Thursday, 31 July 2008

30.07.08: Quorn, fresh tomato-olive sauce, pesto gnocchi and snap peas

Bit of a mish-mash tonite: She was taking it easy with 2-minute gnocchi rolled in her freezer stash of ho-made pasto, a quick flip of lemon-pepper quorn escalopes in the pan, and snap peas zapped in the m-wave...but the thought of a dry quorn cutlet sticking in the throat sent Her to the store for some tomatoes and raiding the fridge for remaining garlic-stuffed olives (not to mention tipping in a little red wine) to make a fairly quick sauce. Salad of mango, beetroot and moz balls nestled in rocket leaves nearby.

HE SAYS: The gnocchi was tasty because of the yummy pesto but succeeded in putting me on the bloat boat bound for Stodge City and consequently I temporarily sport a more rotund profile. I enjoyed the special tamater sauciness over the top of the chi-qourn cutlets best, and the snap peas offered another fresh and crisp escape from the starchy gnocchi. The salad also was a fruitilicious and zingy addition to this food cruise.

SHE SAYS: Figured I'd use up that second pack of gnocchi we froze, but I'm not tempted to get it again - it becomes mush within a minute, and I thought it might disintegrate as I stirred in my pesto. V. filling but not v. nice, tho' the pesto was tangy and savoury enough. The 2-minute snap zap is highly recommended - the peapods emerge crispety-juicy and bright green. And how I do luv the quorn, esp with this sooper-easy sauce - no choppin' and not so much stirrin'. Salad was sweet and spicy, but I ws already experiencing the great potato expansion and couldn't finish.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

30.07.08: Black bnz

He rolled up his sleeves and tackled the black bnz once again, this time with rice, plus an extra portion of bnz and proportional increases in spices and herbs. Strawberry, beetroot and mango salad stood jealous guard nearby.

SHE SAYS: This week's beany episode had more kick and plenty of flav, with good creamy consistency holding steady. The salad, though front-loaded with fruit, escaped being overly sweet with the vegetable-y beetroot and peppery watercress keeping order.

Since I increased the bean quotient I also increased the herbs to good effect, can you have too much cilantro? Answer: No, fool! As She says, the bnz were more spicy this go-round and needed no extra hot sauce (although I couldn't resist sprinkling over just a little anyway). The salad was another sweet red affair with some mango thrown in for a more orange hue and good measure. The balsamic vinegar came out the cupboard and poured itself after spying the strawberries lying there undressed.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

29.07.08: Big Salad

Yep, it's the return of the Big Salad, in a more manageable format, with the bacon of cheese, boiled prawns, panfried leftover polenta, radishes, celery, avo, julienned carrot, chives, gem lettuce and an inspired last-minute add-on: capers. Nigella's nose-whooshing wasabi dressing finished the plate.

HE SAYS: The halloumi was the star of this salad, not to insinuate that the rest of the ingredients were below par, but come on, grilled haloumi is the supreme cheese. Second to the cheese was the shrimp which were boiled enough but not too much and the grilled polenta a close third, it was crunchy and light, whatz not to like? I really enjoyed this meal, will have to do again sooner rather then later. Mmm halloumi, damn you, I can't get you outta my mind.

SHE SAYS: Well, I still complicated things a bit more than I intended to by frying up the polenta, but I hated to see it go to waste - and it was worth it, turning the cold gel-like mush into hot, irregular corn fries to give us a tasty little starch filler. I savoured the salty, toasty halloumi slowly - honestly, I think halloumi would be on my death-row last meal menu (glad we sorted that out already). Plenty of crunch, with avo adding a touch of creaminess, plus the refined je ne sais quoi of the capers - this was a salad I would gladly have anytime, anywhere.

Monday, 28 July 2008

28.07.08: Smoked haddock and cannellini bnz

He got all adventurous, canoodling with Nigella on a new cannellini bean recipe - new to Us, anyway. Smoked haddock (in place of cod), the bnz, some celery, white wine, parsely and bay leaves combined with our usual wild, brown basmati, and red carmargue rice mix for an easy, unusual Monday nite meal. A vivid salad of vine tomatoes, radishes, mini-moz balls, and watercress-n-spinach leaves struck a fresh note for the nite.

SHE SAYS: Very pleased to discover another economical, not-so-fussy weekday filler. The smoke flavour was demure and filtered thru the creamy beans nicely. I'm glad he left the celery bits in - always good to have some veggie contrast, in flavour and texture. The rice was nutty and just what was needed. My only minor suggestion would be a touch of lemon - some zest or tiny bit of the preserved variety
. Mini-moz was a treat, and the tomatoes were in tip-top condition, all green and viney-tasting.

HE SAYS: A quick, easy and a pretty tasty one for Monday. I went ahead and added a little more white wine then suggested, I think it needed it. The cannellini bnz were indeed as She says: creamy and a nice diversion from our regular legumes. The salad was thrown together quickly but it seemed to have landed in a rather an appetising fashion with the little balls of moz fighting most for my attention.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

27.07.08: Vindaloo, take two; and ung choi

Sunday staying simple: She freshened up the salad with another pear, heated up the leftover vindaloo, and steamed some ung choi greens with slices of ginger.

