Sunday, 31 August 2008

31.08.08: Lamb burgers in pitas with carrot fixin's, grilled broccoli and tomato-mozzarella salad

Going for the grill: We finally managed to bring Her favourite Saturday treat, the lamb 'hetties' from Twickenham Farmer's Market, back to the nest for home consumption. Hetties are burgers, made with a mix of herbs and exceptionally fresh lamb - like maybe two days in from pasture- and one stall at the market flips 'em fresh off the grill into white buns for instant enjoyment with apple or tomato chutney. We have no idea why they're called hetties, but we bought some patties, panfried them up, then tossed in the sliced, blanched broccoli for a few good stirs to soak up the flavour-flav.

A carrot salad
, based on this recipe (but without the grain and seeds) stuffed in the toasty pita rounded out the action, with sultanas, mint, fresh coriander, orange juice and a plop of ho-made harissa (yes, it's back thanks to yesterday's double-team, double-batch sesh!). Tomato, mozzarella and pea shoot salad loosened up with some olive oil brought a softer touch to the plate.

SHE SAYS: The best sage-y, rosemaryish flavour comes thru in every mouthful of the ever-lovin' hettie. I was afraid maybe I didn't cook these enough as they were quite pinky inside despite a good while in the pan, but the ones at the market are fairly pinky too, and these were delish. They're so fresh I don't think a little underfrying would matter. Broccoli finally tenderised and absorbed a good bit of hettie flavour, and improved with a little lemon sprinkle. All other salads did their job of moistening and sweetening and palate cleansing...all good, but a little too much prep for Her liking on a Sunday eve.

HE SAYS: Very tasty lamb burgers with a fantastic citrusy carrot salad, yum. The broccoli added some fibre but also benefitted from being grilled in the pan juices, increasing their depth of flava and making them not too firm and dry. The moz salad created a light, fresh finale to another rainy and grey Sunday.

30.08.08: Scrambled eggs with chorizo, black bnz, and fennel salad

This was a lot easier than it looks: We already had the black bnz and corn-studded polenta from Thu nite, and it doesn't take much to throw chorizo and eggs in the pan. Meanwhile, a bulb of fennel finely sliced, fresh pea shoots, and tomatoes carried off a lime and peanut oil dressing without a whisper of complaint.

Chorizo, black bnz and scrambled eggs make good comfort food with the polenta bringing all the elements together. I luv me some crunchy fennel and enjoyed the subtle hint of aniseed in the salad, especially mixed with the lime dressing. Easy-peasy and tasty, this fast slow-food was light on the washin' up to too. Now that's what I call a meal deal.

SHE SAYS: I love chorizo - that salty, fatty, paprika flavour can tango with my tastebuds anytime. why can't it be as good for you as, say, beetroot? But anyway. Salad countered all that cleany with crunch and fiber, while the beans and polenta, which only improved in the fridge, gave everything a smooth-goin' herby twist.

29.08.08: Out to Sheesh Mahal

It's just the kind of Friday nite where you exhale, walk around the block, and plunk yourself down for comfort-inna-curry.
First up: the inevitable poppadoms with the sweet chutney, the minty coconut thingy, and the raita, with sliced onion standing by.

Pilau rice and - what else? - chicken tikka masala... (new!) king prawn pathia, billed as 'sweet, sour and hot', and, making a 2nd appearance, lamb rezalla ('fairly hot and sour').

SHE SAYS: Lamb rezalla is one serious curry, deeply flavoured and tender, with no hint of the cloying that affects some of their dishes (such as the saag paneer, otherwise a surefire fave in any Indian eatery). I don't know if I can resist ordering it from now on. The new prawn dish barely rates an 'enh', though; it almost tasted off, even, and was only saved by a hint of smokiness; the tomato sludge it sat in didn't add anything nice, either. Chicken tikka masala was as rich and creamy with that nice charcoaly taste offsetting the sweetness just so.

HE SAYS: The CTM was great, creamy and not too shweet. I agree with Her that the prawn dish was a little fishy tasting and I count myself lucky that I felt okay the next day. The lamb dish was probably the best thing on my plate, really quite a hot one but also very aromatic and satisfying. I missed the chickpea dish we usually choose but we were a little legumed out by the end of the week.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

28.08.08: Black bnz

He whizzed up the herby black bnz, added some corn kernels and a little aged cheddar to the polenta, and artfully arranged the avo on top. Salad of pear, toms, and M&S beetroot got all sweet and fresh with us.

HE SAYS: Lovely velvety blk bnz again. This time even more delish with the added corn and incy bit o' cheese added to the polenta, bringing the flava to new heights. The beetroot in the salad was nice and juicy, so much so, that it created a crimson hue to all other salad fixin's and a red ring round me chops. Mmmm...

SHE SAYS: The bnz were herby and savoury enough but not hugely oomphy. Like him, I shook up a little chipotle Tabasco to liven up the proceedings. I couldn't taste the cheese or marge in the polenta, but the corn was an excellent crispety addition, even without the cob-fresh roasting of yore.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

27.08.08: Lemon chicken nite

He brought home the chicken...baked it up in a pan...and never, ever let me forget he's the man...'70s commercial lyrics tribute aside, folks, it's lemon chicken nite! With special guest, salad. Featuring: carrot, avo, pear and a choice of leftover wasbi lime dressing or mustard dressing (courtesy of Sunday's green bnz).

