Thursday, 25 February 2010

Galvin at Windows

Went to Galvin at Windows with Robin from Source it, cook it, eat it tonight. The restaurant sits atop the top floor of The Hilton in Mayfair, providing some great views (even through a strong evening downpour). We ate from the à la carte menu: three courses for £33.

Note: I know the pictures have a yellow tint but that's a function of the ambient lighting and my poor photography skills.

First of was an amuse-bouche of a butternut squash mousse topped with a truffle egg and parmesan foam.
Basically it was a savoury trifle. The foam was a great combination of egg and cheese flavours but the mousse was bland and tasted of nothing. Not a great start, but things could only get better.

I'm a sucker for foie gras so it was no surprise that for my starter, I had the mosaic of cornfed chicken, foie gras, Bayonne ham and confit celeriac, toasted pain de campagne. I wasn't entirely sure what form my mosaic was going to take but was not surprised when it turned out to be a terrine.The terrine was as delicious and luxuriant as anything with foie gras usually is. The texture of the celeriac was amazing and added a pleasant celery hint. Unfortunately the taste of the ham was just lost and my toast was slightly burnt!

Robin had the Brandade and tartare of Cornish mackerel, beetroot carpaccio, braised leeks & Moutarde de Meaux.Larousse tells me that a brandade is a purée of salt cod, olive oil and milk. Obviously in this case the salt cod was replaced with mackerel. Neither of us were really sure what to expect other than mackerel and beetroot! But a delicate salad with bold and complimentary flavours was delivered and very much enjoyed.

For main I couldn't resist the braised pork cheeks, pommes purée, honey glazed turnips, cinnamon and clove scented jus as I am a sucker for any "cheap" joint that promotes nose-to-tail eating.

The plate was placed in front of me and my juices started flowing immediately. The waiter then poured the jus on and as he did the heady aroma it hit me and I was nearly foaming at the mouth. The cheeks were so tender they nearly fell apart on my tongue. I'm sure I could have sucked them rather than chewed if it hadn't been for the delightful caramelised crust. This was pork heaven. The potato purée and spinach complemented the pork very well. As for the finer flavours in the dish, the honey glaze of the turnips was non-existant and I couldn't have told you the jus has cinnamon or clove in it. Mind you, neither of those elements affected my enjoyment of the dish.

Robin went for a double dose of fish with the baked fillet of cod, potato crust, buttered cockles and watercress sauce.Naturally, the magnificent portion of cod was cooked to perfection with the skin separated and served as crackling. The watercress sauce was a peppery delight. Overall a great combination of flavours and textures.

To finish, I had the caramel poached baby pear, milk purée and peanut ice cream.This could have been pretty dull but the caramel and peanut garnish brought the whole dish together and raised it above the ordinary. The pears had little resistance to them and the combination with the peanut was fantastic. Another hit.

Robin manned up and had a cheese selection which was very good.

As we finished our wine and waited for the bill we had some delightful coffee chocolates and when the bill arrived, it came with a glass jar of strawberry and lime marshmallows. I think I practically finished off a jar of these soft pillows of sweet loveliness.
The food at Galvin at Windows is excellent modern French cuisine, as you'd expect from an establishment revelling in its new Michelin starred status. However, the service, at times was distinctly lacking. We had waiters leaning over us and the sommelier didn't seem too interested. The setting is spectacular. It's an ideal venue to take a date, especially if you can get a table next to one of the floor to ceiling windows.

After consideration, I was left slightly underwhelmed. I expect a fabulous experience from any restaurant that has a mention in the Michelin Guide and I didn't get it here. Don't get me wrong, I'd thoroughly recommend Galvin for a fine-dining meal, but there was just that je ne sais quoi missing to make the evening truly memorable.
Galvin at Windows on Urbanspoon

ICCHFC - Week 23: Pecan and toffee cake

Sara's options were:
  • Pecan and toffee cake
  • Pineapple upside-down cake
  • Almond and sultana cake
Of which the pecan and toffee cake was triumphant.