HE SAYS: I think this dish was a little nicer this time round, having a day to intensify did it good. The refreshed salad with extra pear excitement once again hit the right spot, under my boots and around ma toe. The greens were not the exciting event I'd hoped for: fresh, plain and healthy yes. Tasty, no...nil point.

SHE SAYS: Agree with Him, the vindaloo developed nicely in the fridge, only wish we'd had more sauce left. Star anise really came through in the rice, which was oh-so-nice. That ung choi, though, is nowhere near as delicately bitter and mmm-worthy as choi sum - won't be picking the 'pitcher vegetable' up on a whim from the Asian store again.

26.07.08: Indian pork vindaloo and crunchy salad

She dug out the pork vindaloo recipe, adding chunks of aubergine and an extra bottle of sauce to the pan of pork loin, plus more cinnamon and some star anise to the rice, to see us thru a lackadaisacal Saturday nite movie. Wielding the KTOTY*, she stripped a carrot for extra crunch in a salad of pear, leaves, beetroot, and toasted pumpkin seeds, all doused with an improvised dressing of juice d'orange, olive oil, fresh coriander, ginger, one mashed garlic clove, white wine vinegar, and salt-n-pepa.

HE SAYS: Pork and Indian are not two words that normally get along but this recipe brings them harmoniously together on one plate. The extra jar o' sauce helped make it a joy to mix in with the fragrant rice and with the new chutney atop of the curry mountain it was another Saturday nite taste sensation. The salad was also a hit with lots of sweet, tart, crunchy things going on, I was almost in Nirvana but stopped short to watch the movie.

SHE SAYS: Dressing was a dee-lite; would add more ginger but this time I only had a tiny stump in the fridge. Don't think I can get enough of shredded carrot this summer - juicy, sweet, and not too much work for the molars. Vindaloo def. benefits from extra sauce, but man, you need to cook it nearly three times as long as the recipe states.

KTOTY = kitchen tool of the year

Saturday, 26 July 2008

25.07.08: Out to BBQ at worky funday

He and She met on the field of battle, I mean softball, along with Her work colleagues and drank lots of Corona while inviting mild sunburn. Then, finally, at 6:00 they fed Us. He had the heapin' helpin' you see above, while She had the only slightly less heapin' one below.

All in all, We downed lamb and veg skewers; tuna prawn and lemon skewers; spicy sausages (with and without bun); a burger; a sort of Waldorf salad with apples, celery, romaine, and lots of mayo; grilled veg; avo-moz-tomato salad; various forms of white bread; and chicken skewers (not shown).

SHE SAYS: Enjoyed the range of salads and should have had another sausage - it was orangey-red and reminiscent of spicy smoked sausage from home. Bread was bread, except an oddly herbed one that was chewy and ammonia-flavoured. The tuna and prawn skewers were v. v. good - I feared the tuna would be overcooked but it was perfect, and the grilled lemons made a nice accompaniment. Should have piled another one on the plate instead of a truly disgusting chicken kebab - it was pasty in texture and icky in faux-mediterranean flavour.

HE SAYS: It was a pleasure to take part in Meat Fest, haven't had a burger for a while and it tasted good. The sausage? Ditto, it was spicy, not too fatty and burnt to perfection - just the way I like 'em. The salads were okay but too mayonnaisey for me; still, enjoyed the giant pieces of avo, it's just a shame there was no beetroot to be found. The lamb kebab was standard pub bbq fare but I ate it and went back for seconds nonetheless.

24.07.08: Black bnz with red salad

He oversaw the construction of the regular herby black bean staple and completed the strawberry, beetroot and tomato salad to spec, deadline and budget.

HE SAYS: The beans this time lacked a little chipotle kick but made up for it in the extra herbalicious category (using the big bag of coriander to full effect). I was concerned the combo of crimson vegetation would clash, badly, but the salad was a red sea of sweet deliciousness, I shall never doubt the power of team strawbeeto again, I swear.

SHE SAYS: I can only concur. Fully, madly, truly, deeply.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

23.07.08: Lemon chicken with moz and pear

He put together the lemon chicken dish with a mozzarella, pear and avocado salad gussied up in wasabi and lime dressing.

SHE SAYS: Really jammy on the lemons tonite, I've been missing that element. Tried to cut in a bit of lemon with every bite! Exceptionally garlicky roasty green beans, and in this dish, the more the grn bnz feel the heat, the better. Typical nods of approval to the chicken and potatoes as well. Enjoyed the wasabi whoosh of the dressing - a kicky partner for pear - but felt it overwhelmed the shy moz, leaving it only texture, not taste, to wow with.

HE SAYS: I par-boiled the potatoes a little longer then I intended but they still came out pretty crunchy and not the mush I was half expecting. Chicken was done perfectly, not too dry and crispy skinolá to boot. The lemons were jammin' but I could have done with a little extra lemony-oil to spoon over the top of the chix - still, I'd rather have less then it be a sea of grease. The salad was quite the extravaganza, what with the mozzarella cheese anf the lovely pear paring, I couldn't complain so didn't.