SHE SAYS: It's like your favourite chair or pjs - you don't know how much you love it til you need it. Lemon chicken was as good as it ever is, with the lemon and the garlic fighting it out for tastebud domination - and neither overwhelming. I plumped for the tingly citrusy wasabi lime dressing and ate more salad just to have more dressing.

HE SAYS: We sure like our lemon chicken but consistency is a good thing, huh? Discuss. I believe it allows you to tweak and tune a dish until it's perfect; others might say we are boring and lazy. Who cares? It's delishimo, all that lemony goodness over some crispy chicken and roasty-toasty 'taters and green bnz. What's not to like? the salad was pepped up by, once again, the carrot and pear combo and I reveled in the twin dressing
offering, sampling both varieties one after the other in quick succession.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

26.08.08: Chickpeas with cumin and sherry and salad with balsamic rose dressing

She fired up the wok for Nigella's chickpeas with cumin and sherry, served o'er brown and wild rice with a stir-thru of chili flakes. Not so unusual, is it? But the thought of orange blossom balsamic dressing for the pear, carrot, and toasted pine nut salad proved an itch She had to scratch. Unfortunately, Her supply of orange blossom water proved oddly insipid, with little actual orange flavour (it is set to expire in November...a clue?). Nonplussed but not defeated in the quest for a fun floral note, she reached for the rosewater, swirled it thru the vinegar, and took a pinky taste. Results below...

HE SAYS: This was a good batch of chickpeas, not too dry or chalky. I missed the harissa a bit but the chilli flakes nearly made up for it (although I added some more heat and vinegary goodness by a shake or two of hot sauce). The pear/carrot combo reappeared and again offered up a delicious sweet note offset by the tartness of the dressing (which I enjoyed but felt the rosewater seemed a little lost in the acidic balsamic

SHE SAYS: Balsamic rose is not quite the new wasabi lime, but it is exotic and bright on the tongue, and the floral mustiness immediately rises up after the acidity to balance it surprisingly well. Balsamic rose would complement a mild goat cheese like chevre superbly. Tonite, it added sweet complexity to a low-key salad and played nicely with the sugary pear.

Chickpeas were good and velvety, but I fear they will now always suffer in comparison to the harissa-dolloped or pomegranate-peppered versions. This near-naked variety was perfectly good filler, but I craved that sweet-tart juice popping and/or garlic-chili-mint stimulus.

Monday, 25 August 2008

25.08.08: Grilled lambchops with roast aubergines and tahini sauce

She cannot resist saying, 'Hey! Check out the grill marks!' It seems after 3 or 4 goes, the spesh grill pan is finally, um, earning its stripes with these li'l lambchops marinated in rosemary, olive oil and a mysterious Mexican-y spice mix lounging on the kitchen shelf. Sides of couscous with ho-made preserved lemon bits and coriander, plus Nigel Slater's roast aubergines with tahini filled out the plate, while a simple green salad with raspberry infused beetroot stood by.

SHE SAYS: Enh. The chops were good, but an attempt at a red-wine reduction just, well, fizzled, apparently. Still, I managed not to overcook the chops, and they were tasty enough. The couscous was fluffly and intensely flavoured with the lemon - all good.

The aubergines, though, were not so yummy. The tahini we bought in a rush yesterday I suspect was made with roast sesame seeds, given its tan colour and heightened flavour - not a bad thing, except it made the sauce look like peanut butter. Also, though this intrigued me before I tried it, cardamom is a shockingly bad choice of spice for aubergine. Shame on you, Nigel! New beetroot was okay but not anything to sing and dance about. An odd dinner, all things considered.

HE SAYS: It's a good thing we had loads of chops because they didn't have much meat to them. But they were tasty, with the marinade offering a smoky, spicy kick. The aubergines were interesting but not that appetising, the tahini sauce seemed not to work with the roasted veg and it just seemed a little out of place on the plate. Agree with Her that the raspberry infused beetroot was nothing special and I detected an artificial aftertaste which was neither expected nor apprieciated from me, beetroot's biggest fan.

24.08.08: Spinach & chorizo omelet and French green bean salad

It's the Sunday omelet made indulgent with chorizo and a little more healthful with spinach. a quick flip thru Jamie's Dinners brought us to a capery, shalloty, mustardy green French bean salad, for which she substituted the last two Tbs of wholegrain mustard. A salad of rosy toms, pear, and radishes kept it simple.

HE SAYS: The green bnz were great. They were nice and mustardy, with the capers adding a citrusy tartness. We don't eat many shallots and maybe we should begin to include them more, since they added a much more subtle flava then regular or red onions. The chorizo is always a crowd pleaser round these parts and was used to great effect tucked in the middle of the omelet with some mature cheddar and fresh spinach for company. I believe
the omelet completed its mission to satisfy, with honours. The fragrant and sweet pear in the salad was yummy coupled with the ever-so-peppery radishes and the juicy tomatoes.

SHE SAYS: You can't go wrong with chorizo in every bite - and with chorizo, who needs bacon? Definitely got my fix. The green bnz were tangy and piquant with mild garlic flavour, definitely due for a repeat performance, but I might try French mustard for a slightly thicker consistency to the dressing next time. Salad gave Us the fresh and soothing contrast I was looking for, and the pear added a welcome sweet note.