This was a lovely dense (and yet still moist) cake that had a great toffee taste which was complemented well by the pecans. I reckon the introduction of maple syrup would improve it... Mind you I can't grumble, I thought I was going to miss out on cake altogether because of holidays. However, the cakey gods smiled down on me and there was some left for me to have, making the return to work a little sweeter (literally!)

No recipe...yet...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

French shame

Just got back from a trip to France. Only ate dinner out once and the most French meal we cooked was cassoulet from a can (the French even do great convenience food) which we had with smiley faces. I feel so dirty...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Pancake day

Spent pancake day in France this year, despite this, there was no excuse not to have pancakes. Unfortunately my request for a savoury and sweet pancake banquet was rejected, so had to make do with sweet only.

Nutella and ice-cream went down well but, surprisingly, people were very traditional and stuck to lemon and sugar for the most part. I was also surprised by the lack of appetite for pancakes., most people only had one or two. Admittedly they were massive but still, one or two pancakes are no where near enough to sate my appetite for this annual treat. (Perhaps I'm just a fatty...).

By the end of the second batch of batter, everyone had had enough, except for me. Consequently all the remaining batter was used to make a hugemongous behemoth of a pancake.

The pictures don't really relay the scale of the thing. It was a good quarter-inch thick and by the time I'd liberally applies lemon juice and sugar it was over an inch think. By Jove, it was good though and enough to keep my pancake pangs at bay for another year.

Note: It does intrigue me how simple and satisfying pancakes are and yet I (and a lot of other people) only have them once a year. Craziness. Mind you, if we didn't have Shrove Tuesday, I'd probably have pancakes even less frequently.

Pancake batter recipe (taken from The Encyclopaedia of Cooking Skills & Techniques)

Makes about 12 (depending on the size of your pan!)

2 eggs
6oz plain flour
3/4 pint milk

1. Whisk all the ingredients into a smooth batter and then let stand for at least 30 minutes.
2. Heat a frying pan with a little oil until hot over a moderate heat.
3. Mop the oil out with a kitchen towel, leaving only a gentle shimmer of oil glazing the pan.
4. Before frying the pancakes give the batter a quick whisk.
5. Pour a ladle of batter into the pan and quickly swirl to cover the bottom of the pan.
6. Fry until the surface of the pancake starts to blister, the edges start to turn up and the base has slightly browned.
7. Flip and fry until cooked.
Repeat until all the batter is used. Between pancakes wipe the pan with the oily kitchen towel.

Monday, 15 February 2010

ICCHFC - Week 22: Caraway seed cake

Louisa started round 4 off with an eclectic option of cakes:
  • My Nana’s caraway seed cake
  • Eccles cake
  • New York
Of which the caraway seed cake was a runaway winner. No picture, unfortunately.
I can honestly say this was a unique experience. I have never tasted anything like Louisa's nana's caraway seed cake. It had quite an aniseed flavour. I'm really not sure if I liked it or not, it was such an unusual assault on my taste buds, I was left with little chance to decide if it was actually moreish. I had to have more just to experience the taste again.

Louisa's Nana's caraway seed cake recipe

3 eggs
Equivalent weight as eggs of: self raising flour, butter, caster sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
4 tsp caraway seeds
Keep some milk handy (may of may not be needed, depends of consistency of mixture)

1. Cream together butter and sugar
2. Add eggs, one at the time. After each egg, add a spoonful of flour. This, according to Nana, stops the mixture from splitting.
3. When the three eggs (and three spoonfuls of flour) have been added to the creamed sugar and butter mixture, beat in the vanilla and caraway seeds.
4. Add remaining flour. If mixture is a little thick, add a splash of milk.
5. Grease a cake tin
6. Bung in the oven (180°C) on the middle shelf for 45/50 mins.
7. Cool and eat. It's better if stored for a day or two!

Making the most of pork belly: Cabbage and pork pasta, Pork belly and crackling with savoy cabbage with an apple and onion puree, steamed lemon puds

I'd been wanting to try cooking with pork belly for ages. The combination of this desire, my mate Blacks (aka Scar aka J-quon) coming for dinner and a completely free weekend meant I fulfilled my belly desires (some would say excessively so).

