Saturday, 25 October 2008

N+D on the road for 3 weeks...

We planned to keep on postin' while on holiday, but our computer saw fit to cough up its innernet lung, and now we're reduced to iPod Touch connectivity. Not ideal for tasty posts.  

But! We're still taking notes. 

And we'll report on every single holiday dinner when we get back to our own kitchen in early November.

Til then, to all two of our regular readers, happy eatin'...

Monday, 20 October 2008

19.10.08: Out to Nando's

A leisurely stroll over the bridge led us to that temple of fast but not noxious food, Nando's. Above you see her typical order of the quarter chicken with two sides: coleslaw and grilled corn...

...while he opted for the half-chicken with chips and Spanish rice. Truth be told, He went and got an extra piece later on!

SHE SAYS: Nothing new to report here, it's that grilled flavour swabbed with some heat from the piri-piri sauce, plus the crispy sweetness of corn dabbed with some butter to help it slide down the chute. Coleslaw was not overly sweet, as I feared it might be, and wasn't too drowned in mayo. Decent filler, cheap and cheerful.

HE SAYS: Chicken n' chips was what I was hankering for and that's what I got. This place is basic no nonsense, no fuss, just fowl fulfilling fun. I especially enjoyed glugging the peri-peri sauce over the entire contents of my plate (I'm a hot and She a medium as far as heat goes in that dept). I found my corn to be too sweet but I was expecting it. Unfortunately there are no other sides that take my fancy so I'm left with no option but to go for it and sprinkle on some salt to try and stem the sugar rush.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

18.10.08: Saag Paneer with baby corn salad

She made her Saturday nite special saag paneer, starring the return of the real paneer (instead of its understudy, halloumi) with Geeta's premium mango chutney adding a touch of class to proceedings. A fresh salad of baby corn, cherry tomatoes, carrot, and mixed lettuce drizzled with Nigella's wasabi lime dressing nuzzled up to the brown rice.

HE SAYS: This dish is always a crowd pleaser and with the rich and creamy, newly-in-stock paneer, even tastier than before. We tried a new variety of Geeta's chutney to go with and it succeeded in adding the right amount of sweet zestiness to the plate. The baby corn were crunchy, a touch sweet and a great addition to our salad fixin's repertoire. As you can tell, we are still not bored of the wasabi dressing, every time we have it I'm impressed by its knack of intensifying all that it covers.

SHE SAYS: This is probably my favourite Indian treat now, esp with the more authentic touch of paneer. I'd forgotten how nice that balance of subtle flavour and milky richness is tucked into the silky spinach and spice puree. The halloumi version will now be on hiatus unless a saag craving strikes and the store simply isn't supplying paneer again. I threw some fresh baby corn into the salad for colour as much as a new kind of crunch, and thoroughly enjoyed the nubbly texture and little bit of sweet.

17.10.08: Out to Belgo

They met up in town with a friend Joe and after trying to get a table somewhere else they decided on Belgo, home of the fruity beer, mussels and frités.

SHE SAYS: My enjoyment of the mussels classique - steamed with white wine, shallots and garlic in a cream sauce - was heightened by hunger developed over a forced march through Covent Garden in search of sustenance. Everything's packed on a Friday nite. Little morsels of shell-clad seafood may sound light, but there's a whopping great many of them, and halfway through my kilo I could have slowed down, but didn't. The sauce was mild but not bland, and 'cream' in this case does not mean 'thick', so it was sop-worthy. Dunking the thin frites in a tiny tub of mayo added to the indulgence and rib-stickin' satisfaction.

HE SAYS: I opted for the curry-infused mussels and enjoyed 'em. The mussels were not the curry sauce experience I envisioned but more the subtle, fragrant variety - stilll very fresh and tasty. We were extremely famished by the time we sat down and it was a good thing there was bread and hot crispy frités available to mop up the broth and satisfy our hunger pangs.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

16.10.08: Chickpeas with cumin and sherry

He took down the wok and gave a quick fave a stir: Nigella's chickpeas are lookin' mighty fine with the addition of a soft-boiled egg, some ho-made harissa (missed ya!), and some wild/brown rice. A tomato, fresh mozzarella and spinach/watercress salad sat quietly ready for its star turn.

