Tuesday, 30 September 2008

30.09.08: Black bnz and polenta with avo

She ushered September out the door with the now-traditional black bnz ladled over slightly buttered polenta with corn kernels, all topped with generous slices of avo. A sald of figs, rocha pear, radishes and - you guessed it - mixed leaves edged into the frame all fruity and fragrant, awaiting a light drizzle of Nigella's wasabi-lime.

SHE SAYS: Despite having to reduce the cumin by half due to low supply, this batch came out might tasty. Possibly the tbsp of chili powder, added for its cumin content, gave it a spice boost. Silky polenta with crispy corn kernels still makes this a treat of a supper, as opposed to a merely good one. Salad played all its roles - sweet, piquant, salty, crunchy, seedy - with admirable versatility.

HE SAYS: I think this batch was above par in the taste dept., smoky and intensely savoury tasting.The chilli powder seemed to work a treat, adding more depth of flava, and I didn't miss the missing cumin at all. The sweetcorn is really a great touch in the polenta and I would be upset if we suddenly had a corn shortage. Salad was another fruity affair, a little of everything I'd want in a cold dish of various mixtures served with a dressing of my choosing.

29.09.08: Jamie's tasty fish bake with mixed leaf salad

He cooked up Jamie Oliver's version of fish pie which includes fillets of trout, potatoes, lots of fennel and onions plus a cream, parmesan and anchovy sauce, all finished off with a crispy breadcrumb topping. A mixed leaf salad with avo, physalis and radish stuck its head round the corner while the lime wasabi dressing played lookout.

HE SAYS: Didn't take too much prep to conjure up this beauty. As the nights draw in and it gets a little nippy this dish will become in handy to warm ye cockles. I believe I cooked it a little too long because the creamy sauce had reduced significantly, still good though. The crunchy breadcrumb topping was a nice touch and very satisfying to dig in to. I'm not that familiar with trout but it tasted pretty good and is good for ya (although maybe next time I'll try it with salmon). The salad was standard but then the wasabi dressing pepped it up to another plane.

SHE SAYS: I was looking fwd to this, but was wary of the anchovy content. (I like fish sauce, which usually is mostly anchovy essence, but the full-on anchovy fillet thing grosses me out.) Never fear, I entirely forgot about those bits as I sank into the pie's luxurious textures. I thought the sauce was perfect, wouldn't have wished it less thick. The fennel and fennel seeds were perfect flava foils for trout, which I suspect would taste a bit musty without robust herby offsetting. Agree with Him that the breadcrumbs gave the whole thing that down-home comfort food edge.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

28.09.08: Spelt penne with veg and tomato sauce

When Sunday means simple: She stirred up some panetta cubes, shallots, portobellini mushroms, capers, and an orange pepper with some glugs of red wine and a basil-tomato sauce from good ol' Lloyd to coat some spelt penne pasta (it's back in stock!). Shavings of grana padano took top honours, while a salad of figs, toasted sunflower seeds, avo and mixed leaves peered over the edge.

SHE SAYS: Soothing and subtle, nothing you shout about, but something you quietly enjoy and linger over. And it's all the more endearing for being easy and quickish. I do think pancetta cubes are not the world's most exciting seasoning - there's a shallow undercurrent of hamminess, not a smoky or salty surge of it. Capers gave us the most interesting note, as they tend to do. Sunflower seeds held their roasty own against the playfully seed-textured figs and creamy avo.

HE SAYS: Funny,
unlike Her I thought the sauce was pretty rich and bold. With the cheese, capers and red wine it was, to my taste, salty and tangy (two flavas I especially enjoy). The spelt penne was lighter in texture, also less glutinous then it's wheat cousin and did a good job of holding and delivering the sauce to me gob. Agree with her that the pancetta did not add too much to the plate and we probably could leave it out next time without forfeiting taste. The inclusion of the figs always brightens up the salad, their appearance reminds me of passion flowers, which are also sort of beautifully alien looking, but figs are probably nicer to nibble.

27.09.08: Leftover soup and open-faced bagels

After being generously plied with an excellent pork-roast lunch by friends in the afternoon, we had little energy or appetite for full-on evening dining, so splitting the one bowl of leftover fusion broth and topping up with an avo-tomato bagel half seemed just the ticket. He added another bagel half with Marmite and a slice of mature cheddar just to be sure late-nite hunger pangs would not interrupt a dreamy sleep.

HE SAYS: With ma belly half full this assortment of tastes managed to fill in the blanks of dinner with opposing flavas and textures. It was nice to have a second helping of the great soup from earlier this week and the avo and marmite bagel combo helped tip the balance of washing up vs. taste and satisfaction strongly in the latter's camp.

SHE SAYS: Just enough, and nourishing. I think I've said this before, but this soup is not the kind of thing that improves with a nite or two in the fridge - the flavours and consistency are too delicate to develop much. Still good, and with the highly-prized quality of being a heat-n-eat option. Plus, avocado on toast with a bit of salt has been my idea of perfect food since 1993 - and the addition of some rich cherry toms only gilds the lily.

26.09.08: Brekky for dinner

After a particularly trying week, She was pleased to slip into something a little more comforting: sausages with chunks of apple and generous sprinklings of sage; scrambled eggs with bits of chorizo; plain bagels; and pan-reduced balasamic tomatoes. Avo, leaves and sweetfire beetroot made a nod to enzymatic health.