22.07.08: Nigella's Chickpea special with strawberry salad

She deftly turned round this weekly fave (with added boiled egg and the last of the harrisa) quick- smart, and put together the strawberry salad which tried to edge in on the taste bud action.

This serving scores high on the flav o' meter. Nish and creamy and smooth chickpeas and the harissa added an intense and aromatic overtone to the bowl. The strawberries in the salad were sweet, not too overly ripe but a little crunchy and combined with balsamic vinegar closed the show with a bang.

SHE SAYS: I've been having good luck with the soft boiling of eggs recently - this one was a really good mix of firm white bit and tender yolk. So sad to spoon up the last of the latest harissa batch, because I've come to rely on the garlic-chili-minty kick, and I'm a little pressed for time and patience right now (= not making more v. soon). Good salty, moist and velvety things going on with the chickpeas, and the plain-name British strawberries added both intense perfume and sweet flavour to round it all off.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

21.07.08: Very plane food

British Airways handed out a mysterious package of 'cheese ploughmans' that also said 'soft cheese'. These things don't mesh - ploughman's is always cheddar. Turned out, you get half and half: one side was mature cheddar and pickle, and one featured peppery cream cheese with lettuce and tomato. A chocolate-covered bikky and some UHT milk for tea stood by.

SHE SAYS: Thoroughly confused, I bit into my soft cheese slice and immediately forgot to care what it was supposed to be. The cream cheese was herby and soothing, while the bit of lettuce tucked in was surprisingly fresh, crisp and moist. The tomatoes stood up well, too - not mushy at all.

Then, I was disappointed to find the other slice was cheddar - it was ok, nothing wrong, but I preferred the more refreshing mix of slice 1. Bikky bar was abominable: a dusty, tasteless biscuit not helped out by insipid waxy choc. Only repeated dunks in a decent cuppa made it worth swallowing.

HE SAYS: Was expecting a little more then this but I was so hungry I ate it without a thought of what it was and how it tasted and thus this short review concludes, burp!

20.07.08: Back to Rio Coura

We know, we know, it seems lame to go to the same place twice on such a short trip, but here's a top tip you may not have known about Lisbon (We certainly didn't): it shuts down completely on Sunday and Monday, shops, restos and all. Except the blatant tourist traps, and, thankfully, our new old pal the Rio Coura.

We gazed at that whopping tray of fat crabs and wondered desperately how to order one, as they're not on the menu and the word 'crab' doesn't appear in the guidebook. (Pooey guidebook!) Reader, we just couldn't do it. We'd had enough embarrassment trying to go swimming the day before and being heckled by teenage locals. But we were in luck of a different kind anyway.

Tonite's house starter was salt cod and tasty!

He had the sopa do mariscos (seafood soup) to start some more, which turned out to be thoroughy liquefied.

She ordered bacalhau, or salt cod, the preparation of which was a little mysterious on the menu, but arrived in a simmering bath of olive oil, onion and lemon, accompanied by chips, olives, and a dab or two of mayonnaise.

For mains, he ordered the grilled sole She had the other nite. Hey where' e the greens?

And you knew there was some salad coming, right?

HE SAYS: For starters I got the soup with a spoon, would you believe it? I was expecting more pieces of seafood then the fish smoothie consistency that arrived, but it tasted fresh, salty and subtlety bisque-like.

The fritters were tasty and
the breadcrumb covering and odd-shaped appearance reminded me of sort of an onion bhaji - without, obviously, the spice. I plumped for the sole because She got it last time and it looked up my street. I was not disappointed. Light and flaky and delicate in flavour. I quickly devoured it and moved on to the potatoes, then wished I had ordered the chips instead (plain fresh food cooked well is amazing but boiled potatoes loaded and coated with nothing, not even their skin, is too much like prison food for my palate). Although the salad was a rerun, the giant tomatoes were tasty as ever and helped fill me up second time round.

SHE SAYS: Loved the spicy, crispy fritters, and now I think about it, that may be where some of the crab ended up - some of them were a little softer inside, not all firm cod. I was probably too tired to fully recognise it at the time. My generous portion of bacalhau was perfect, and had a decadent feel to it, though I'm quite certain it was only olive oil, not butter, in the broth. The dab of mayo helped the somewhat dry top of the cod slip down nicely. No complex seasonings here, just some mild lemony flavour, salt, and fat. Delighted, I'm sure.

19.07.08: Out to Paladar and Sao Nicolau Cafetaria

Our second nite we thought we'd treat ourselves to what was billed as a premier Lisbon dining experience, and priced accordingly.

We sat outside in the mercifully cool breeze near a funky mural, ready to ease into a three-course meal with wine. I was especially looking fwd to some feta cheesecake with port wine sauce at the end...

...but it took half an hour just to get a glimpse of a wine list, let alone a menu. After about an hour, we had the olive-studded cream cheese and bread pictured above unceremoniously flung at us. The wine arrived 45 minutes after we ordered it.