This was a simple and quick one tonight, though not short on taste either. Once again, I found these regular chickpeas to be more velvety and soft and better value then their organic counterparts. This dish also gave us a great reason to bring out the harissa from the fridge, It didn't disappoint. Its salty and hot lushness brought exotic flava to the bowl and adding an egg to the top created a little bit of gooey, squidgy yumminess. As for the salad, a more pared down variety this time with the mozz and tomatoes. As tradition dictates, I chose to drizzle on some olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper, and a drop of balsamic vinegar to intensify the deliciousness.

SHE SAYS: Mmm, nice and velvety, and the intense cumin fragrance and flava were battling for dominance with the salty, garlicky harissa. That's my kinda fightin'. The subtle salad made for a creamy, mildly acidic treat, and a welcome break from the beetroot repetition.

15.10.08: Quorn cutlets with tomato and veggie sauce

She masterly pan-fried two lemon-pepper quorn fillets. At the same time, She grilled a green and yellow pepper, spring onions and aubergine, then mixed it all up with a jar of Lloyd Grossman's chili-tomato sauce, shaved off some parmesan, and voila, tonite's dinner! A fig, physalis, pear, beetroot, watercress, spinach and rocket salad patiently stood by the side of the stage ready to perform.

SHE SAYS: Sauce was def. improved by a few slugs of wine, but I missed the fat, silky slices of regular onion. A quorn patty is like the best big chicken nugget ever, so just go from there in your imaginative assessment. Unlike Him, I was beginning to find our salad combo a little tiresome, but it was still v good by any normal dinner standard.

HE SAYS: Its been a little while since we had this culinary creation. The quorn was ever so crunchy and the sauce, mamma-mia! it was awfully tasty (I think the added red wine gives it a distinctly rich depth of flava). I didn't mind the spring onions replacing the regular variety She usually puts in the sauce and the peppers brought a sweet note and crunchy texture to the plate. I'm not yet tired of the figs or for that matter,
sweetfire beetroot, in the salad and the pear was a nice touch too.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

14.10.08: Red prawn and mango curry

Five days, aaaand we're back: He stirred up the red prawn and mango curry from Nigella, already, pairing it with a brown and wild rice mix. A heartily varied salad of avo, figs, radishes, sweetfire beetroot, spinach and watercress did its best to upstage the bowl, aided and abetted by leftover wasabi-lime.

HE SAYS: I think I put in the right amount of fish sauce this time around. Also, the shrimp were cooked just enough - instead of turning rubbery, they were fresh tasting and delish. Agree with Her about the rice not being cooked enough, I added more water but it just wasn't enough. The salad was a cornucopia of freshness, hitting sweet and savoury notes. The dressing added the peppery tang we luv and after the last bite and the washing-up, it was all over until tomorrow.

SHE SAYS: Really perfect balance of coconut milk to curry paste (heat!) and fish sauce (quite a bit less than recent versions). Rice could have used a little more cooking time for the wild rice to soften up some more, but it's a small quibble. Salad was a sweet-tart delight made zingy with the dressing, but do prefer fewer types of veg in the salad in general or it becomes a kitchen sink kind of thing.

Monday, 13 October 2008

13.10.08: Pollo alla cacciatora

Together again: We sat down to Her latest batch of what is quickly becoming the top Nigella fave rave, plus a flamboyant salad of avo, fig, spinach and watercress with a side of wasabi-lime.

SHE SAYS: I left out the sugar this time and didn't miss it a bit - I don't think I find tomatoes as sharp as most people do. But then We do have a preference for acidity, with our lemon- and lime-lovin' palates. This was as savoury and tender as ever, though I'd like to up the sauce quotient somehow. I was a little greedy with the wasabi-lime application on my salad serving and had to pinch my nose to avoid complete nasal scorch. But now We know, if we didn't before: fig and wasabi-lime love each other everso.

HE SAYS: It's less then a week since the last time we ate this meal and I don't mind a bit. This latest version stood up to past efforts with lots of rich tastes and textures. I'm still debating which I prefer between spelt pasta vs brown rice for this dish, but since the rest of the week will be heavy on the grain side I applaud Her executive decision to go the spelt penne route. Also, like Her, I didn't miss the sugar either. The ever present figs in the salad have yet to get boring and, coupled with some avo and covered in the wasabi dressing, continue to brighten up my bowl.