First task was braising the pork belly which laid the foundation for all that was to come.
The skin and the first layer of fat was removed and saved for crackling. The two pieces of belly were covered with water and brought to the boil then taken off the heat immediately (this was to remove as much of the scum as possible). The belly was returned to the pan along with an onion, studded with cloves, five whole black peppercorns, two bay leaves, two cloves of garlic (unpeeled), two sprigs of thyme and a carrot. Enough water was added to just cover the ingredients and the pan was bought up to a gentle simmer for two hours.

After this time the belly was drained and the cooking liquor reserved. The belly was then pressed overnight between two baking sheets (weighted down with (many) cans).. It was then trimmed into two portions (approximately 150-200g each) and the excess diced (my very own home-made "cubetti di pancetta" or "lardons"!)I used the lardons in my recipe for cabbage and pork pasta (serves 2)

~100g Diced pork belly
200g rigattoni
1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded
~100ml pork stock (the reserved braising liquor)
~75ml double cream
1tbsp whole grain mustard
butter for frying
1. Put the pasta on to cook in plenty of furiously boiling salted water.
2. Fry the pork belly in the butter until crisp.
3. Add the mustard, pork stock and cabbage and cream. Cook until the cabbage is tender and the liquid has reduced to a coating consistency.
4. Once cooked drain the pasta and add to the cabbage. Also add a splash of the pasta cooking water.
5. Mix thoroughly and season.
6. Serve liberally covered with grated parmesan.
On to the main event:

Pork belly and crackling with savoy cabbage and mustard cream sauce with an apple and onion purée and caramelised apple and onion
Ingredients: (for 2)
Braised pork belly with skin removed, pressed
1/2 savoy cabbage, shredded
For the purée:
1+1/2 Cox's apple, peeled, cored, quartered
1 onion, sliced finely
Thyme sprig
For the mustard sauce:
400ml braising liquor
125ml double cream
1tsbp grain mustard
For the caramelised apple and onion garnish:
Onion, cut into eighths (root still attached)
Cox's apple, peeled, cored, cut into eighths
1. To make the crackling, score the skin and pour an entire kettle of boiling water over the skin. Pat dry and leave to drain for about an hour.
2. Rub a little vegetable oil into the skin and then rub in some salt crystals. Roast at 200°C for 10 minutes before turning down to 190°C for about 30 minutes (or until done).
Note: The crackling can be cooked between two heavy baking trays to keep it flat
There are two ways to make the apple and onion purée.
3a. Toss the apple and onion segments in a small amount of olive oil and place in the bottom of a roasting tray with the skin on a rack above (this will allow the rendered pork fat to glaze the apple and onion). Place a sprig or two or thyme in the pan too. Once caramelised add some water (or use the braising liquor) to the pan to prevent the apple and onion from burning.
3b. Gently brown the onion in butter in a pan. Remove the onion and caramelise the apple. Add the onion back to the pan together with a ladle of braising liquor and a thyme sprig. Simmer gently until tender and the liquid has reduced. Purée and season. Keep warm until ready to serve.
4. For the apple and onion garnish gently fry the segments in butter, until caramelised and tender.
5. Briefly sauté the cabbage in butter before adding some of the braising liquor and cooking until tender.
6. To make the mustard sauce add all the ingredients into a pan and reduce until it has reached a coating consistency.
7. Fry the pork belly in butter until browned on all sides.
To assemble the dish, put the sliced pork belly atop a portion of cabbage. Spoon over the mustard sauce and top with a slice of crackling. Arrange a selection of the caramelised onion and apple segments over a spoonful of the purée.