Around that time our idiot waiter brought out two garlic-potato soups, when only He'd ordered one. The kicker? No spoon. After 20 more soup-cooling minutes, He went in to ask for one!

Well, We're not going to lie to you. We were mightily pissed off. We watched other people who'd sat down after us being served. We also suspected the waiter simply forgot we ordered dinner. He'd tried to offload the wrong mains on us 1 hr 20 mins into the whole debacle, and maybe thought we said we didn't order food when we corrected him? In any case, he just stopped coming near us, and no one else did, either.

At that point, She decreed that if we hit the bottom of the vinho bottle and still no food had arrived, we were going to a do a runner. The vinho drained away...two full hours had passed!...and still no food. So we legged it.

Hungry and disgruntled (but gleeful, it must be owned, at our escape), we made our way to the little outdoor caff and pasteleria a block or so from our accommodation, where we immediately received menus and gratefully ordered a slight variation on the theme from the night before. He ordered the grilled sardines...

...while she chose grilled golden bass.

SHE SAYS: I felt something was wrong the minute we sat down at Paladar, but I really wanted to try the food; it sounded fab and had such a glowing review in the Wallpaper guide.

We didn't even see our waiter for the last 40 minutes of our stay, but the last time we did he was delivering a nice big plate of salmon to someone who'd arrived half an hour after us. Grr! I doubt they discovered we'd hoofed it for at least 20 minutes. The cream cheese thingy they brought us was nothing special, Philly with olive bits mixed in, though I was happy to have any kind of sustenance at first!

My grilled bass was clean-tasting and nicely charred. I didn't bother much this the veg - the curiously flat green beans were stone cold, and the potatoes and carrot, though blamelessly boiled and still warm, were not inviting.

HE SAYS: I tried my best to hang on in there with a good and forgiving attitude towards the first place. I continued to make excuses for them for their complete lack of service of any kind until after the soup arrived sans eating implement.

The spoon incident was the turning point for me. Having to go in and ask for cutlery is not my idea of fine dining. Once I had the necessary tool to sample said soup I was mighty underwhelmed, again not a good example of the kind of culinary quality you'd expect from a place that is seen by Wallpaper as "the place to eat if you only had one meal in Lisbon". Bollocks, I say.

The next place was a tad on the tourist side but still we got served and had our food in under 45 mins. My sardines this night were a lot bigger. With a very light seasoning of just salt and olive oil, these fish were perfectly grilled and fresh-tasting. We did have to ask three times for the bill and eventually I had to go in and plead to pay and go. So it seems the Portuguese are pretty laid- back, on the verge of horizontal. I can dig that up to a point, or around 2.5 hrs. Whichever comes first.

18.07.08: Restaurante Rio Coura

Who knew that having to abandon one of Lisbon's cool-breeze, thrill-ride trams and head back on foot (a car broke down on track in front) would lead us to the exact dining experience we were hoping our first nite would bring?

The Rio Coura's window display o' fish and the apparently local clientele attracted us, though the strong fishy aroma inside did not. Still, it was getting on to dinnertime after a long, hot day of trekking, so in we went.

First, they brought us a generous basket of crusty bread, a round of soft Nisa cheese, and a plate of cold, deep-fried sardines.

Soon after, our small bottle of vinho verde arrived, along with the mixed salad...

...and We were more than halfway to full when the mains arrived: His grilled sea bass with greens and chips...
...and Her grilled sole with same.

HE SAYS: I think we lucked out on this one. I spied more than a couple of aging regulars to give it an authentic feel as soon as we walked in, and the waiter was run off his feet and sweating profusely, a sign of being understaffed or popular? I chose to believe the latter.

The starters appeared swiftly. The mini sardines appeared to be shallow fried, a little crunchy but tasty, and the cheese was pretty stinky-gooey good too. My main was good but not fantastic, in fact I was more then a little jealous of Her plate. I was not expecting my fish to be a chunk of giant sea bass, it tasted more like swordfish, which I also like but was not expecting. The salad I found to be rustic and simple but with a few additionally glugs of olive oil as dressing served as a great complement to the grilled portion of the plate.

Walked away from the table a little tipsy from the sparkling bubblelicious vinho verde, not too sweet and pleasantly citrusy (like a high-class Blue Nun if there is such a thing).

SHE SAYS: The biggest surprise had to be how much I enjoyed the sardines, which at first I didn't even want to look at. (They just brought them to the table - these little favours aren't free, but it's kind of nice to have something unexpected to start you off.)

He made the first move, then assured me 'it isn't what you think, you'll like them.' I tentatively bit into one, crunching tiny bones and all - and indeed, I liked! It was a little like eating bony shrimp, the flavour was subtle and mostly tasted of the thin fried flour coating the sardines.

The cheese was v. camembert-ish, gluey and pungent, eminently spreadable. When our vinho came, it proved eminently gulpable - hugely refreshing, not too tart, and slightly carbonated.