SHE SAYS: Breakfast for dinner always feels like a treat, and this one especially so. Sausages AND chorizo bits? I was in salty, porky, protein heaven, esp with a touch of maple syrup to highlight the contrasting herby-apple flavour of the sausages. I nudged my eggs off my half-bagel (His plate, with a whole one, is pictured above) and spread the
jammy tomatoes on it instead for a uniquely savoury-sweet brekky bruschetta. Salad acted as a spiky palate cleanser with a drizzle of leftover wasabi-lime.

HE SAYS: Agree with Her. Egg on toast with sausages equals divine culinary experience. The jammy tomato hot compote helped spread the luv all over the plate. The salad eased our healthy consciences and offered a
respite from their fellow indulgent meal pals.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

25.09.08: Fusion broth with grilled chicken

She cooked up the fancy chicken noodle soup from The Naked Chef, complete with bok choi, rice noodles (and some bean thread ones, too, since the rice noodle supply was low), dry-grilled chicken breasts, and copious ginger slices - remembering, this time, the final dash of lime juice. Nigella's wasab lime dressing stood by to pep up a mildly indulgent salad of radish, mixed olives, avo, and leaves.

HE SAYS: The ginger in
this nice hot and fragrant soup certainly helped clear my sinuses while the fantastic grilled chicken hit the spot. The bean thread noodles were just as tasty as their rice counterparts and the added lime managed to add a fresh tanginess to the bowl. The wasabi dressing delivered its usual punch to the salad, poured over the delish radishes and olive mix.

SHE SAYS: Dry-grilling skinless chicken breasts is, I now believe, the only way to cook them. The bbq-fire aroma alone is worth it. This time I turned down the heat after browning both sides, added a small amount of water (whoa, steam!), and covered it to cook the chicken thru instead of high-heating them into near-petrification. Miscalculated the amount of soy sauce I added to each bowl at the end, overwhelming the light and faintly tangy broth with briny intensity, but it wasn't quite ruined, and leftovers will remain nicely balanced. Salad was moreish with the double-whammy of olives and avo, plus the wasabi coating - no one can say we don't get our good monounsaturated fats!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

24.09.08: Red prawn and mango curry

He once again wheeled out the family fav, red prawn and mango curry made with butternut squash, sweet potato and mango, courtesy of Nigella Express. A rocket, pear, tomato and radish salad tried to get in on the action.

SHE SAYS: Curry had that nice tangerine hue that signals plenty of coconut milk, and the soft yet substantial sauce did not disappoint. Really good balance of sweet to savoury, with a pleasing mango zing pulling it all together. Mildly sweet slices of pleasurably grainy pear made up for overly strong rocket in the salad - maybe rocket contains an especially high concentration of iron this time of year?

HE SAYS: Since the store was out of ready-cubed squash, potato and mango I picked 'em up fresh and chopped them by hand. This didn't take any time at all and I would do it again (the packaged stuff yields less and costs more anyway). Because of the larger amounts of key ingredients I let the curry cook longer then usual and a lot of the sweet potato dissolved nicely, creating a more substantial portion and a creamier texture all round. This was quite a hot and spicy batch and I may have put a touch too much curry paste in but was careful not to over do it with the fish sauce. Overall, I was pleased with the results, a very rich and comforting meal with low prep is always nice. The reappearance of the pear in the salad was appreciated and the I enjoyed the mix of soft and crunchy bites (of pear and tomato vs radishes) too.

23.09.08: Pollo alla Cacciatora and rocket salad

He put together this fast-becoming-weekly staple stew of chicken, pancetta, crushed tomatoes, cannellini bnz and white wine reduction. As an added treat he cut up some chorizo and added it to the pot and then served it all over brown rice. A rocket salad with radishes, tomatoes, avo and physalis looked on eagerly.

HE SAYS: The inclusion of the chorizo really upped the taste stakes, a very nice addition, creating another note of spice and paprika within the sauciness of the dish. I added a touch more wine to keep the liquid ratio high and a little more chopped rosemary then the recipe called for in order to add more of an intense rustic herby flava. The chicken thighs really tasted fantastic, are a cheap cut, and helped season the broth (unlike breast meat, which although tasty doesn't release any flava and doesn't tend to infuse anything). The rocket salad was more savoury then we have had recently, the crunchy radishes making their peppery presence felt and finding only small resistance in the tiny shweetness of the physalis.

SHE SAYS: Agree the chorizo was a splendid indulgence, though this dish already packs quite an intensely savoury flavour punch. I think this version achieved the perfect ratio of brothy to saucy, and again totally agree with His observations on the infuse-ability of dark vs white meat. The tang of the physalis worked my tastebuds more strongly than His, it seems, or maybe it just gets more of my happy attention - I found the radishes more of a crunch supplier than a tastemaker.

Monday, 22 September 2008

22.09.08: Grilled salmon, charred broccoli, and mash

Better than it looks: Salmon marinated in olive oil and a Mexican spice mix, then inadvertently blackened, anchored the plate while high-heat stir-fried broccoli coated in ho-made harissa shared space with fluffy salt-n-pepper-n-a-bit-of-butter mash. Salad of beetroot, pear and avo on leaves looked on.

SHE SAYS: The near-burn experience the salmon had actually sealed in the juices and didn't detract from the overall goodness, though perhaps we lost some spice kick. Harissa makes any veg a standout, and brocca benefits especially from the chili-garlic-mintiness. He pounded out the potats and gave us a clear winner in the comfort food stakes, esp with that touch of fresh-ground pepper tickling the tip of my tongue. Salad gave us a much-needed sweet, piquant note among all the salt-lickin'.