23.08.08: Imposter saag paneer

She made Saturday nite at home awfully cosy with Our fave saag paneer, starring halloumi as paneer, with Geeta's papaya orange chutney quietly shining in its supporting role. A soopah salad of radishes, avo, toasty pumpkinseeds, carrot, and lamb's lettuce drizzled with Nigella's wasabi lime dressing made for a pretty, well-balanced plate.

SHE SAYS: There's something about piling a spicy, rich curry on the fork with lots of crunchy salad that makes everything seem right for a little while. I suspected the M&S halloumi would be best for this dish, and it did indeed keep its firm texture, release perfect saltiness, and add the merest hint of mint to the proceedings.

HE SAYS: This dish has a lot going for it. The halloumi is so saltastic and moreish and the spinach, mild and creamy without the cream, so the overall effect is so satisfying. With a big dollop of chutney on top adding a little shweet spice to the plate, I was one happy camper. I am so enjoying our current craze of julienne carrots and delish toasted pumpkin seeds smothered by the always tasty dressing, which manages to
intensify all that it covers - including some rice, which didn't mind a bit. In fact it made for some interesting unexpected mouthfuls.

22.08.08: Out to Ottolenghi

On the way to a friend's gig, we stopped in at Ottolenghi, which We believe originated the practice of displaying heaps of impossibly gorgeous and varied veg salads next to stacks of impossibly gorgeous meringues, tarts and cakes to lure innocent passers-by. Their menu and window dressing have been imitated in lesser cafes all across London.

Fun fact: It was their broccoli salad that inspired Her to try
stirfrying broccoli on high heat for that yumsome charred flavour, and for that We are forever grateful.

He had actually booked us a spot at the long communal table, where we ordered a series of small dishes to share - they don't really do main-sized plates, apparently.

Broad beans and peas with globe artichoke, parsley, thyme, pink peppercorns, and preserved lemon...Seared tuna with a pistachio crust served with wasabi sour cream...

Marinated roasted aubergine
with chilli, coriander, oregano and green tahini...Grilled pears, red endive, rocket, fried manouri cheese and caramelised macadamias with an orange blossom and balsamic dressing...

...and, most unusually, dessert. Lime-infused cheesecake with roast strawberries, plus a white coffee for Her and a latte for him. (Can you tell We didn't manage to snag a dessert menu?)

HE SAYS: The atmosphere at Ottelenghi is informal yet slightly snobby, but the food is fantastic and where else can you order 4 cold salady starters and call it a meal? It's like posh salad tapas. Everything tastes very fresh and they have a knack of putting a new spin on your average tired vegetable selections.

Apart from the tuna which may have been out on display a little longer then perhaps it should, the quality was great. My fav dish being the aubergine with the ever-so-moreish tahini dressing. Unlike Her, I really enjoyed the broad bean plate; admittedly, broad beans can often taste like feet on a hot day but these had a springy texture and were slightly sweet.

I wasn't expecting any dessert and the cheesecake was not anything spectacular, tasty but not either inspired or different from what you'd get at any restaurant, which is a shame 'cause I love what they do with macaroons and meringues.

SHE SAYS: The first thing I ever had from Ottolenghi, some years ago, was their chilli cornbread. the sight of it stopped me cold: cornbread in London? Unheard of. And if it was a little dry, it had lots of cuminy, spicy goodness in its favour. The triple-salad takeaway boxes, if not exactly a deal, made for exceptionally gourmet grazing.

So - I heart Ottolenghi's food. But I don't like it for a sit-down meal. This was my second time, and again I found it an oddly sterile experience. Service was v. good, and the overall effect of the decor is a sort of candy-glazing, which is not unpleasant in my book. But the minute I sit down I want to leave. Shrug.

On to the food:
Best by far was the grilled pear salad - that dressing was utterly amazing, I think I actually opened my eyes wider when I tasted it. (And I just realised we have orange blossom water hiding in the cupboard...oh yeh, baby.) The manouri cheese was like baked ricotta, quite nice for sauce-sopping.

I liked the tuna more than Him, though it was not special. The 'crust' was damp and bland, and the wasabi cream somewhat timid. Still it was nice to have a slice of properly dark, rich tuna.

Was not impressed by the broad bean salad, except for the happy inclusion of preserved lemon, but then broad beans are that rare legume I don't care for - they're like hard lima beans on steroids. The aubergine was tender but not mushy, and the sauce was a few notches above your average hummus, with a nice fresh note of herbiness.

Finally, I was feeling grumpy and ordered dessert at the last minute by way of mood elevation. It was a little chalky, but had good lime flavour.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

21.08.08: Red prawn and mango curry

He rolled up his sleeves and cranked out the old fave from Nigella, complete with some multigrain rice and plenty of fresh coriander. A salad of rocket, beetroot, avo and radish supplied extra colour and crunch.

SHE SAYS: It smelled divine and the prawns were good and fresh, but it has to be said: I think he overdid it on the fish sauce and mebbe underdid it on the coconut milk, as this was a saltier and less balanced version than usual. Lest ye think I finger-wag, it must also be said that I ate it up good, til the last drop. Salad was much to my liking; it must be rocket season, b/c it's esp peppery and crisp lately. It's definitely radish season, as evidenced by the heat and snap of this venerable mustard family member.