And my main plate, though v. simple, was well-prepared: succulent, lightly seasoned sole perfectly grilled, tender, bitter greens, and piping-hot if rather lardy chips, all balanced by the salad liberally dressed with white vinegar, which was unusually moreish, maybe b/c of the bright contrast in flavour.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Out to Lisbon

We're off to Lisbon for a short break, but we're still taking notes...

17.07.08: Frittata and snap peas

Trying to sort out what to do with some leftover Jersey royal potatoes that would be easy-peasy before a weekend away, she hit upon the fritatta solution, which also used up a leftover roast pepper, some basil, and a couple of grated Li'l Moos cheese stix. Steamed snap peas plus salad leftover from last nite (freshened with some spinach, physalis, and half an avo) rounded out the pre-jaunt plate.

SHE SAYS: Good enough filler for the nite before a holiday break. Not the tastiest frittata ever - that happens with manchego cheese, methinks - but not bad. Too full to sample the salad, but the snap peas were crisp and juicy.

HE SAYS: Look, up in
the sky, Is it an omelet, is it a quiche? No it's not a bad frittata. I agree with Her that manchego cheese would've improved it, a few more roasted peppers wouldn't've gone amiss either, but you do what you can with whatcha got. Salad was good but greatness it wasn't, the leaves were on their last legs, they tried their best to impress, could've done with less, I have to confess.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

16.07.08: Black bnz and polenta

Got a sense of deja-vu? Yeh, you right. But this time He made the bnz, sliced the avo, and stirred up the polenta, then tossed together a salad starring Sweetfire beetroot and Jersey jewel tomatoes.

HE SAYS: Apart from stabbing myself in the hand as I tried to de-stone the avo, my first attempt at the new-wave bnz was a success. The herbs were herby and the spice was just right. The polenta could of been a little more porridge-like but I ain't complaining to the chef (I'm no masochist in the kitchen, however it seems). The salad was a double beetroot bill with thin raw slices and thick chunks of sweetfire pitting their wits against the stubbornly delish tomato bits.

SHE SAYS: His first batch of the herbalicious black bnz went down a treat - the thick consistency and coriander flavour were spot-on. Repeat performance by polenta drew more rave reviews - I think we can now say it's the standard starch for the dish. Salad was refreshing enough and decent filler.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

15.07.08: Gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce and courgette strands

In the ongoing quest to reduce wheat while yet employing effective sauce transport, She got Him to pick up some spinach, carrot and potato gnocchi from Waitrose and then boiled it up. Roasted peppers and portobello mushrooms, lots of fresh tomatoes, a few splashes of red wine, and a big handful of basil leaves cooked down into a sauce, while she julienned the the courgette with the KTOTY* and fried up the delicate strands on high heat to make a Ramsay-esque topping. Salad of avo, physalis and leaves looked on.

SHE SAYS: This had an understated roasty flavour that perfectly suited my appetite on a night warmer than usual, but. But but but. I'm not convinced that the elbow grease I put into fresh sauces like this is worthwhile when Lloyd's sauces are just as good. (Sad, but true.) My courgette topping was good - courgettes in the UK generally lack flavour, and even this good performance was not great - but next time I would try using peanut oil to have a better chance at crisping them.

HE SAYS: No knead to knock the gnocchi, it was yum. The sauce waz flavourful but subtle in taste compared to the off-the-shelf jar. I was tempted to lunge for the hot sauce but paused and contemplated enjoying the softer palette-pleasing attributes of the sauce á naturale, which I proceeded to do with gusto. I was pleased I abstained, the tomatoes were especially sweet and tangy. The salad tried to compete with its inclusion of physalis in the tomato-esque taste stakes and did well but perhaps not enough to deserve a photo finish...still, we obliged.

*KTOTY - kitchen tool of the year

Monday, 14 July 2008

14.07.08: Milanese risotto with strawberry salad

Monday means it's time for the world's easiest risotto, with peas, mushrooms, and ho-made pesto (made previously). None of this stand-over-and-stir bidness, you pile it all in the pot and boil it down. Recipe on offer if you ask!

HE SAYS: Although simple to make, this dish is everything but simple in taste. The variety of 'shrooms and the wine all help to give it a complex and
luscious range o' flav-a-flavs. I could've eaten more if not for holding back a portion for lunch tomorrow (which will be even more intense in the flavour department after having time to brew). The strawberry salad waz good but then you add the balsamic vinegar and, wow, it goes off the taste chart entirely.

SHE SAYS: I think I added a tad too much white wine (at His urging) as had more tang than I would have liked. No matter, it was still a winner with a soft but not gloopy grain and an excellent competition between the basil and parmesan for flavour kingship. The modestly named English strawberries can compete with their Jubilee cousins any day, and carried off the balsamic drizzle ever so sweetly.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

13.07.08: Butterbnz with chorizo plus carrot-pumpkinseed salad

Sunday comfort food: butterbnz with chorizo and rocket, plus a salad of young mustard leaves, carrots prepared with the KTOTY, roasted pumpkinseeds, and an improvised dressing
of apple juice, lime juice, fresh basil, grated ginger and olive oil.