12.10.08: Goulash with mixed leaf salad and leftover black bnz

On the last night of eating apart, He decided to visit his ma's and dig into some hearty beef goulash with white rice and a mixed leaf, olive, cucumber and red onion salad.

HE SAYS: It's been a while since I've eaten beef, and I really enjoyed tucking into the slow- cooked chunks that melted like butter on the tongue and the fantastic tomatoey, peppery gravy surounding them. The mixed veggies, including carrots and celery (much like a soffrito base), help create the intensely flavoured roux. Not a big fan of plain white rice but didn't mind that much. The salad was okay, red onions are a treat as She hates them in salad and they also make my breath stink like red onions, funnily enough.

Meanwhile, She was immensely grateful to arrive home (hungover and fragile) to the readymade bowl of black bnz and cheery salad accompaniment he'd prepared and put away the nite before.

SHE SAYS: Really perfect food to come home to, esp as my last couple of evenings were far too free of legumes and raw veg. Agree with assessment from last nite that it was not as flavourful as some batches, but it really didn't lessen my enjoyment of the creamy spoonfuls punctuated with juicy, silky corn kernels. Crunching down on radish and crisp leaves was rather a relief as well.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

11.10.08: Blk bnz with sweetcorn polenta and Austrian gala dinner

Second night on his tod he cooked up the black bnz over some polenta with corn kernels garnished with big slices of avo. A salad of figs, tomato, radishes and sweetfire beetroot tried its best to keep Him company.

HE SAYS: Definitely not as fun to make and eat this one alone but felt better knowing that there was enough leftovers for tomorrow's meal too. This batch o' beans was pretty good but not spectacular. I managed to get the polenta's consistency pretty spot-on and the sweetcorn helped it out by giving it some crunchiness amongst the tasty goop. The salad took a break from fancy dressings and acted as a fresh and zingy closure to the lonely night.

Meanwhile, She sneaked a snap of the main course among five: pictured is the pork filet served in pepper crust and cream sauce with a vegetable bouquet and a healthy helping of spaetzle. Before that She managed to get down her neck some slices of duck breast over Waldorf salad; consomme with a splash of sherry; Rabbit filet served on a puff pastry pillow of juniperjus; and a small scoop of melon sorbet floating in campari. Afterwards, a small square of the prosaically titled chocolate cake managed to find a corner to squeeze into.

SHE SAYS: Thankfully, most portions were smaller than last nite's, and the quality mostly nipped up a notch. The duck and consomme are not much worth commenting on, and if there was sherry in that soup I'll eat my hat. The rabbit filet was actually a kind of rabbit sausage in a few little sections over some sort of thin grilled bread; nice herby flavour, but toughish. The fruity palate cleanser went straight to my head and put me in an expansive mood for the main course, which was rich and satisfying, if a bit bland. (I do love me some spaetzle.) Choccy cake was a thin but rich square of the German variety (I was hoping for sachertorte, but it's just as well this was a little lighter as I was uberstuffed).

10.10.08: Risotto redux and traditional Austrian fare

While She is out of town for a few days, He warmed up the rest of the pea, mushroom and pesto risotto and added a new rocket, tomato, radish salad along with yesterday's dressing.

HE SAYS: A quick, easy and thoroughly nourishing evening meal. Who would think that risotto is fast food? The salad was given a boost by the dressing, having intensified in the fridge for a day, yum.

She simply could not get away with covert dinnertime photography while surrounded by curious colleagues, but She can detail the 4-course menu served in the ASI Lodge dining room pictured above. Vegetable strudel on tomato sauce; 'Oberlander' creamy cheese soup; charfilet fish (billed as 'like salmon' and bred near the lodge) with a zucchini-tomato ragout on 'coloured noodles'; and pancake filled with apricot jam topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

SHE SAYS: Given how many of my entries begin with 'after a tough day at work', a weekend getaway to Austria courtesy of the co. was v. welcome in some ways (multiple-course meals being but one of the luxuries on offer), and less welcome in others (more time with the people you see most anyway). Food was not a hugely strong suit, but it was perfectly nice.