HE SAYS: Like She says, not one of my better efforts. The curry is usually quite a bright orange but this one was had a little brownish hue. Too mush fish sauce was probably the culprit. It seems like a slightly off version of this curry is still not bad; needless to say I went back for seconds. Next up was the salad, which was a very nice light antidote to the rather stodgy curry and the radishes were simply delish mixed in with my fav salad fixin', shweetfire beetroot.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

20.08.08: Quorn with fresh veg and tomato sauce

Despite at least one previous protest against making fresh tomato sauce, She did it again, adding a green pepper and aubergine for filler and finishing with shavings of parmesan reggiano. (It didn't seem such a task this time, not sure why.) Crisp quorn patties and a salad of carrot, fresh 'healthy living' mozz, physalis, and rocket didn't exacty play second filler either.

SHE SAYS: I enjoyed this probably more than I should - it was merely good, with contrasting crisp quorn coating and rather mushy veg, but the sweetness of the tomatoes and the treat of my fave fake chicken hit a little-kid note of appreciation in me. The 'healthy' mozz had surprisingly good stringy, pull-apart texture and mild milky flavour - better than I expected and a good foil for the tangy physalis.

HE SAYS: The homemade sauce once again delivered: I thought the aubergine was nish and tender, the tomatoes not too shweet and the green peeper still a little crunchy. Maybe I would've added a wee bit of vino into the mix but it still turned out tickling ma tastebuds good and plenty. The salad was another crunch fest, what with the carrot making a return after a short break. The moz was happy to see its new pal again but missed Ms Beetroot rotten.

19.08.08: Black bnz with grilled corn palenta and salad

She took the new fave of black bnz 'n' polenta one step further towards gourmet by grilling a few ears of corn and slicing the roasty kernels into the mix. The usual avo accompaniment was green with envy (heh, I say, heh). The remains of last nite's salad fluffed up with more leaves, the last few grilled asparagus, radishes and a couple of big o' strawberries had to wait their turn.

HE SAYS: She did a great job grilling the corn to add a new dimension to the polenta, nearly like corn grits which I luv. The bnz were also more then up to par: smokey and herbie, very nish yes. The salad's strawberries tasted great with the leftover grilled asparagus from last night.

SHE SAYS: The added steps - overseeing the roasting and stripping of the corn - tired me out a bit, but the result has almost convinced me it's worthwhile. I savoured the bits of crunch and added flavour along with the thick texture, hot spice and herby kick of the bnz, though the polenta still needed a dab of marge to come to life. The crispiness and variety of the salad helped my tummy turn away from thoughts of another main-plate helping - but only just.

Monday, 18 August 2008

18.08.08: Crispy duck with plum sauce and asparagus

He riffed on the Perfectly Cooked Crispy Duck from Cook with Jamie, including carrots and onions in a five-five spice caramelisation, made the three-grain rice, and prepared more grilled asparagus (hey, it was buy-one-get-one-free, and We don't even pretend to resist free gourmet veg). Salad of soft lettuces with physalis, cherry toms, radishes and avo stood by. Special guest: some five-spice and star anise plum sauce She made on Sunday.

SHE SAYS: The meat was perfectly tender and the skin tres crispy - call it the bacon of duck, if you will, I crunched my share of it. Asparagus with lemon squeezed over were a very suitable complement to the rich skin and spicy-sweet sauce. Salad was a welcome calmer after all the gastro-excitement, though the physalis did its usual tangy best to provoke the tastebuds.

HE SAYS: Pretty easy one to put together: slice a few veggies, stuff with an orange, coat with five spice, honey, and fresh ginger, and stick in the oven. 2.5hrs later, hey presto! A pretty crispy duck. The veggies were a little on the charred side but overall I was happy with the crispy to tender ratio. The plum sauce added some delicious, sweet and tangy chutney topping to the mountain of rice, duck and veggies. Also spooned over some duck fat for an added yum factor. Salad was made all the more fantastic with the crunchy, peppery, French breakfast radishes.

PS: You want plum sauce? I'll give you plum sauce:

- 10-12 plums (note: these were also on sale, down to 85p for six!)
- 5 Tbs sugar
- few pinches five-spice powder
- two Tbs soy sauce
- tsp chili powder
- a few whole star anise (optional)
- good splash of water
- orange zest (optional)

Pit the plums and chuck in a pot with the sugar, spices and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer with the pot mostly covered* for 30-40 mins, until the plums have mushed down and the mixture is all glossy, occasionally stirring and pressing down the plums with the back of a spoon. Add more water if needed along the way. Zest over some orange peel, if you have an orange lazing about.

Heck, you can even skip pitting the plums and just pick out the pits at the end (along with the bits of star anise, if you can be fussed). This is my preferred route, since I get to savour the bits of plum pulp clinging to the pits as I spoon them out.

Makes about 1.5 cups of sauce. Don't save it just for the duck - it's the ultimate yoghurt, cereal and toast topper!

*If you reeeeeallly want to peel the plums, take the plums out with a slotted spoon once they've boiled and the skins have broken, remove the skin, and plop your naked plum back in the pot. But the flavour and texture are marvelous without this extra step, and I'd only advocate it
if you have trouble digesting edible fruit peel.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

17.08.08: Pork piccata, potatoes and spinach

Sunday can't get much tastier: the pork version of Ramsay's veal piccata, lush with capers and créme fraiche, made boiled potatoes and spinach steamed with nutmeg feel like swank restaurant fare. The salad borrowed panache from some asparagus grilled earlier for lunch, plus radishes, leftover lime-zest beets, and lots of curly, spicy watercress.