SHE SAYS: The butterbnz with chorizo never fail to fill me up right, all savoury and creamy, with a virtuous crunch of sorts from the rocket. I say this every time we have chorizo, so I might as well immortalise it here: I can't believe when I tried chorizo for the first time (2005), I hated it. And I know now it was v. good chorizo, too - thin slices not overly smoky or spice-hot, just salty and fatty. Yum! If I could turn back time...but anyway, the salad was excellent, this is such a great way to eat your carrots, but the dresssing (inspired by Mildred's) was only so-so. prob'ly needed more ginger, and maybe some cider vinegar.

HE SAYS: I luved the butter beans, even without the chorizo this dish would be a winner. Although traditionally a winter warmer, with the summer we are having you could eat it every day if you felt like it. With an intense gravy and herby stew-like consistency this one fills you up but don't bloat you out. The salad with the thin crunchy carrots and the fruity dressing made a fitting side dish and companion to the more
umami packed bowl o' beans. More please.

12.07.08: Out to Mildred's

After schlepping thru the end of the summer sales, We met up with temporary transplant Joe before his departure back to the States for good food and good times at the cosiest place in Soho: Mildred's. Sharing was definitely on the menu: chargrilled artichoke crostini with lemon aioli, plus a warm butternut squash and blue cheese filo tart started off our gourmet veggie adventure.

He and Joe were burrito brothers, each tucking into a generous wrap of re-fried beans, corn and red pepper topped with tomato lime salsa, guacamole, smoked cheddar and sour cream - served with leaf salad, of course...
...while She savoured the sunblushed tomato and buffalo mozzarella risotto cakes served with wilted spinach, green beans and grape mustard cream sauce.

HE SAYS: After last nights gruel this meal put the world right once again. The appetizers were tasty, not overpowering in seasoning but delicate in a good way. The burrito was hefty, saucy and packed with creamy good stuff. A good night out I thinks.

SHE SAYS: It was hard to keep the fork from travelling over to the starter plates - the artichoke and aioli were esp moreish, the salad leaves flimsy (but fresh!) excuses for mopping up mayo. The maple-roasted squash mooshed up nicely with the tangy blue cheese, not to be sneered at any day. But my main was the star, creamy and crispy, with hints of healthfulness from the sprouts on top and the perfectly steamed green bnz, not to mention the silky flags of spinach. The sauce was not overly piquant, and the risotto had plenty of hearty tomato kick. Happy sigh.

11.07.08: Out to Pizza Express

Confession: we knew Pizza Express was pretty lame. But we had a coupon! Two-for-one pizza, no less. And it was Friday. So did we heed the cosy call of free comfort food on a crust. Especially attractive was the thought of Her order, the Fiorentina above - spinach with egg-on-top.

Not to be outdone for indulgence, He requested the 'American' - pepperoni, straight up.

And, as reward for our thrift, we shared a Caesar's salad, too. But. But-but-but. What do you think? When the bill arrived, and He proudly brandished our coupon, the waitress smugly informed us that it was 'Monday thru Thursday only'. Oops!

SHE SAYS: One thing I will never understand is how British people have convinced themselves - in great numbers! - that soggy-tissue pizza crust, supersweet 'tomato' sauce, and second-rate toppings like olives that clearly rolled out of a giant, unlabelled can, constitute pizza yumminess. But We love the egg-on-top thing. Spinach pizza met my low expectations, and the pepperoni was passable, too. Crust was gummy except for the edge, and the sauce was a cloying shame, but I was starving, and wiped up the crumbs with my finger. The salad leaves were fresh and crispy enough, but the dressing was pure mayonnaise, and the whole anchovies overpowered everything, with bits everywhere even once I scraped them over to His side. Blech!

HE SAYS: The coupon worked on us I must admit, we have never been a fan of this lame excuse of a pizza joint. It's hard to fuck up pepperoni pizza, but they managed it with ease.
Wet, doughy crust with sweet tomato sauce and pepperoni slices the size of two-pence pieces. Once they've piled on the toppings they put it in the oven for about a nano-second, just enough time for the base to defrost and voila! A sorry mess. I did secretly enjoy all the anchovies in the Caesar salad (how can you not like anchovies?) and also the egg, the highlight of the meal and the only reason we are ever tempted to set foot in the place.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

10.07.08: Black bnz with polenta

She was out of rice, but She still made it nice...maybe even nicer. The now-classic black bnz stirred it up with the quickety polenta and some chunky avo. The now-familiar Jersey jewel tomatoes and even-more-familiar Sweetfire beetroot stepped up to the salad role.

HE SAYS: Loved the polenta substituting for rice big time. Made the dish creamier and less bulky. Rice is extremely expensive at the mo', so this is an all round fantastic accidental discovery. You can't beat the beet in the salad either, espesh' with a helping of those tomatoes thrown in.

SHE SAYS: I just couldn't face a last-minute run for rice, and anyway we've been pretty rice-heavy lately. How happy I am, tho', that the cupful of polenta in the cupboard called out my name and begged to be stirred up with some chicken broth and marge, toot-sweet. (Really.) It gave the bnz a creamy texture and a slightly grassy flavour - most pleasant. Salad was okay, did its job of filling in the corners.