HE SAYS: Like Her, didn't mind the blackened quality of the salmon, it really was cooked just right. The broccoli was nice and spicy, stir frying really brings out its subtle flava, who boils broccoli these days? Mash was just right, not too stodgy and cloying, mmm, very tasty. I really enjoyed the pairing of the pear and beetroot in the salad, a fine shweet treat leaving no need for dessert.

21.09.08: Out to GBK

We can't resist a two-fer coupon, and this time we took note of the Sun-Thu limitation (unlike a previous occasion we'd rather forget). At ye olde GBK, She plumped for the 'New!' organic lamb burger simply dressed with mayo, tomato and lettuce, plus the 'New!' coleslaw of celeriac, spring onion, carrot and cabbage in vinaigrette. Going for bust, He spec'd out a blue cheese burger and chips.

HE SAYS: Hmmm, the blue cheese was actually blue cheese dressing (read: mayo overload) and not that great tasting. The actual burger was cooked medium and wasn't bad overall, but I much preferred the chips, which were hot and fluffy inside, crunchy-ish on the outside. The 'slaw was vinegar-based with no added mayo, which was a good thing, and I definitely tasted a hint of apple (perhaps cider vinegar or added juice). Anyway, the coleslaw may have tasted a little too sweet but was still tangy and tasty.

SHE SAYS: My med-rare organic lamb was tender and selectively charred for my pleasure, with judiciously light application of mayo (unlike some poshburger imposters that will drown a poor patty in not-so-special sauce). However, it was not worth £9.50 - nothing special in seasoning, size or obvious quality. Next time I'd go for the non-org Greek burger and ask for the hummus on the side. Coleslaw was apple-y fresh and sharp, but too sweet for my taste. I left feeling a little peckish still, and downed a small serving of Hula-Hoops once back home.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

20.09.08: Roast butternut squash, Middle Eastern spinach, quorn, and fig salad

She broke a longstanding prejudice against dealing with giant gourds (hard to cut, too long to cook, etc) and baked a butternut with butter, maple syrup and ras-al-hanout; tried a tempting recipe for spiced spinach with yoghurt and pine nuts from NYT; flipped some lemon-pepper quorn fillets in the pan; and took advantage of a timely fig sale to sophistimatise a salad in which sweetfire beetroot played a supporting role. Bonus: a sprinkle of toasted squash seeds.

SHE SAYS: The spinach dish was fantastically garlicky, rich in allspice intensity, and silky on the tongue, but 'serves three'? Who are they kidding? We barely had a little blob each! I knew that one bag of spinach would likely shrivel to Borrower-size portions, but I have a bad habit of trusting a recipe first time around. Fun fact: the laughingly simple garlic yoghurt is a dead ringer for ranch dressing, kid ye not. We spooned ample amounts over the quorn and even drizzled it over the salad.

The butternut squash is the real star, though. The Bart brand ras-al-hanout is v nutmeggy, with a touch of rose petal, and undercuts the vegginess of the squash just so. This early crop was so tender we could eat it skin and all. Next time (and there will be many next times), I'll try baking with olive oil to see if we can replicate the luxuriousness with a slightly healthier fat.

The salty, toasted seeds of the squash were less effective in salad than they were when eaten alone out of a handy little bowl (frequently); but the fig and beetroot played nicely together in sweet-tart harmony.

HE SAYS: Mmmmm, the squash was absolutely devine, cooked perfectly; soft, moist, creamy and with the maple syrup, delish. The garlic sauce was also fantastic, very light but very moreish. I wished there was more of the spinach but managed to spread it around the plate enough to combine with mouthfuls of the crunchy quorn and sweet, sweet squash. It was nice to have the figs in attendance once again in the salad (after what seems like a long time) and they worked perfectly paired with my favorite root vegatable of the year, the beetroot.

19.09.08: Sheesh Mahal takeaway

A proper celebration of the N+D reunion was in order, so We phoned up the Sheesh for some chicken tikka masala (as usual), channa bhaji (ditto), and muttar paneer (hey, that's new), plus some pilau rice. On the way back from picking up the feast, we stopped at M&S for some juice and poppadoms. She gave a nod to the need for something healthy by slicing some radishes and making a little bed of salad greens for all the saucy bits to recline upon.

HE SAYS: The Sheesh didn't disappoint, my regular CTM was nice and creamy, the chickpeas were velvety and satisfying, but I think I would've preferred a lamb dish instead
of the muttar paneer, which was only okay, as I agree with Her that is was a little too shweet and lacking in the taste dept. Salad was a refreshing and crunchy distraction and a nice touch to help stave off any chance of delhi belly.

SHE SAYS: The new pea-populated paneer dish had the same issues the Sheesh's saag paneer has: too sweet, and even more bland. Still, the mild sweetness was not an entirely unwelcome contrast to the smoky channa and spiky flavours of the chicken tikka masala. V. plain crunchy salad and plain crunchy poppas balanced all the tender textures of this big plate of cosy indulgence.

18.09.08: Sherried pork chops, carrot salad, and green bnz

Pretty fancy for a Thursday nite alone, but after a mostly disappointing week-and-a-bit of solo meals, she was prepared to indulge: sherried pork chops with mushrooms, green bnz, brown and wild rice, and harissa-coated torchi chfenaria in gem lettuce cups.

SHE SAYS: A little own-blog sleuthing turned up this tasty pork recipe from Cooksister, last prepared back in March (why did I wait so long to have it again?). I forgot to marinate the chops in advance, but half an hour in the fridge seemed to infuse them with herby goodness well enough. Creamy, delicate and slightly indulgent sauce made me glad I had some nutty rice ready to sop it up. The tangy, caraway-tinged carrots also proved a fork magnet, tho' I think I prefer them a bit warmer than room-temp.