HE SAYS: A winter-warmer-comfort-food-esque dinner in August - with the summer we've had it's not so strange. The pork was tender and perfectly seared on both sides, and the gravy was so moreish with the capers adding that extra rich deliciousness, I thank the lord for those spuds which helped mop up that tasty elixir of life. The asparagus injected the salad with bold, salty chargrilled yumminess that played well with the can't-be-beat beets.

It's that Sunday dinner feeling...kinda brown, kinda roasty, kinda salty, kinda creamy...offset by some virtuous veg. I'm always a little concerned about cooking pork and tend to nurse it along to a cardboard consistency, but this batch retained a nominal tenderness. The sauce was a little thin compared to previous efforts, but pooled nicely throughout the plate. Potatoes and spinach made excellent sauce conveyors, and the potats themselves had a nutty, sweet flavour (charlottes?).

16.08.08: Out to Andrew Edmunds

Just when you thought the birthday was over...We gathered His family up for an intrepid evening of bowling, followed by fine dining at Andrew Edmunds in Soho.

She started with the buffalo mozz, serrano ham, rocket and herb salad, and He ordered the
carrot-orange soup.

Feeling like something hearty was in order, she had the raviolini filled with scamorza, accompanied by rocket and a tomato-herb-butter sauce. He opted for the swordfish...

SHE SAYS: I was a little apprehensive when our first waiter proved ridiculously standoffish ('no, we don't have soft drinks here, they don't complement the food,' he sniffed at my bro-in-law), but fotunately he was replaced with a much cheerier model by the time starters arrived. Though you can't tell by the photo, mine was generous in its light yet creamy mozz, and I tried to spoon the tiny green herby-grainy mounds dotting the plate into each bite. I had no idea what scamorza was, but quickly divined it was a v. smoky cheese of some kind. My main was v rich and tender, if not at all subtle. Not sure what made my ravioli qualify as 'ini' as they were all quite large, but I'm not complaining.

HE SAYS: I enjoyed the soup very much, not too sweet, not too thick, but just right. The swordfish was a big ole one, fresh and delicate tasting. Underneath the chunk o' fish were some stewed veggies and some toasted bread to mop up the juice. Mine also came with an herb butter which I proceeded to slather over all surfaces to great taste effect. Overall a very nish night out, ending the birthday festival off nicely.

15.08.08: Magic lentils

She was so ready for some easy comfort food after some truly pressurised workdays; hence the return of the coconut dal. The salad with radish, lime-zested beetroot, cherry toms, and grated carrot rmade a complementary colour sensation.

SHE SAYS: That familiar feeling of 'ahhh' enveloped me as I took the first creamy bite, and hypnotised me into having seconds - it was Friday nite, after all. I might have done better to save some, and had I but savoured the tart cool crunch of the salad before refilling my bowl, I might have done.

HE SAYS: Nice to have this supreme red lentil dish back on the schedule. This dish is so creamy and delish it's a wonder why we don't eat it every day. Oh yeah, I forgot, it gives you a bit of a gas problem if consumed in mass quantities but what's a little flatulence between friends and lovers? The
day-glo orange stringy carrots and ruby red beetroot provided the rainbow coloured spectacle of the evening, mmm-mmm-good.

14.08.08: The Pesto and the Pea Risotto

Before We set out for an unusually late school nite, He cooked up the Milanese risotto with plenty of fresh basil and judicious application of Her ho-made pesto (the frozen mass quantities are steadily decreasing!). A herby watercress, physalis and tomato salad looked on.

HE SAYS: It was my first time making this new fave dish of ours. It tasted like it has previously: savoury, rich, with an almost gravy like sauciness, which was a relief as risotto rice is easy to screw up and make lumpy and porridge-like if you take your eye off it. The salad was elegantly thrown together with the physalis, which worked the tang, sweet thang rather marvelously, I must say.

SHE SAYS: A much nicer and rib-stickin' fuel-up than I was expecting before we dashed off to meet friends in Isle of Dogs. I think We both prefer to cook off more wine than the recipe suggests (1 cup), but we only had just enough. Still deeply satisfyng and saw me thru te next, um, 6 hours!

13.08.08: Out to Wild Honey

For His birthday, we had a lovely day of wandering the alternately sunny and blustery West End, then headed to Wild Honey, which is hands-down Our fave special occasion restaurant in London.
Above, She started with fresh Dorset crab prepared both alone and in a rich paté, with a salad of young peas and shoots. Those papery slices that I thought must be courgette were the thinnest Bramley apple sheets ever, and the little avo-coloured mound was yet another preparation of peas, puréed I believe with mint.

He plumped for the smoked eel, turnips and roast apricot purée.

She was eyeing up the main course He coveted, so She graciously defaulted to the roast Elwy Valley lamb, young market vegetables, fennel and garlic. Fun fact: that little potato-looking pillow is the fennel, hosting a tiny pool of mint sauce.

Meanwhile, he chose the saddle of rabbit, lacquered shoulder 'pie', wild mushrooms and figs, oh my.
For a grand finish, We shared the warm black cherry clafoutis with custard and a couple of cheeses selected by our server (we trusted her, she was terribly capable and Dutch-looking), which arrived with a supremely noteworthy pool of - you guessed it - wild honey.