The strudel encased a mildly savoury puree of some sort of veg, and the tomato sauce was mildly sweet. The soup was the star, a shallow bowl of thin cream artfully streaked with some sort of brown salty sauce. Most people thought the fish was amazing, but I thought it was merely ok; it was nothing like salmon, more like grilled catfish but not quite as strongly flavoured. Noodles and ragout were enh. (Sorry, 'enh' is all I can think to call it!) Dessert was just as you'd expect, and not remarkable, just indulgent, and a bit heavy after strudel pastry and pasta.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

09.10.08: Pea, pesto and mushroom risotto

He gathered up the ingredients and proceeded to create this infamous risotto consisting of peas, pesto and mushrooms paired with a salad of rocket, mixed leafs, radishes and figs. All dressed up with a dressing of Her design, consisting of Colman's mustard, a splash of white wine vinegar, Tasmanian leatherwood tree honey ('with a lychee flavour', how innaresting), a pinch salt and pepper.

HE SAYS: Having prepared the risotto earlier in the day it had time for its flavours to mature and strengthen. Was happy with the outcome and enjoyed the severe savouriness of the dish. The parmesan supplied a salty edge, and the basil, a nice freshness to the taste. Her salad dressing was also great and added a hot and sweet mix to the surrounding greenery.

SHE SAYS: It was my nite to cook, but He handily put this together and had it in the fridge for warming when I came home, bless 'im. And it was a fine batch, too, one of the best. The fragrant pesto and intense parmesan (a truly excellent and well-priced Tesco variety) mixed with the mild, humble peas and plain yet meaty mushrooms to play on every tastebud I've got. In a word, yummilicious. My new salad dressing is no wasabi-lime, but the Colman's is almost as nose-wrinkling as the green goodness, and the honey gave it all a gorgeous floral note.

08.10.08: Red prawn and mango curry

He whipped up the weekly red prawn and mango curry made with butternut squash and sweet potato, courtesy of Nigella Express. A mixed leaf, tomato, olive, Apetina cheese and physalis salad tried to muscle in on the action.

SHE SAYS: Soothing, sweet, tangy and yet mild - a soothing bowl of sumpin' sumpin' to offset yet another trying workday. I appreciated the generous coconut milk content, and he got the rice nice and tender this time. The lightly marinated Apetina-garlic-olive combo was mighty pleasing, too, though it's somehow not as salty as the plain variety.

HE SAYS: I was back to the easy pre-cubed squash and and sweet potato variation tonight and I am not sure if it made too much difference in taste compared to the chopping-your-own version we've had of late. The consistency was definitely more soupy then we've recently had, that's for sure. I may have put a touch too much fish sauce in (again) but the depth of flavour was good and spicy. A welcome return of the Apetina with olives provided the salad with a special guest segment enjoyed by all.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

07.10.08: Pollo alla Cacciatora and salad

Once again She cooked up another round of the chicken and bnz firm family fav dish from Nigella (see the video!), but this time paired it with spelt penne pasta. A mixed leaf, avo, sweetfire beetroot and physalis salad decided to join in.

HE SAYS: This dish is always pleasant to come home to; the white wine aroma not only adds to the anticipation but also really bonds all the flavours together and makes it so richly moreish. The capers also help add that certain high note to the bowl. Tonight, there were lots of generous chunks of chicken and the smoked pancetta flavours seemed to cut through more so then the regular variety we have previously used. I thought the spelt pasta worked well and served as a brief intermission from our regular brown rice program. The avo and beetroot once again succeeded in transforming the salad from the mundane to the near spectacular.

SHE SAYS: Agree with Him, the smokey pancetta shone stronger than the plain version, but I still think maybe we need to try this dish without and see if we miss it. (We've one more pack to use up, so that experiment will have to wait.) Methinks spelt pasta is the partner of choice for the pollo; it rivals corn-studded polenta and bnz in the rice-alternative stakes. Capers will lways get big love from me, but I think their fruity teasings piques the tastebuds even more effectively when complemented by tomatoey goodness. He and I diverge slightly in opinion on the salad - for me, it's the tarty physalis that lifts the level, and how.

