Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Review: Scandinavian Kitchen, London

Knowing I had a training course near Portland Place this afternoon, I had a look on Google beforehand to see if there was anywhere interesting to have a snack on the way. And I found this place, a great place for a quick lunch.

I can imagine Scandinavians would feel at home here, as it serves typical Scandinavian sandwiches, salads and delicious looking cakes, and even has a shop at the back of the cafe selling pickles, crispbreads, etc.

It is a really cosy, relaxed place and the food is all freshly made. I had a SMÖRGÅSBORD- open sandwich- with beetroot and apple salad, and carrot and courgette salad. Slightly more than I could eat, but very good all the same!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cheese of the month: Sussex Charmer

Sussex Charmer is an award winning British cheese produced by Bookham's Farm, Sussex. It is a relatively new cheese and uses milk from a mixed herd of grass fed cows.

The taste is a cross between a mature Cheddar and Parmesan, hence the name "Charmer". This taste is due to the fact that a combination of parmesan- and cheddar-making techniques are used to produce the cheese. Sussex Charmer is matured for 12 months and is then sold in handy cubes of 200g.

It has a hard, crumbly texture and can be used in any way that Cheddar or Parmesan can- on pasta, pizzas, in sauces, and makes fabulous cheese on toast. So fabulous in fact, that Bookhams have their own cheese-on-toast-mobile which caters at events around the South East.

To find out whether it is available to you locally check out this link:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Restaurant Review: Vanilla Black, London

Vanilla Black opened in 2008 following the success of the original restaurant in New York. It is one of the only vegetarian restaurants recommended in the Michelin Guide and after having tasted their cuisine I can see why. Hidden away in a side street off Chancery Lane, Vanilla Black is a smart and classy but unpretentious restaurant. The staff are friendly and helpful, and keen to explain all the different elements of the menu.

To start with my two friends and I were served a choice of two home-made breads- wholemeal walnut or a tomato roll. This was accompanied by either salt and pepper butter or truffle infused butter- delicious! The meal was off to a good start. We were then offered a palate cleanser consisting of a wasabi sweet jelly in rice paper followed by an apple and mint shot.

Very refreshing. At this stage we had already decided we should go for the 3 course menu. For my starter I chose Bintje potato cakes with Smoked Olive Oil Mayonnaise, Capers, Melba Toast and Black Radish. I don't usually like mayonnaise but this one was quite special.

Then for my main course I had Leek and Whipped Potato Flan, Salsify and Lemon Leeks, Marmite Glazed Almonds and Alexanders. The flan really showed technical ability, I don't know how they did it but the potato (encased in a filo pastry case) had the consistency of silky whipped cream. The Marmite glazed almonds were a nice salty addition to the plate. I didn't know what Alexander was but the waitress informed me it is a foraged herb.

Dessert was a tough choice...I was torn between the Pear and Tea Cake with Smoked Paprika and Maple Fudge served with Crumble Ice Cream, or the Valrhona Chocolate Chestnut Brownie Terrine served with Tobacco Cream and Drambuie.... but as both of my friends went for the Pear and Tea Cake I decided to go for the Chocolate Terrine. Did not regret it at all- the terrine was divided into a melt in your mouth ganache and a crunchy nutty part. The cream actually did have tobacco in it and was an interesting addition to the plate.

I think this has to be one of the best restaurants I have ever been to, it seems to please carnivores as much as vegetarians because the food is so creative and delicious. I find it very good value for money too (3 courses for £32.50). Will definitely be returning!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Recipe: Stuffed Aubergine Schnitzels

Serves 4

-3 aubergines
-1 tomato, sliced
-Slices of cheese (e.g. mozzarella/ taleggio/ emmental/ cheddar...)
-20 leaves of fresh basil
-50g pine nuts
-50g parmesan, roughly chopped
-Squeeze of lemon juice
-2 eggs, beaten
-100g breadcrumbs
-Olive oil
-Oil for shallow frying

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Cut the aubergines into 0.5cm slices, place in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 1hour. Rinse.

2. Arrange the aubergine slices on a baking tray and brush with olive oil on both sides, season. Bake for 30 minutes or until soft, turning them once.

3. Meanwhile make the pesto by blending the basil, pine nuts, and parmesan in the food processor with a squeeze of lemon, seasoning, and a good amount of olive oil.

4. When the aubergine slices are cool enough to handle, take the four largest slices and spread with some of the pesto. Top each with a slice of cheese and tomato, and spread with more pesto. Then sandwich together with slices of aubergine. (There will be some left over which can be used in a pasta sauce, salad, etc)

5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Coat the aubergine schnitzels in the beaten egg, then dip in the breadcrumbs, and repeat. Then gently lower them into the frying pan and fry gently for 3-4 minutes on each side (do not crowd the pan, two at a time is good). This can be quite fiddly.

6. When golden and crispy on each side, remove from the pan and pat dry with kitchen paper. Serve with a green salad and some extra pesto.