SHE SAYS: All the pea preparations on my salad plate were breathtakingly fresh and redolent of newly turned earth spiked with lemon - esp the shoots. The crab was perfectly moist and subtle, and even more of a treat when offset by an apple sliver.

Now, I admit I was not excited when ordering my main course, but I needn't have hesitated. It was the best lamb I've ever had for its perfect preparation and light juices.The puréed fennel was fun and intensely aniseed in taste - I'm guessing it was creamed raw. I took my time over every bite of veg and chop, enjoying the cosy ambiance of the room and peeking at the dishes on the tables near us.

Dessert was not stunning, though good - I thought our clafoutis quite dry even with a puddle of custard to help rehydrate. Could be I was just too disappointed they weren't serving the wild honey ice cream, which I had last year. However, the slick of honey that arrived with our veiny blue and nose-tingling harder cheeses set my world to rights: it was delightfully deep, dark and almost bitter. Had I been at home I would have licked the plate.

HE SAYS: I really like me some smoked eel, whenever we are in Amsterdam I eat plenty from the little street stalls located all over the city. This variety, although larger then Dutch eels, still had that familiar rich smokey intensity and not too slimy texture I was after. The
roast apricot purée worked very well to offset the eel with fresh fruitiness - a pairing which seemed odd but worked very well, especially with the turnips, which helped round off the plate with their ever so slightly sweet and mustardy counternotes.

The rabbit was surprisingly small in quantity but rich and satisfying in flavour. Again the sweetness of the fruit, this time figs, really helped to add balance to the salty, gamey qualities of the meat and the wild mushrooms.

I think I enjoyed the pudding a little more then She did, but then again I did pour over more then my fair share of the lovely, velvety custard over the tarty and vanilla-infused flan-like pie. Well, it was my birthday after all.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

12.08.08: Grab bag

It was a nite of separate ways, so He dashed together a pastrami bagel with mature cheddar and grain mustard, while She later roamed the aisles of Waitrose, feeling uncharacteristically uninspired to cook, and settled on the Halloumi Cheese with a Warm Salad of Beans and Lentils in a Tomato and Basil Dressing.

HE SAYS: Tesco's pastrami is not bad and I have finally found a bagel there that is also not bad either. The photo shows it open faced but I squished both sides together in order to gobble it up quick before I dashed out the door.

'Deliciously Different', my derriere. Fortunately this readymade entree tasted slightly better than it smelled - there was a disgusting burnt odour billowing up from the plastic tray. The butterbeans and lentils were tender and quite good; the tomato water - I mean, dressing - was forgivably bland. But they made halloumi cheese taste bad. That takes some doing. The painted-on charcoal stripes tasted like they look: badly burnt. At least there wasn't much cheese to choke down, just a couple of skinny squares. We won't get fooled again.

Monday, 11 August 2008

11.08.08: Lemon chicken nite

He got out the big white roasting pan and cooked up some lemon chicken (with the judicious addition of lemon thyme) and assembled a bright spectrum of a salad with tomatoes, roasty pumpkin seeds, strawberries, avo, and sweetfire beetroot.

SHE SAYS: Such fab comfort food to come home to. I lingered over the we-be-jammy lemons and melty potatoes along with chicken that combined crunch and tenderness with lashings of garlic and lemoniness...well, really, need I say more? Salad was only slightly less a star, with deeply ripe strawberries mixing esp well with the toasty seeds.

HE SAYS: I think I reached the zenith of the lemony-oil-jamminess factor in this latest entry in the 2008 Zesty-Lemon stakes. it's only taken around, give or take, 30 or so tries this year to find the ultimate balance between how much olive oil to pour and how much lemon juice to stir into the mix. With crispy skin on the chix and still enough liquid left to spoon over, it was neither too dry nor too soggy.
The salad was pretty much a "throw everything in from the fridge except the physalis" affair but it worked well, especially the added roasted pumpkin seeds, which were particularly exquisite tasting, if I allow myself to be so brazen as to boast.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

10.08.08: cod with green bnz, corn and pesto

This recipe from Real Simple has one-pan convenience, healthfulness, and a different (for us) veg combo going for it. Pan-toasted halloumi, plain beetroot, avo and spinach/watercress added richness to the Sunday nite proceedings.

HE SAYS: The cod was an unusual diversion for us (used to be dirt cheap, a lá fish n' chips, now a posh and expensive fish) and I enjoyed its subtle flava and flaky consistency, no need for
breadcrumbs and deep frying. The veg medley was also pretty tasty and fresh, no cream or butter necessary. The corn was especially edifying naked and, give or take one or two glugs of white wine, it needed no more thrills or bacon to embellish it. Talking about bacon, the halloumi from M&S was very nice, the texture was firm, the squeak factor was high, the salt content reasonable and the hint of mint deducible. Overall, far better then Tesco's own version and a close second behind Waitrose's offering. I found the beetroot in the salad sans sweet fire or lime marinades tickled my taste buds a trifle too. Who knew?