Monday, 6 October 2008

06.10.08: Frittata and chard

He gussied up Nigella's spanish omelet (known 'round these parts as a frittata) with thin slices of chorizo and red leicester cheese, heated up the remnants of last nite's chard, and called upon the radish, the avo, the baby fennel, the cherry tom, and the mixed leaf to do their enzymatic duty as salad.

SHE SAYS: Most satisfying, this humble potato-and-egg skillet combo - just moist enough, nicely browned, and a good balance of salty chorizo and cheese to mellow spring onion and yellow pepper. Salad was a crisp reminder of the happy need for good fresh veg, while the chard once again surprised and delighted with its sweetness, even when warmed over.

HE SAYS: A posh omelet on a Monday night tasted just right. I secretly added some cheddar and a few sprinkles of Parmesan to make it the trifecta of cheesiness. The chorizo added its usual deep spicy lushness to the mix while the grilled yellow pepper turned out distinctly shweet and yummy. The chard was a plain but pleasant distraction from the headliner, and the salad with the crunchy radishes and baby fennel gave my teeth a good work out and my cheeks a healthy glow.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

05.10.09: Pumpkin Pie and Green Chard

Autumn made yumsome: she's been meaning to try this savoury punkin' recipe, courtesy of Sophie Conran, for nearly a year, and now the time is right.

Pumpkin, sage, feta cheese, parsley and filo dough made for a decadent Sunday eve pie-high, while the punkin' seeds toasted up nicely with salt and pepper for compulsive snacking. Steamed chard from yesterday's market in Richmond snuggled up steamily to its richer plate-mate, while figs, thin slices of baby fennel, and mixed leaves commingled contentedly nearby in anticipation of a balsamic drizzle.

HE SAYS: I likey this pie. I was especially enamored with the crusty topping (you could put filo pastry on top of a smelly sock and I would eat it). I do think though that maybe next time we could try butternut squash (my favourite gourd) instead of fresh pumpkin
(nothing like the tinned variety, trust me) which was a little bland for my taste buds however much the cumin tried to raise the taste stakes. I, like Her, peppered it with ample hot sauce and it tasted so goood.

SHE SAYS: Make no mistake, this is not a weekday meal - peeling and preparing the pumpkin is fiddly and takes plently of elbow grease. The result was good, but quite overpowering in the cheese dept. – too rich. Some Crystal hot sauce cut through the heavy savour, though, and I thoroughly enjoyed the crisp sheets of filo on top. Not sure I would make this again, but I'm glad I tried it. (A lighter goat cheese, and less of it, would be more suitable, and perhaps some ras-al-hanout in place of the cumin seeds would brighten up the flavour.) The chard was amazingly sweet, esp the stems, and I added nothing to it, not one bit of anything. Salad was as refreshing as it was meant to be, bringing welcome crunch and aniseed insouciance to the meal.

04.10.08: Out to Samski's

Hearty good cheer and fresh, wholesome yumminess abounded on a visit to our pal Samski, who deftly prepared us all a supper of poached dill-flecked salmon, new potatoes, green bnz and broccoli...

...accompanied by a sumptuous dill mayo and butter (remains of fruity salsa and pistachio nibbles also shown)...

...all finished off with a wheat-free bramley apple-almond bake. Such heavenly refuge from the blustery night outside – we simply could not ask for more.

SHE SAYS: Exactly what I wanted after last nite's meatfest: a generous plateful of items both delicately delicious and nourishing. I'd forgotten about poaching salmon: the clean, bright flavour and firm yet moist texture of Samski's offering had me thinking I'll forswear the grilled version for a while in favour of this gentler method. Could not resist dotting the dill mayo on everything, though all the perfectly cooked veg had their own excellent flavours to offer. And how I was craving baked apples today - how did she know? Cinnamon sweet and almond-infused, the hearty bake went down a treat. Cheers all 'round!

HE SAYS: Samski came up trumps in the nosh dept. tonight. The salmon was cooked to perfection, very moist with a lot of herby flav-a-flav. The veggies were nice and springy, not a wilting green to be seen on my plate. Like Her, I also enjoyed slathering on the dill mayo with abandon. The pud was pure classic comfort food, cinnamon apples spell autumn to me. All in all a great night out - but in.