09.07.08: Nigella's red prawn and mango curry

Midweek made easy: He spiced up our evening with the hot, sweet and creamy curry, flanked by a salad studded with Jersey jewel tomatoes and jubilee strawberries.

SHE SAYS: I know He thought it had a little too much spice heat, but I thought it was fine. Nice mix of fruity, spicy and savoury, per usual, though I think it could have done with a dab more coconut milk. The strawberries were divine with a spritz of balsamic - sweet and sour heaven!

HE SAYS: As She says, I thought the curry had a little too much heat and overpowered the rest of the flavours a bit. Also, the prawns were a little tough, cooked a little too long, I think my timings were a little off tonight. Overall, still tasty, but not as good as this dish has been in the past. Strawberries in salad, oh my, they were fantastically glorious and wundervoll!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

08.07.08: Lemon chicken

Ain't no fight about lemon chicken nite: He did the honours with the garlicky green bnz, jersey royal potats, whole lemon slices, and the a salad of vine tomatoes, garlic-stuffed olives, and avo.

HE SAYS: Got to luv that lemony goodness, yes sir. I thought tonight's rendition was especially pleasing. I chopped the garlic a little coarser and was a little conservative with the oil and lemon juice, thus reducing the liquid ratio a tad, keeping things crunchy and not at all soggy on the bottom. The salad did its job of a tasty distraction, the olives helped keep the tang theme alive to the end.

SHE SAYS: Mmm-mmm good - never lets us down, but some are better than others and this was a winner. Good crunchy-to-fluffy ratio on the potatoes, and excellent chicken: crisp and juicy. Lemons not as jammy as some other times, but still tempting.

Monday, 7 July 2008

07.07.08: Nigella's chickpeas with accompaniments

She says: this one is jockeying for the provocative title of Easy Dish o' the Year: Nigella's chickpeas with cumin seeds, sherry and rocket teamed up with some pearled spelt, ho-made rose harissa, and a rather perfectly soft-boiled egg, if She does say so. A virtuous salad of leaves, lime-infused beetroot, avo and radish stood contentedly in the shadow of its more glamourous, protein-packed neighbor.

SHE SAYS: Now we know for sure: the non-organic chickpeas take on a far more velvety texture than organic ones - maybe the nons are more processed and therefore softer to begin with? Whatever the reason, non- is nicer and wins out in this recipe. The plump beads of spelt added interesting texture, they were much more impressive mixed in than tasted right out of the pot - v. barley-like. My rose harissa is delish with its obvious floral notes, but doesn't pack the garlicky heat of 'regular.'

HE SAYS: In the last two days we've gone legume crazy and I like it, I like it a lot. As She says the bog standard chickpeas far outclassed their too posh to push organic kind ( a little un-pc to admit out loud in this day and age but I don't care. We recycle, so there). The spelt was delish, much more moist then the brown rice which we usually have with it. The egg on top is an ongoing indulgence but adds to the chewy gooey
texture and tastes mmm-mm good. I can't imagine it without now. The rose harrisa took the place of my normal few shakes of hot sauce and so infused the bowl with equal parts heat, fragrance and zing.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

06.07.08: Magic lentils, coleslaw and asparagus

She took it fairly easy with the ever-reliable magic lentils plus last nite's coleslaw topped with grilled asparagus.

HE SAYS: These lentils I likey a lot, so much taste, so little washing up. Coleslaw was good second time round and the asparagus added a surprisingly simple and inspired element to the plate. Thumbs up, forks down.

SHE SAYS: The coconut dal never disappoints - this batch was creamy and satisfying, with just the right smidge of bitterness from the curry powder, plus a refreshing ginger kick. Man, raw cabbage sure is filling! I wouldn't say the coleslaw got noticeably better overnight, but it didn't suffer. I happened upon the little pack of asparagus in the fridge and didn't want to waste it, so a quick heat-bath under the grill with swabbings of olive oil and salt 'n' pepper brought out its sweet, starchy quality.

05.07.08: Grilled fish tacos with cilantro-lime coleslaw

Jonesing for a new fish dish, she trawled some back issues of The Splendid Table's Weeknight Kitchen newsletters for this crunchfest of a dish: corn tortillas snugly encasing lots of raw red cabbage with sour cream, lime juice, coriander and sweet onion that topped chipotle-marinated and grilled haddock with a little help from some avo. Salad with pre-julienned beetroot, Jersey jewel tomatoes, and excellent Jubilee strawberries got the balsamic treatment for added, tarty contrast.

SHE SAYS: This was good, but not the knockout dish I thought it would be. We figure the coleslaw needed more of a cider vinegar kick.... We have v. little choice of corn tortillas here, so ther bland blanket o' starch didn't add a lot. Still, the marinade was fairly spicy and the fish notably fresh and good-for-ya. These strawberries are v sweet and best of the season yet, esp with a little balsamic drizzle to bring out the big berry tang.