SHE SAYS: Top Tip: add 1/4 cup white wine to the pan instead of the water the recipe calls for; it's an easy way to add a little extra flavour and sophistimication you won't want to miss. Although I was happy to spoon in some ho-made pesto I had handy, I do think the veg would be great even without it, as long as you add the vino and some capers. The cod had lovely delicate flavour and decent texture, though I almost overcooked it. Vinegary beetroot without the usual dose of sugar from the brand-flavoured varieties held up pretty well, but the nite really belongs, as always, to the bacon of cheese, this time from M&S. It seemed firmer and released less liquid than other varieties - would be great in my saag halloumi.

09.08.08: Sheesh takeaway and salad

A Saturday nite spent hiding from the ridiculous wind and rain rattling the windows was made much cosier with a takeaway from the Sheesh Mahal: channa bhaji (chickpeas), prawn jalfrezi, chicken tikka masala, and pilau rice plus last nite's salad remains refreshed with a few leaves more than hit the spot.

SHE SAYS: Aaaah...methinks chickpeas are the perfect food, esp when bathed so richly in a smoky curry sauce! From my small scoop of the chicken tikka masala I gained half a star anise which I ended up sucking on like a lollipop at intervals throughout the meal - so mildy licorice-like and refreshing. The prawns in the jalfrezi were a bit briny, but I appreciated the full-on chili kick of the dish. Spearing salad in with the creamy offerings made it all feel unusually well-balanced and nourishing.

HE SAYS: I was very much in the mood for a tasty, hot curry and was not disappointed. Ordered just the right amount of food which is always a crapshoot. The chicken tikka masala was not too sweet (which is often is in other places), and it was creamy and moderately spiced. The prawn jalfrezi
was a little oily but had quite the spicy oomph that I was looking for. The chickpeas were fantastic and I could've had them on their own if I had to choose just one dish to have on my lonesome in a dark room with no friends.

08.08.08: Ready-roast chicken, snap peas, oniony rice salad and more salad

He pulled together an unexpected feast of coconut-lime rotisserie chicken and a spring onion rice salad (both courtesy of Waitrose); cooked up some snap peas; and mixed in a colour treat of a salad with cherry toms, pomegranate seeds, and leaves. More of last nite's wasabi dressing rallied for an encore performance.

HE SAYS: I didn't really enjoy the taste of the chicken, I think they muddled them up in Waitrose and I got this one instead of the bbq variety. Snap peas were okay but I should have steamed 'em instead of boiling (I like them nice and crunchy, which these were not).The pomegranate added a sweet and sour touch to the salad and the rice was savoury good, wholesome and on sale, what a bargain!

SHE SAYS: Salad was crunchy and tart, just the way I like it, and tho' the oniony rice salad imprinted its scent indelibly upon the tongue for the evening, it was delish - I found myself spooning up the last bits from the carton by way of seconds. That funky chicken, tho' - not so yummy, with an overpowering, very odd artificial coconut flavour. Waitrose chicken is usually moreish, so we'll overlook this little hiccup. Snap peas played the role of virtuous veg rather limply, I'm not sure even finished mine before we headed out to the gig.

Friday, 8 August 2008

07.08.08: Big Salad and black bnz

They both put together the big, big serendipitous salad which included prawns, eggs, beetroot, tomatoes, physilis, radishes, and carrot with wasabi lime dressing. The leftover bnz helped fill in the corners.

It was impossible to plan dinner tonite due to work overload mixed with potential (but not realised) social calls, but various freezer and fridge odds 'n' ends came to the rescue. while overall it was v. good, and it was fun to have the bnz as a sort of hot treat rather than centre-plate, there was one letdown - those frozen prawns were wrinkly, tough and not-nice in flavor at all. Only the wasabi dressing made them palatable. All the rest made a great combination, though, and it was quicksmart to boot.

HE SAYS: The big salad was a big hit with me. The egg was the crowning glory of the plate, agree with her that the prawns were a little tasteless and rubbery. I added a few slices of smoked salmon to my serving (She didn't fancy it, even though She is a smoked salmon fiend) and drizzled on the dressing o' the week (or the year?), thus making the big salad a little bigger and a smidgen mo' tasty too.

06.08.08: Black bnz with moz and tomato salad

He whipped up yet another batch of those good ol' black bnz, this time with polenta and paired it off with a salad of tomatoes, avo, radishes and some moz for good measure.

HE SAYS: The bnz were up to scruff tonight and came thru on the herby and smoky front, a big bag of coriander was used to full effect, every stalk and leaf was rounded up and accounted for. I added some parmesan cheese to the grits just for kicks but the added flava was mostly hidden by the mound o' bnz. The salad was a hot and cool affair with the moz, avo and tomatoes providing the cooling quality and the radishes and wasabi lime dressing delivering the mustardy intense heat (which went straight up my nose and ignited my tear ducts). Thus, I proceeded to cry like a baby (tears of joy, people. Tears of joy).

SHE SAYS: The black bean reformation continues to deliver the down-homey yet fabulously fresh delight one needs to repair the damages of the day's living. Agree with Him that the parmesan indulgence was somewhat subdued, but added a note of richness nonetheless. Loving the wasabi dressing, but do think the v. subtle charm of fresh moz is overwhlemed by the shouty tongue-pleaser.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

05.08.08: Milanese risotto redux and scrambled eggs with salad

On their tod tonight, He finished off the risotto from last night...

...while She later pulled together one of the fastest cooked dinners in anyone's repertoire: tossed salad and scrambled eggs, plus the famed lime-wasabi dressing.

