you don't necessarily need that.

For a savoury souffle, though, I felt like I might still need some kind of base: partly to make it more substantial, partly to help me melt the cheese and therefore distribute it more evenly, and also because you want some moisture in the recipe, because the evaporation process helps the souffle to rise. I'd recently been making proper custard for my trifle. Now custard is thickened with cornflour and egg yolks, and has a similar texture to bechamel sauce, but with much less fat. This gave me an idea - why not use a savoury "custard" as the base?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Music and food at Hideaway, Streatham

Since moving to Streatham I have become a convert to dinner and jazz. One of the advantages of this part of the world is the rather good jazz club, Hideaway, just down the road. In keeping with its name, it used to be a very discreet place, hardly noticeable from the road, but now there is a jazz cafe out the front and it seems to be trying to raise its profile.

It's not just jazz either - comedy, blues, salsa nights are all on the menu. I have to admit to being slightly sceptical about the food beforehand - I thought the focus might be on the stage rather than on the kitchen. But I was pleasantly suprised the first time, and the good impression was reinforced the second times. I haven't tried the combination of dinner and comedy though - what if there's a hilarious one-liner mid-mouthful? Would you choke on your dinner?

The menu is mostly old favourites, nothing that's going to distract your attention too much from the music, but it's done well and there are imaginative touches here and there. An unctuous chicken liver pate comes with home-made onion marmalade and lots of toast. I've had the soup twice, in broccoli and stilton and asparagus versions. The former was better, although I think that's partly the concept - half the point of asparagus is the texture, and anyway its magic seems to disappear when it is diluted too much. Another starter, goats' cheese and walnut brulee with spiced poached pear, sounds lovely but looked on the small side when I saw it going past.