HE SAYS: After a long, tiring journey back from the States, with lots of 'orrible plane food, I couldn't resist a bowl of the nish fresh, herby carrots with their sweet and zesty goodness. A cuppa tea and a sit down did accompany this dish and brought on that warm n' fuzzy feelin' I was missin'.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

17.09.09: Nothing, and chicken stew

SHE SAYS: It's a rare occasion I don't feel like having anything at all for dinner, but said occasion has arrived. Overtime at work, a bit of snacking late in the day, and a nasty fall while running for the bus conspired to ruin my appetite. No worries, but nothing on the menu tonite.

HE SAYS: My last night in New York featured some tasty chicken stew. Generous amounts of meat with a savoury broth and served with a generous amount of cous cous and green bnz, it was more then a satisfying way to end my trip. A simple salad of leaves and balsamic vinegar dressing paired well with the stew and some blueberries cleaned my palate and filled in the edges

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

16.09.08: Butterbnz with chorizo and rocket

She was determined to have a nice dinner after so many recent disappointments, and so went with the can't-miss butterbnz stirred up with chicken stock, sage, oregano, chorizo and rocket. A virtuous attempt to re-introduce veggie roughage and some enzymes resulted in a plain carrot and radish salad.

SHE SAYS: Aaaah....finally, a comforting, tasty dish I can eat with joy, not just need. No extra seasoning or touch-ups needed, this was velvety and savoury, with satisfyingly intense bit of chorizo upping the treat factor. For balance in health and colour, the salad proved a winner; even after a few months of introducing it, I'm still finding the texture and sweetness of professionally shredded carrot ridiculously pleasant.

HE SAYS: Back in NYC and dinner with family which included a pork loin roast with roast potatoes and green beans, and a yummy orange infused gravy (not pictured). The pork was great, nicely cooked, moist and not dry at all. The potatoes were crunchy, and the green bnz added a little freshness to the plate. The orange sauce or gravy was especially nice and I had seconds and thirds of the whole shebang. A fruit salad medley including raspberries finished things off nicely.

15.09.08: Baked sea bass, and fish taco

She recovered from Thai food poisoning just enough by Monday evening to heat up the sea bass she'd cooked the night before - sorta like an extra-fancy ready meal, just pop the foil packet in the oven! Stuffed with lemon thyme and rosemary, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepa, She had roasted it over a scattering of chopped preserved lemon in foil.

SHE SAYS: I hate to waste food, esp something as nice as a whole sea bass. I don't think I enjoyed this as much as I would have had I still not been feeling a bit iffy. The fish was very lemony, flaky, fresh and firm, all good - but I had to take it slow and didn't exactly finish. I do think this works better baked with fresh lemons than with preserved - they were perhaps too strong with all the lemony notes already supplied by lemon thyme and rosemary.

HE SAYS: For my last night in Austin I decided to retrace my steps and head back to Cafe Magnolia, a 24 hr hipster diner. I had been there for lunch but figured it was worth returning for a spot of dinner so I could have an excuse to blog about it. Seems like it is not just any diner; it's more of an Austin institution going by the lines out the door.

I ordered the fish taco, and with it came the side salad, including julienned carrots. The dressing I chose was Ranch as it does not exist in England as a flavour, concept or state of mind. Saltine crackers, another nice touch, also graced the plate.
This fish taco was not exactly what I expected; I was half expecting the fish to be more deep fried and breadcrumb coated. This version was more healthy in a way, grilled fish with no coating. It was still good, plenty of red cabbage, lime and tarter sauce pulling it all together. the serving was large and I felt pretty satisfied with my choice this time. To drink I had the obligatory iced tea, I asked for shweet tea and they gave me a look, like "you are not from here, are you". The atmosphere was buzzy and the wait staff are chatty and friendly but I wonder what it's like at 3 in the morning?

Sunday, 14 September 2008

14.09.08: Polenta, and pho

SHE SAYS: I prepared a gorgeous meal of baked fish with herbs, and roast beets with avo, plus the aformentioned polenta with corn kernels - BUT, halfway through the cooking came down with bad tummy cramps and, erm, lots of visits to the loo. Amidst all the turbulence, the polenta was the only thing that even remotely appealed. It did its job as sickie food, s'all I can say. Except: I'm fairy certain this is the result of last nite's Thai terror - apparently food poisoning can manifest in your gut up to 48 hours later in most cases.

HE SAYS: Having indulged in some heavy meals of late I was looking for something a little lighter and I found it at Kim Fung, a little out of the way Chinese place at the end of a dark strip mall and another recommendation (thanks Blair).

Unfortunately I got all flustered and ordered the wrong thing, I was there to sample this thang called PHO, so when asked what I wanted after having just sat down I requested the very first PHO item on the menu, consisting of rare pieces of steak, brisket, tendon and tripe??? I know, I know it sounds disgusting, and the tripe was a white chewy fatty substance and really gross, also the tendon tasted as nice as it sounds - not good. The broth was pretty tasty though and I did my best to navigate the bowl's murky waters, searching and eating everything but the aforementioned nasty bits. I emptied out the accompanying plate of mint, lime, bean sprouts and also green peppers which added a little bit of aromatic wonderfulness to the meal, except the green peppers were extremely hot and having bit into one I proceeded to guzzle down a whole glass of water before fishing out the remaining green devils and throwing them out the pool.

After such a to-do I ended up quite enjoying my first PHO. The meal came to less then the price of an M&S sandwich. So, while I cursed the choice I'd made I marvelled at the value, of the food and also my judgment.