More filling than it might seem, and much more appetising to look at the the photo indicates! (Could not figure out why camera was darkening every pic on any setting with greenish hue.) My simple crunchy salad of radishes, tomatoes and a bit of avo was lifted to the level of yum with the nose-tingling wasabi dressing, which actually has some of the sulfuric bouquet of egg - again, a more pleasant happening than you might think! I like my scrambles pretty dry, and this batch was perfectly to taste, and I ate it it happily with pinches of kosher salt.

HE SAYS: Just as good if not better then last night, the flavours had a chance to intensify in the fridge. A very nish dish to come home to and scoff before rushing off to take care of bizness. Forgot to pull together a salad plate, but the beetroot is set to make an appearance on my plate soon enough. Stay tuned, 'till next time, tarrah for now.

04.08.08: Milanese risotto with physalis salad

Slow cooking fast with the world's easiest risotto, with peas, mushrooms, and ho-made pesto. The physalis and roasted pumpkin seed salad eagerly pushed into the frame for a close-up.

HE SAYS: The added white wine makes this dish so satisfyingly tasty, even without the exotic mushroom mix She usually uses, this was a top draw dinner, no word of a lie. Who knew frozen peas could be elevated to such a posh nosh status. The salad was piquant, shweet salty and toasty at the same time, it's magic I tell you.

SHE SAYS: This is one of the Most Consistent meals we've had, and it's closing in on lemon chicken and magic lentils for the title. Always easy when you have pesto in your (freezer) pocket, eminently savoury and deeply comforting. And how I do love the inimitable physalis, it's subtle tang playing ever so nicely with the roasty-toasty pumpkin seeds.

Monday, 4 August 2008

03.08.08: Out to Wahaca

Surely there's no better way to top off a demonstration at the Spiritualist Association with return dinner4deux guest Samski than to seek out some seriously great Mexican food? Nay, we say, and hopped an indulgent black cab thru the downpour to Wahaca, where chunky guacamole, salsa verde and chipotle sauce awaited fresh tortilla chips.

Samski made the excellent choice of the Sonora salad, with diced avocado, smoky black beans, pumpkin seeds, cos lettuce and green rice served in a crispy tortilla bowl...

...while We each plumped for the slow-cooked pork burrito, with black beans, shredded cabbage, green rice, crema & totopos. Wait...are We really about to forget the three classic margaritas plus one mojito that kept the table jolly? T'would be a shame.

Actually, I ordered the Coloradito mole enchilda first, but the server brought out a small dish of the sauce to try and it was much thinner and more tart than I expected. I guess a lot of people are disappointed, b/c our attentive server was ready to take my changed order before I touched spoon to lips. Then I panic-ordered same as Him. No matter: the tender, tasty, deeply-flavoured pork (not salty or tangy, just some savoury in-between) was outtasite, the tortilla crispy and hot. I could only have wished for a sprinkling of salad to bring some balance to the meat-and-starch equation, and with that in mind I cast a few envious glances in Samski's direction!

HE SAYS: Before the food came out I was a little concerned that the pork burrito would not satisfy my hunger, but was quickly put at ease by the generously stuffed wrap that lay before me. The pork was like She said, very satisfying although I thought it was more tangy then She did. The only gripe I had was the lack of enough or any cheese in the mix, we def. ordered it with, so was a little disappointed that I couldn't taste any. The margarita and mojita help dampen my disappointment and I went happy and content and a little giddy into the foul weather outside.

SAMSKI SAYS: [coming soon!]

02.08.08: Out to Nando's

Um. We were hungry. And so our Sat evening stroll to Nando's ended with the whole-chicken feast, including two grilled corn portions and large chips. Bwaaak!

HE SAYS: It's the fast food that's a little better then the average chicken joint and if you're hungry it will fill you up and not make you feel sick afterwards. The chicken was spicy and I enjoyed splattering my chips with malt vinegar and dunking them into the extra peri-peri sauce on hand. The corn although nice was suspiciously sweet, do they glaze it with sugar water before grilling? Will have to ask next time.

SHE SAYS: I don't think I ate much more than my usual order, but I did manage enough to feel like I offset the walk to and from. Roasty corn went first, then a few perfectly crispy and pillowy chips. Chicken was tender and nicely charcoaled, as always, though the white meat does get a bit dry and required dipping in peri-peri sauce, which I find too vinegary. All in all, a good Sat. nite stuffin'.

01.08.08: Omelet and panfried potatoes

She felt just ambitious enough to add panfried mini new potatoes with chili flakes to the Friday nite omelet option, which featured rocket in place of the usual spinach along with mature cheddar slices and lots of fresh dill. Supercrunch salad packed in the rest of the leftover celery as well as radishes, plus lime-zesty beetroot and avo.

SHE SAYS: Our favourite pan is stil turning out golden omelets, but must say rocket doesn't mix in nearly as nicely as spinach, despite tasty cloaks of cheddar and dill. The less shouty spinach would actually add more in terms of flavour. Can't really go wrong with fried potatoes, though these did not crisp up as much as I thought they had. But the salad took over in the crunch department, and I thought the lime beetroot a nice tangy change from the Sweetfire variety.

HE SAYS: This omelet was not too dry and not too runny and the dill added the authentic French bistro feel. Agree with Her that the 'taters were not as crunchy as they could've been but
tasty nonetheless. Salad without beetroot? Oh no missus, not likely.