HE SAYS: Trying to recreate our fav fish tacos of yore from our fave mexican restaurant was a bit daunting but She made a noble attempt, not quite hitting the mark but still tasty and authentic enough to bring back some taste flashbacks. The fish, although not the recommended red snapper, was actually very tasty, it seemed the marinade was its secret weapon. I went back for seconds, oh yes I did. The strawberries for our dessert/salad were already so sweetly good, yet with a splash of balsamic vinegar, they bettered themselves - and how.

04.07.08: Curry nite

No cookin', good lookin': She dialled Sheesh Mahal and took a soothing little walk around the corner to pick up the spread: Channa Bhaji, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Rezalla, and pilau rice. A quick cress-tomato-avocado salad and a dollop of Geeta's lime pickle filled out the plate.

HE SAYS: You can't beat the Sheesh for quality, a little bit more pricey then some around here but worth it. My CTM was fruity, not too sweet and had a plethora of large chunks of tender chicken. Channa Bhaji managed to satisfy my ongoing chickpea craving and with a dollop or two of the lime pickle I was set.

SHE SAYS: A can't miss delight for a Friday nite, with plenty of whole-spice goodness and creamy textures. The lamb was v tender and the sauce almost tart, a nice counterpoint to the sweet tikka masala. Shees does have the best chickpeas - smokey and velvety. Gotta love Geeta for her oustanding jammy lime-laden pickle, though I think the papaya flavour is in our future...

Thursday, 3 July 2008

03.07.08: Peasant salad with squeaky cheese

She was a blur of prep-in-motion: boiling, slicing, pan-frying, roasting, peeling and whisking to put a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy on the table. Physalis, roasted red pepper, gem lettuce, watercress, radishes, jersey potatoes, green tiger tomatoes, halloumi and a boiled egg all took a bow as the powerful lime-wasabi dressing stood by.

SHE SAYS: Immensely satisfying, if a bit too much work for a Thursday. You can't go wrong with the halloumi though this cheap Tesco variety was not as tasty or springy in texture as some others we've had. Not a hint of mint, either - points deducted! The fresh roasted pepper was a treat I wanted each forkful to deliver, so I did my best to cut it into small enough pieces. It esp complemented the halloumi and the potatoes.

HE SAYS: Salad days are here again. Quite an indulgent variety tonight with the bacon of cheese - halloumi - and the boiled egg and potatoes. Still, mighty tasty, and smothered with the hot and tangy dressing it served us well as a main and salad course combined.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

02.07.08: In and Out

While out at the White Horse Pub knitting group, She nibbled on smoked duck salad and swigged strawberry Früli...but as the salad was on the small side, she tucked into some Dorset Cereals 'tasty, toasty spelt, barley & oat flakes' with yoghurt back home.

Meanwhile, He heated up an M&S feast of lamb kebabs, red cabbage, and oriental noodle salad with a coriander-chili dressing.

HE SAYS: It's been a while since tucking into these lamb skewers and I hope it won't be too long before we meat again. Mixed with mint, coriander and garlic these deadly sharp needles of pleasure were a great addition to the rather eclectic plate. The red cabbage waz not in the same league as our homemade version but it was different enough in its taste intention (fruity and rather sweet compared to my tart and citrus like version) to raise a smile of approval. The Asian style noodle salad satisfied the fresh, tangy and spicy part of the show too.

SHE SAYS: My salad was super-delish: the duck slices were very tender, with delicate smoked flavour, the rocket was fresh and crisp, and the dressing was sweet-salty and light - but it all didn't quite a meal make. I have the cereal every single morning, and I still love it. It's one of the less sweet ones, with pumpkin seeds and roasted hazelnuts as well as some dried fruit. With some mildly savoury yoghurt it makes cereal-for-dinner almost a treat.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

01.07.08: Black bnz

She put on the pinny, pulled out the pot, cooked up the beans, and served 'em up hot. Special guest star in the salad: green tiger stripe tomatoes from M&S, which have been MIA for some time now.

SHE SAYS: Well, I don't know quite what happened tonite, but even sfter the blending the bnz were kind of tastless! I kept sprinking in salt, then called in the cavalry: Chipotle Tabasco. [Suddenly while typing and glancing ruefully towards spice shelf, I realise that I put in paprika instead of my mystery smoky powder! So funny, I truly didn't catch on at the time and was completely mystified by the weak waving of the flavour flag by the coriander and cumin...] tiger tomatoes were not as good as I recall either. Still, with a littel doctorng here and there it was a satisfying if not stellar meal.

HE SAYS: Even though the taste quotient was not on par with most recent efforts this was still a fulfilling dish by anyone's standards. I suppose since we are spoilt by out of this world, to-die-for black beans, I cannot proclaim my luv for all things black and bean-like this time but am not put off for life. The black bnz will raise from the ashes and rule supreme next week I'm sure and since the salad was so terrific with both my fav ingredients, namely the oh so crunchy 'n peppery radishes and the oh so vinegary, sweet and citrusy beetroot, who cares?