13.09.08: Out to Thai Square, and BBQ part deux

This sign is one sick joke. She was having a nice afternoon in Putney and eventually made her way to the cheery riverside area, where the idea of a cocktail and an early dinner al fresco appealed mightily. Thus ensued Her unusually bad pick of a Thai restaurant.

SHE SAYS: The start was promising, if a bit overpriced: this Crystal Ball cocktail of fresh lycheee, lemongrass, ginger, lemongrass-infused vodka, ginger-infused vodka, demerera sugar, lychee juice and lime juice added a festive feel to the single-diner experience. And it was way yummy: zesty and shockingly cold, its spicy, fragrant flavours tinged with notes of lavendar and rose. But.

A starter of tod mun kao pod, or sweetcorn fritters with chilli dip, gave the first hint of Something Off. The menu bills this dish as 'baby corns sculpted in ball shapes', but this is clearly Niblets-studded hush-puppy territory. It was chewy, bready, and had a distinct taste of shrimp paste (as found in curry paste) - very odd since it was listed as a vegetarian dish. The dip was bog-standard sugary stuff out of a very generic bottle. But She was hungry and hoped for the best from the main course.

Alas, the 'Traditional Thai favourite dish of all time, green papaya salad with marinated grilled chicken', was downright disgusting. She only kept eating out of disbelief. The chicken had that strange tenderness that shouts re-formed dark meat, and was encased in rubbery skin with a sweet thin sauce not doing it any favours.

The strands of green papaya might have proven interesting had they not been drowned in fish sauce and vinegar with a strong garlic flavour - not at all complementary in this case. Chopped green bnz had the virtue of fiber and not being limp.

But strangest of all, I found myself labouriously chewing small bit in the salad mix...they were hard, tiny Stu-wee shrimp! Grossness! I avoided them as best I could. Some lime spritzin' might have pepped things up a bit, but it was underwhelming and overpriced - strike two for Her dining weekend!

HE SAYS: Warning: vegetarians look away now, another tale of a giant feast o' bbq'd meats follows.

In attempt to gain an accurate scientific overview of all things bbq that Austin has to offer I figured it was my duty to check out an example of a finer class of grilled meat dining options available around these parts and compare them to the great down-home rib shack (literally) I experienced only two days ago.

The picture above was taken at another great recommendation, Salt Licks restaurant just outside of Austin. (Thanks, Blair!) Firstly, it's located in a ranch off of a long road surrounded by green rolling hills and fields, an amazing location. As you pull up to the gate you see what seems like the whole of the local police force doing direction and parking duties, literally one officer for every turn it takes to find a parking space, this place is popular it seems (and safe too).

After parking I made my way to the outside but covered waiting, concierge and sorting area where I was vetted by some young Southern belles to make sure I was man enough to step into the old stone brick dining barn where the feasting takes place. I managed to conceal my British accent long enough for them to let me pass and I was duly escorted to a chair at a long table.

Now, the menu was basic, consisting of give or take 3 items: ribs, sausage, beef and combinations of all three plus sides of bnz, potato salad and coleslaw. I cannot lie: this was good eating, my plate was big and was helpfully sub divided, tv dinner style, into areas for meat, coleslaw and salad (a loose term in this instance) - never, never, at your peril should they mix!

The ribs were generous, tender and the sauce very moreish; shweet, spicy and sticky, just the way it should be. The potato salad was like hash browns pressed together, that simple and (obviously) that tasty. The coleslaw was not that spesh and the beans just okay but who cares about the sides with this much great meat. The sausage was juicy and spiced enough to add interest but the beef was my favourite part, again, tender, juicy and grilled to perfection, I wish i had ordered a whole plate of the stuff.

The service was swift and very friendly, and once I was finished I enjoyed some good ole fashioned people watching. Looking around I spied a lot of large portions and even larger hairdos along with big belt buckles and cowboy boots. Just about half an hour out of Austin but a world away, I got in my car and drove back full, content and assured of my manhood.

12.09.08: Quorn and fresh tomato-veg sauce, and enchilidas mole

Just another flash in the pan: the lemon-pepper quorn escalope smothered with a fresh tomato and veg sauce, plus leftover sweetfire beetroot and spinach & watercress salad.

SHE SAYS: If you think Hers looks a little bland, well, your eyes don't lie. Despite application of white wine to pan, and a nice-looking veg medley, the typical quorn concoction was surprisingly ho-hum. Of course, the chicken-fried steak quality of the quorn still came thru, but its savoury influence was dimmed by the factor. Not the comfort food vibe I had in mind!

HE SAYS: Just down the block where I'm staying is this fantastic veggie restaurant, Mother's cafe and It was there that I indulged in the enchiladas mole. Consisting of lots of black bnz, Monterey Jack cheese and rich and savoury, gravy-like mole sauce smothering a corn tortilla, it was aided and abetted by brown rice and a generous scoop of fresh guacamole. The bnz were especially nish, creamy, a little spicy, rich and moist with good sauciness. It's hard eating by oneself but when you have food like this it helps distract you from the loneliness.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

11.09.08: Faux pho part deux, and Willie's BBQ

Play it again, ma'am: She took the easy option after a somewhat aggravating day and heated up some of Tuesday's shrimpy broth with rice noodles, then tarted up the leftover salad with some more leaves and eggy avo - not to mention the wasabi-lime dressing in its cute li'l lunchbag bottle, originally a tiny soy sauce container that came with some packged sushi. Don't you wish you had one?