03.10.08: Out to Fanoos

We meant to go back sooner since our first trip to Fanoos was so homey and pleasant, but maybe we were just waiting for the cold weather to come back so we could bask in the toastiness of the shopfront tiled clay oven that bakes the incomparable sesame flatbread.

We could hardly wait for the Kashk o Bademjan, or aubergine puree with yoghurt, to arrive before tearing in (She's guilty of tearing at corners), but when it did we slathered it up right.

And we couldn't resist ordering the garlic butter variety, too.

Mixed grill for two: skewers of chicken, lamb fillet, and minced lamb plus whole grilled tomatoes, lettuce, red onion slices and lemon. (We did go swimming before dinner and had worked up an appetite!)

Accompaniments: saffron rice, plain rice, little pats of butter for the rice, cosy sand-coloured walls sporting brick arches and tile mosaics, candlelight atmosphere, and an accidental gift of baba ganoush. (We thought it must come with the platter, and She stuck a fork in it just as the manager came to shift it to another table - 'Ah, well, on the house, on the house!')

HE SAYS: Glad we came back , I thoroughly enjoyed this festival of grilled meats. All were tender and juicy with no added sauces or marinades needed apart from a squirt of lemon to bring out the flavour. The Kashk o Bademjan with a very deep smoky taste was fantastic with the bread. The garlic bread was thin, crispy and tasty but perhaps not needed as we had not yet seen the size of the main dish before ordering. It was nice to accidentally receive an order of baba ganoush and although I've tasted better, I slathered it on my bread thickly and it succeeded in hitting the spot. Overall, a cozy, intimate Friday night dining experience.

SHE SAYS: Thoroughly enjoyable on all counts, and it was mildly thrilling to do something a little different on a Friday nite. The sesame bread put me in mind of a thin, perfectly crafted NY pizza base, only with divine sesame flavour instead of sauce and cheese. I didn't think it was possible, but the creamy, subtle sweet-tang of the kashk made it even more delectable. If I lived around here I'd be big as a house b/c I'd come in all the time to sneak this hot bread 'n' Persian spread. The garlic version was fab, too, but only took the flavour factor up a small notch.

The grilled meats were mostly tender and charcoaly, though the lamb fillet was a little dry. No matter: adding some lettuce bits and roasted tomato to those bites made them more than passable. The mince was seasoned like your average hamburger, not hugely impressive, but perfectly fine. Our serendipitous baba ganoush hit the wrong note for me, way too smokey. I'd have the chicken kebab next time, with two servings of plain sesame bread (to share, of course; what kind of piggy do you think I am?) - and mebbe even two servings of kashk.

Friday, 3 October 2008

02.10.08: Magic Lentils

She rounded up the ingredients, cooked and stirred up a pot of coconut dal with spinach, plus a salad of mixed leaves, pear, physalis and radishes.

SHE SAYS: This was def. the Yellow Dinner, complete with a bargain of a sauvignon blanc to tentatively celebrate the end of a headbanging couple of weeks at work for Her (and I ain't talkin' 'bout the Motley Crue kind). Gingery and just a tad above mildly spiced, the dal proved its worth all over again, being so easy to make and yet so decadently delicious to eat.

HE SAYS: Very creamy batch this time 'round, and just enough curry powder to make it spicy enough without it being too overpowering. The garlic and ginger are very detectable and fragrant in this dish that I never get bored of. The salad fulfilled its fresh, sweet and savoury objectives with aplomb and served as a nice palate cleanser, too.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

01.10.08: Lemon chicken

He fired up the oven and cooked up the family fave of lemon chicken with the garlic green bnz, exquisa 'taters and lemon slices. A salad of watercress, spinach and rocket with avo, tomatoes, beetroot and sunflower seeds looked up from the rim.

HE SAYS: Ummm, not one of my best efforts, in fact it was a tad watery. I may have added too much oil and not enough salt. The garlic was representing and livin' it large but got a little burnt on top of the chix. The potatoes were not as fluffy as other varieties we've tried, either. The beetroot was as good as I remember (from a few days ago), it being, stil,l one of my fave salad veggies along with it's peppery pal, the radish.

SHE SAYS: Really, same as He said - it was oddly watery,
and the lemons weren't v. jammy - but still pretty good and garlicky, nonetheless.