To finish we had individual steamed lemon sponge puddings with lemon sauce taken from New British Classics by Gary Rhodes

Ingredients (for 2):
2oz butter
1.5oz caster sugar
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 egg
2oz plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
For the sauce:
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1oz caster sugar
1tsp cornflour slaked with water
1. Butter and flour two dariole moulds.
2. Cream the butter and sugar, together with the lemon zest.
3. Add the egg and beat in the sifted flour and salt.
4. Add the lemon juice.
5. Divide between the two moulds. then cover and secure with a folded grease-proof paper lid.
6. Put into a steamer for 35-40 minutes.
7. For the sauce make the juice up to 150ml with water.
8. Pour into a pan with the sugar and zest and bring to the boil.
9. Once boiling stir in the cornflour mix.

Friday, 12 February 2010


I was fortunate enough to be able to taste a couple of new products from the brilliant Unearthed range recently.

Tarte FlambéeBased on a traditional Alsatian baked snack, this was a smoky umami-filled delight.

Fresh from the oven the tarte was fabulous. A really deep smoky flavour that was offset by the crème fraîche. It was like a creamy, smoky, quiche lorraine but with no egg. Even cold the tarte was a tasty treat and barely lost any of its “fresh from the oven” quality. Definitely moreish; a delicate yet deeply savoury tarte.

My only minor quibble was that the tarte is very delicate and I found it quite difficult to transfer from the packet to baking tray without slightly ripping it.

Oh, and I want it to be much BIGGER!

Sweet Cherry Peppers with Ricotta These are addictive!

The peppers were far sweeter than expected, but the initial sweetness is quickly followed by chilli heat and then tempered with ricotta. The texture of the peppers was excellent with just enough resistance to easily bite: a perfect mouthful.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

ICCHFC - Week 21: Carrot cake

Hannah brought round three to a close with carrot cake. It was a, surprisingly, unanimous winner from chocolate fudge cake and bramley apple and passion fruit cake. Carrot cake had been suggested many times before but this was the first time it had actually won the vote. Clearly there was a hot bed of desire for carrot based cakage amongst the Cakers this week (especially to beat perennial favourite chocolate fudge cake!).

Unfortunately, there is no photo as the cake was stolen after the first elevenses tasting session by the Office Cake Thief (OCT).

Apparently, cake left in the fridge in the office kitchen is not deemed "communal", at least by some blighter anyway. The theft wasn't even subtle, as well over half a cake was snaffled by some vile little bug. This has left the Cakers outraged and brought an unpleasant mood to the office. And, irony or ironies, there wasn't even any cake to make things better.

Anyway, Hannah pulled another corker out of the bag. A very moist carrot cake that included banana. The frosting was orange and cream cheese which was, as usual, a sweet and satisfying topping.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The Real Greek

Went to The Real Greek in the Westfield Shopping Centre at White City for dinner after watching 8 Out of 10 Cats being recorded at the BBC.

We went for the Cretan Meal Deal, a mix of eight hot and cold dishes.

First came the cold dishes, working my way down from the top of the picture:

1. Greek Flatbread
They say:- Light, moist and incredibly moreish, the authentic Greek classic
I say:- looks like it came pre-prepared and was only cooked at the restaurant. The breads were far too uniform and had an intriguing dimpling pattern underneath for them to be hand made. Still fairly good for slathering with the various dips. More substantial than a pita bread.
2. Revithia
They say:- Tender baby chickpeas home-baked with handfuls of herbs, olive oil and lemon
I say:- hard bullets that with harsh overpowering raw garlic and lemon seasonings.
3. Santorinian Fava
They say:- An unforgettable purée of earthy Santorini lentils, olive oil and herbs
I say:- Earth? Yes. Unforgettable? I wish it wasn't. IT was a dense almost gluey paste with such an unusual taste we kept having more because we couldn't decide it we like it or not. We decided not in the end.
4. Gigandes Plaki
They say:- Hearty giant beans, slow-cooked by our chefs in a rich and herby tomato sauce
I say: - Fantastic. Probably the best dish we had. An amazing rich sauce which almost tasted of ragu, except we weren't eating Italian and there was no meat. Moreish is not the word. We would have been happy with a massive bowl of this and some of the new potatoes (see below).
5. Hummus (we ordered this as an extra. How can you have Greek without hummus?)
They say:- Our daily home blend, rich in tahini and delicately spiced with cumin and fresh chilli
I say:- Good tasty hummus. Pretty much what you'd expect.
6. Greek Salad (see picture below)
They say:- Big, hearty and rustic, with tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta, red onion and olive oil
I say:- Pretty mean to be honest. Plenty of veg but only one chunk of feta, which was disappointing. The onions were too harsh. We ate it more out of duty (you know, five-a-day and all that) than desire.