SHE SAYS: Good enough, but this was not the kind of soup that improves in the fridge. It wasn't any worse either, just remarkably, exactly the same: light, in need of copious spritzes of fish sauce, and filling. I'd like it a lot if I had a cold, b/c it's so innocuous but with just enough floral/grassy lime-leaf flavour to make it mildly interesting. The avo was particularly good tonite, and with slicks of wasabi-lime it was a treat of smooth near-decadence.

HE SAYS: Went off the beaten path and got me some ribs at Willie's bbq joint here in Austin, A tiny little down home place I found at the bottom of this link. I felt a little intimidated to take any actual food shots (this shot taken in the safety of my car) but the grub was great; the meat on the ribs was falling apart tender with little fat and smothered in a spicy, not too shweet sauce.

This was not the most healthy dining option, especially compared to Hers (then again, I only got the half rack) but oo-weee, it was fine dining. The ice-cream scoop of potato-mustard salad with sliced pickles and smokey baked beans had me salivating before I proceeded to devour everything in my path, including the two slices of plastic "sealed for freshness" bunny bread (which did incredible mopping up duties), and not forgetting dem crackers. All washed down with a glass bottle of A&W. Burrrp.

10.09.08: Out to the White Horse Pub and sushi in Austin

She indulged in a gal's nite out at the White Horse pub, complete with knitting, chitchat, and the sharing of a cheese plate with a like-minded pal. Celery, grapes, green apple slices, a mix of poppyseed, onion and plain crackers, and some S. African Sauvignon Blanc made the evening veddy, veddy civilised.

SHE SAYS: This doesn't look like a lot for two hungry ladies, but sharing proved most satisfying. I'm not too proud to admit I sneaked most of the celery, as it was such a perfect conveyor for the blue and the Boursin-y cheeses. Unfortunately I forgot to record the types of cheeses from the menu, but I did note at the time that the bits and pieces produced didn't appear to match the menu too conscientiously anyway. In addition to the ones just mentioned, a sort of cheddar, a sort of brie, and two oddly mushroomy and (for my taste) far too mellow chunks of somethin' or other filled us up far better than you might imagine. Not special, but not bad, either, and terribly convivial.

HE SAYS: I was looking forward to a mini sushi-fest at Kyoto Downtown, here in Austin but was a little bit disappointed with what I chose. After receiving my 16oz Sapporo I was ready to order. Firstly, I got the Godzilla roll, no problem here. It was very tasty, lots of salmon, avocado and cucumber drizzled with spicy teriyaki sauce, covered with light tempura flakes.

Next I ordered a selection of sushi nigiri which was not too fantastic. I ordered the tamago (sweet egg) because I get this a lot and consider myself an expert on it's sweet eggy delights, this version was not bad, pretty good in fact. Sometimes it can be too dry, not this time. Next up, The salmon which I found was a little tasteless and the tuna a little underwhelming.

The hotate (scallops) were overly mayonaissy and a little bland for my taste. The miso soup was tasty with large blocks of tofu swimmin' around and a healthy share of seaweed but it was barely warm, tepid in fact.

The worst part of the meal was definitely the eel. I think I miss ordered and got the wrong type of eel, Anago (sea eel), because I was expecting the warm flamed variety with thick, sweet eel sauce, unagi (Fresh water eel), instead of the grey "fishy" tasting one with a pale watery sauce that I experienced.

A slight slip of the tongue can get you into a lot of trouble, it seems. I think I would give this place another go, I made a
bad choice and they may have been having an off night. The eel I think coloured my overview of the meal slightly, the service was good and atmosphere authentic. That eel though, it was disgusting.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

09.09.08: Faux pho and NY home cookin'

First, an announcement for all two of Our Gentle Readers: He's travelling on family-related biz for a bit and so will have to update with His own good eats from the road, while She does the cooking AND the washing up all lonesome-like.

But tonite, She may make him a little jealous with Her pho-like interpretation of Jamie's fusion broth from last week, subsing prawns for chicken, cheating a bit with some M&S readymade fish broth, peppering the pot with some dried lime leaves and adding several spritzes of stinky fish sauce. Meanwhile, carrot prepared with the KTOTY, some cherry toms, toasted sunflower seeds, and mixed leaves conveyed a fresh batch of wasabi-lime dressing from plate to palate.

SHE SAYS: I was craving something simple and nourishing to keep up me strength while the mister's away, and this proved mighty fine for the purpose. It desperately needed the fish sauce, though - the M&S broth, while authentically shrimpy even before the prawns went in, proved far too delicate to carry a soup. Top tip: dry-grilling prawns is only a good idea if you prefer vigorous grill-pan scrubbing to reading, websurfing, watching telly, and various other enjoyable evening pastimes. Overall, the chicken version of the soup is more impressive, but this one's worth repeating with sturdier stock. Prettily piquant wasabi-lime dressing paired up with the deeply toasty seeds to make plain salad unusually mmm-worthy.

HE SAYS: Wow, She does make me jealous but I still had me some good nosh. After a long journey to NYC, I sat down with the family to a hearty roast chicken and vegetable plate which definitely surpassed all the airline crap I was offered on the plane. The salad was a simple crunchy lettuce affair with a balsamic dressing, not a carrot or beetroot in sight unfortunately, but still good. Ended the meal with
a nice palate cleanser of mixed raspberries and blueberries. Lots of red wine was consumed and I collapsed into bed, tired but content. [Photo to come.]

KTOTY - kitchen tool of the year, aka julienne peeler

Monday, 8 September 2008

08.09.08: Pollo alla Cacciatora

Yep, We did it again - already. She had a hankering to try the delish tomatoey-chicken dish over brown/wild rice, with a stir-thru of capers, and She made it so. The rest of the St Agur blue cheese graced a salad of sweetfire beetroot, radishes, and avocado with mixed leaves.

HE SAYS: We like this dish, we really, really like it. She cooked this one up good, a little less soupy then my try but still mighty fine. The capers added a certain tasty tang to the tomato-based sauce, me lapped it up and went back fo' more. I luvved the salad too, sweetfire beetroot and radishes! They be my bestest friends.

SHE SAYS: This is quite a mystery: even before I let the cacciatora cook with the pot lid on, it contained far less liquid than His version. So it's not the rice soaking up the gravy that's making it appear less souplike. We're using the same recipe, so it's a head-scratcher for now. Still wonderfully satisfying with that touch of woody aroma from the celery salt and the tender thigh meat. Capers def. add a little sumpin' sumpin' in the pickeldy weirdness department. Of course, We had no trouble polishing off the rest of the intensely creamy, mildly flavoursome blue cheese in an otherwise virtuous salad episode. I'm thinking St Agur is the kind of blue you could give to people wary of blue cheese intensity.

07.09.08: Fine Burger takeaway

After completing a family errand at His mum's place, We happily anticipated a dinner treat from Fine Burger Co. Above: She ordered the Greek lamb burger, which arrived with a wedge of feta and scoops of a rather white hummus, while His BBQ burger (below) presented a neat stack of tomato, red onion, and the eponymous sauce. Hand-cut chips for Him and some chopped salad for Both sealed the deal.

HE SAYS: I think I enjoyed mine a little more then She liked hers but it still wasn't "fine" by anyone's standards. The bun was droopy and the sauce was excessive; if you like your burgers on the damp side then this is the place to get 'em. Truth be told, I was more then a tad bit hungry and so my critical eye was half-closed but managed to open up for the fries, which were not bad: hot, crunchy, salty and not soggy. I barely even remember eating the salad it was that good.

SHE SAYS: It's very rare that I can unequivocally diss an entire meal, but the day has arrived. My burger was drowning in suspiciously mayonnaisey hummus, and the wedge of crumbly salt they were calling feta didn't help. But it was the burger itself that was downright disgusting: it was pinky, barely warm, and densely damp. I like pinky lamb if it's nice and hot, but this was like eating the cushiony part of a Band-aid after you've sweated through it a bit. Really. The salad was nothing to speak of, with a bland, thin 'ranch' dressing coating a few rocket leaves, radishes, cucumber chunks, and chilled-to-transparency tomato slices. Ick. Yeh, I ate what was on my plate - hungry, and didn't want to be rude - but the ironically named Fine Burger doesn't even rate basic linkage.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

06.08.09: Magic lentils

She settled on the easiest Saturday nite comfort food possible after a long browse in town: the coconut dal with spinach, plus a salad of sweetfire beetroot, radishes, and special guest star, St Agur blue cheese.

SHE SAYS: Extra ginger and addition of garlic oil for the initial saute didn't quite intensify this one as much as I expected, but then the quantity was nearly doubled, and it still went down a treat: creamy and mildly savoury, with the bits of transparent, sweet onion offering unusually pleasurable texture variation. I mean, chopped onion is usually a workhorse, not a standout element, innit? Many, many thanks to the round-the-corner store for being open to provide said root veg when the few other shops open had none. The speshy blue cheese compensated somewhat for the week's early loss: it's creamier and less intense than last Sunday's find, but v nearly as aaah-worthy.

HE SAYS: The magic element of these lentils is the fact that we've eaten them so may times this year without becoming bored, disillusioned and going right off 'em. It's hard to tire of or question such velvety, creamy goodness week after week, so we don't bother trying. The salad weren't too shabby neither with the sweetfire returning to the fold after a few days off with it's best mate the carrot.

05.09.08: Chickpeas with cumin and sherry

Ok, so it's not quite a full week of the new...Friday saw us rushing back to embrace an old comfy fave (as you do, esp when it's chilly). He shook up a wokful of Nigella's chickpeas with cumin seeds, sherry and rocket, ever-so-softly boiled some eggs, and piled it all on top of some brown/wild rice with a dollop of ho-made harissa. Avo, radish, tomato and greens awaited a light sprinkle of leftover wasabi-lime.

HE SAYS: The chickpeas were not as soft and mushagood as they could have been. This was probably due to me not puttin' a lid on the pan. The eggs could have been cooked a wee more and the cumin seeds were a little burnt.
Oh well, the salad was a success, with the wasabi dressing making it a "can't lose" proposition.

SHE SAYS: Good enough to keep us from braving the rain in search of sustenance, but not the best batch ever - textures were a little firm, and the cumin seeds slightly overtoasty. Still, you can't beat a golden dollop of egg mixed with the minty-chilli-garlic triumvirate that is harissa goodness. Salad once again proved an excellent wasabi-lime conveyor.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

04.09.08: Nigella's Pollo Alla Cacciatora

Continuing 'do the new' week, He stirred it up good with Nigella's Pollo Alla Cacciatora, featuring chicken thighs, cannellini beans, rosemary, pancetta and a dab of oddly exotic celery salt. The everything-you-could-want salad of pear, radish, remaining fancy feta, etc met its match with Nigella's greatest hit, the wasabi-lime dressing.