Then came the hot dishes:
From the top of the picture:
7. Grilled Halloumi
They say:- Served with light house-pickled cucumber and red cabbage
I say:- Only two slices of cheese but with very pleasing strong griddle char bars. Very tasty.
8. Chicken Skewer
They say:- Grilled succulent Farm Assured British chicken, skewered with onions and peppers, marinated and served on a bed of leaves
I say:- Dry, dry, dry! Overcooked, flavourless, dry chicken with charred raw veg. No thanks.
9. New Potatoes
They say: - Delicate, nutty and tossed in olive oil, spring onion, lemon juice and fresh dill
I say:- Delicious! Amazing light yet almost buttery texture with a very subtle flavour. We were fighting over the last one. (I do concede that they are completely out of season, but, boy, they were good).

Then it was time for dessert. We went for the Greek Dessert Sharer. We were expecting four small taster portions but actually got four full desserts!
Clockwise from the top:
1. Chocolate Mousse Cake
They say:- a luxurious, dark chocolate mousse cake
I say:- could have come from the freezer section of any supermarket.
2. Baklava
They say:- Homemade, crisp filo pastry with walnut and honey
I say:- Not too sweet but not enough flavour from the nuts came through. Unfortunately I did manage to bite down on a whole clove, which pretty much ruined my taste buds for the next 5 minutes.
3. Real Greek Yoghurt and Walnuts
They say:- with whole, preserved walnuts in honey syrup
I say:- Lovely. Rich yoghurt with the characteristic twang. The honey was a perfect foil and the preserved walnuts were an lovely addition. The yoghurt also went well with all the other desserts.
4. Kataïfi
They say:- Angel-hair filo pastry with pistachio nuts, freshly made in our kitchen every day
I say:- Why do they bother to make this fresh every day? It was like a sweet dried Shredded Wheat. If you manage more than a mouthful you're a better man than I. Mind you I wouldn't even recommend ordering this!

So, the food was hit and miss. Unfortunately more miss than hit, but boy the hits were good. If I went again I'd have the plaki and new potatoes, and maybe some halloumi, followed by Greek yoghurt and baklava.

The service was incredibly speedy and it's undeniably great value; we paid £17.50 each (including a lager).

I would go back and I would recommend it, but I'd be more discerning about what I ordered.

Real Greek on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

ICCHFC - Week 20: Peanut butter cup cakes

Marriane was back her third bake this week. Her choices were:
  • Butterfly cakes
  • Peanut butter cup cakes
  • Pear and walnut cup cakes
The peanut butter cup cakes won the vote. I could not have been happier.

Marianne had managed to create sublime gems: these cupcakes were absolutely brilliant.

The sponge remained light and fluffy despite packing a powerful, dense, peanut punch. The chocolate/peanut butter icing topped with a slender slice of Marathon (or Snickers, if you must) was genius.

A perfect slice of heaven for elevenses.

Recipe for Marianne's Peanut Butter mini cupcakes (taken from Cupcakes - a fine selection of sweet treats)

5 1/2oz butter
4oz soft brown sugar
2 eggs
4 1/2oz self-raising flour
4 1/2oz crunchy peanut butter
1oz plain flour
60ml/2floz milk
For the frosting:
4 1/4oz hazelnut spread
3 1/4oz crunchy peanut butter
2 Snickers

1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
2. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add the peanut butter and beat until combined.
4. Fold in the sifted flours alternately with the milk until combined.
5. Divide the mixture between 18 cake cases and bake at 180°C for 10-12 mintes (or until cooked).
6. For the icing combine the peanut butter and hazelnut spread. Spead evenly over each cake and top with a slice of Snickers.

Related Posts with Thumbnails