SHE SAYS: Now this is a keeper. It put us both in mind of a richer minestrone, and I do think adding some brown rice would have been oh-so-nice (and stretched it to leftovers), but it was certainly a full meal without. Chicken was tender and soaked up the spiky flavours of the tomato broth nicely. It was a utensil-lickin' kind of supper, yesirree bob. Salad was good, esp with the one-two punch of the highfalutin' cheese and the nose-tingling dressing, but I think I prefer fewer ingredients (I know, the crowd is gasping! but it's true).

HE SAYS: Yesh, agree with her, it's definitely one to put on heavy rotation especially as the days grow shorter and the cold comes in. A very satisfying, hearty meal with lots of flavas to keep the taste buds happy and also very quick to put together. The lime dressing again did all that it set out to achieve and more, not only proving extremely taste-tastic but clearing my sinuses to boot.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

03.09.08: Black bream with chermoula, kale, and panfried potatoes

Not your average fish 'n' chips: He slashed and stuffed some whole black bream with herbs, baked it with lemon, and whizzed up some decidedly sexy chermoula, all at the suggestion of Ramsay's Fast Food. Kale boiled with onion and a dab of liquid smoke, plus the ever-popular panfried potatoes added plenty in the way of substance, while salad of pear, avo, rocket and tomato rounded off the menu.

HE SAYS: Very yummy even if I do say so myself. This has been "try new recipes week" and I believe this one is maybe the best yet. The bream really didn't need much fussy dressing to shine but the chermoula brilliantly added an intense counterpoint to the mild yet fulfilling texture and taste of this fish.

We are suckers for citrus-infused dishes, it seems, and
what with the sliced lemons and added juice, this recipe resembled our fav lemon chicken dish, but of the sea, see? It was tempting to add more liquid smoke to the greens but I held back, using only a few drops of the stuff, and glad I did as the true flava of the onions and kale were not overpowered by an artificial smoke taste. The potatoes took a long time to get crispy but perhaps I should have used peanut oil instead of olive? Nonetheless, with a few added sprigs of rosemary to the pan it was worth the wait.

I'm really enjoying the pears' run in this week's salad offerings. This time the pear was paired with avo and tomato, so it seems there's no veg it's met and hasn't got along with.

SHE SAYS: This would have been such a treat to sit down to on any evening, but it was esp effective to take the edge off an annoying day. The chermoula had an intensely zingy effect that only heightened the cumin and paprika notes. But even without the sassy sauce, the bream would have made me pause and give thanks for its delicate texture and clean, lemon-inflected taste. Crispy potatoes quickly disappeared from my plate, and the greens did their mild duty as virtuous veg quietly and well. Salad filled any little corner I had left - I think pears in salad will always be a fork magnet for me.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

02.09.08: Asian fusion broth with rice noodles and grilled chicken

She is really patting herself on the back for finding this one: Jamie Oliver's fusion broth with dry-grilled chicken plus ginger, Chinese greens (bok choi), and rice noodles. Salad of pear, radish, and spinach, watercress etc. welcomed a celebrity cheese tonite: herbed feta from Spitalfields on Sunday, seasoned with a brined chili.

And check out those grill marks!

SHE SAYS: I knew we'd be having a few decadent meals this week and chose this as a lighter in-between. But the virtuous brothy bowl turned out to be a full-bodied flavour attraction that I would gladly make regularly in the colder months. (Serendipitously, it's quite cold out there tonite.) simply boiling ginger and garlic with top-notch boullion, and drizzling just a little light soy sauce over, made this so slurpworthy, and dry-frying the chicken added big, outdoorsy grilled taste - not easy to achieve on a tiny, indoor stove. The market feta lived up to expectations as salad star, more creamy than crumbly, with subtle, pleasingly metallic chili notes.

HE SAYS: Like a Thai noodle soup, this bowl of wonderfulness hit the spots that needed it most: rich savoury broth, generous chunks of grilled smokey meatness, unfussy plain noodles to surround the flavas and a chili, ginger and garlic kick to grab your attention. This was another summer winter warmer and I savoured every last bit, going back for seconds and thirds. The feta couldn't be better(ed) in the salad and we ate every last delish little bit of it.

Monday, 1 September 2008

01.09.08: Spelt tagliatelle with roquefort sauce

Fancy-pants pasta land, here we come: We snapped up some handcrafted spelt tagliatelle from Spitalfields yesterday, and while we were standing there, the stallholder slipped us each a fateful smudge of intensely creamy, pungent roquefort cheese. Slightly dizzy, we forked over a little more dosh than we meant to in order to take home a chunk of the heavenly blue.

And tonite, She paired up the pasta and cheese, adding dabs of yoghurt and splashes of white wine for good measure to make a sauce that also coated some shallots, chestnut mushrooms, peas, and spinach. Pinches of dill and grindings of black pepper topped it off. Standing by: salad of pear, radishes, beetroot, watercress, spinach and rocket.

HE SAYS: I was a little disappointed the roquefort didn't make the sauce creamier but the taste was great: intensely blue cheesy and salty. Ahh, the power of cheese. The spelt pasta also had a uniquely tasty tang, more earthy then your regular white flour pasta. The salad rocked, 'nuf said.

SHE SAYS: Well, it wasn't bad at all, but that whole dense slice of richness disappeared into a dun-coloured soup. I was trying not to load any more big fat into the dish, so instead of adding cream for thickening, I tried yoghurt - and it totally soupified. Could have stirred in some flour, but that would have cancelled out the bloat-busting good of the spelt pasta (and would have made us feel stooopid paying more for a special-grain noodle).

Spinach was the star in terms of pasta veg, and black pepper heightened the roque-y flavour - a good tip for next time we get seduced by speshy cheese, when the only added accompaniment will be a (spelt?) cracker.