Christmas meal 2012

I spent this Christmas in London with my sister before we flew out to Funchal on boxing day. Like our normal Christmas in London feasts, we cooked up a storm as we skyped in our family during our preparations. I enjoyed going down to Borough Market, perusing the wares, tasting a number of treats whilst picking up all the quality goods that would go into our meal. We also took a great walk around London – it’s strange leading up to Christmas because it is such a quiet area.

Our lunch was a Borough Market inspired one where I reassembled the famous Brindisa Chorizo sandwiches. We start with grilling the sausages in a pan. I like the extra piccante for the heat, and I like the side rather crispy. It’s also a good way to draw out a lot of the fat – it’s amazing to see just how much there is!


I bought a bottle of Piquillo peppers (not cheap with a small bottle costing £5) but they were sweet and perfect for building the importance essentials.

Piquillo Peppers

The rest of the sandwich is pretty easy to assemble. Buy some ciabatta bread (it’s good because it crisps up nicely). I can imagine a good alternative would be a turkish bread as that seems to also have the magical property of getting crisper without burning. Peppery rocket is essential to provide a distinct contrast, to cut through the fat and the heat of the chorizo. Avoid watery lettuce as that will ruin the dish. Pretty perfect.

Chorizo Sandwich

We took time out – in between watching a number of movies and walking towards Covent Garden a bit more to see the final unveiling of the Lego advent calendar, before returning to gorge ourselves (like everyone else around the world) on their Christmas feast. Our menu, this year revolved around a little bit of a simpler menu – Fig, goats cheese and honey bruschetta, roast pork belly with goose fat roasted potatoes, truffle mac and cheese (because we simply didn’t have enough carbs!) and then some honey glazed parsnips and carrots.

A decadent meal for the holiday period.

Meeting Stace in London

A small reprieve from Berlin this week due to some Clojure training, meant an opportunity that serendipitously overlapped with Stace’s last visit to London for work. Stace and her husband, Wes, are expecting a newborn very soon, hence her last trip to London. I caught up with her on a trip last year, and we couldn’t believe that almost a year had already passed.

I met her at the wonderful Fox and Anchor where we enjoyed a delicious meal in the cosy and atmospheric abode. With the little one expected to pop in the next month, I appreciated the awesome time we had over a meal.

Dinner @ Home

Last year, when I caught up with Gerrod and Kristy at Sitaaray, I promised to invite them around for dinner sometime this year. Last night was the first night that worked out for all of us, so they trooped to the other side of town to join a friend, Darci, and my flatmate, Tom, in our digs in Clerkenwell. Not surprisingly, everyone got tripped up by normal weekend tube maintenance work but everyone made it eventually. Here’s some of what I managed to get around to serving:

Some nibbles in the form of Baked Zucchini Chips

Accompanied by some home made kaiser rolls and butter

I never got a chance to take a picture of our appetiser, which was a truffle, mushroom and sundried tomato orzo with rocket. This was then followed up by the main course, a duo of pies – a Steak and ale for the omnivores and a mushroom and stilton pie for the vegetarians followed up with all the trimmings.

We finished the evening off with a Seasonal Pear Crumble served with a homemade Pear and Honey Sorbet with a matching dessert wine.

It’s always great catching up with everyone and preparing a filling meal to be enjoyed by all.

An american thanksgiving in london

This weekend I got to share in celebrating the American holiday, thanksgiving with some friends from the US. I hosted it at my place considering we had a little bit of a bigger kitchen.

Finding a fresh turkey at this time of year wasn’t as hard as I thought it could be with turkey being a traditional English Christmas bird. I ended up ordering a non frozen organic bird from the wonderful butchers in Marylebone, The Ginger Pig. I can’t say it was particularly cheap but it was definitely one tasty bird.


Thanksgiving ended up a whole day affair since the bird needed plenty of time to cook. This gave us plenty of time to chill out, watch some television and drink some wine. One of the traditions was for each guest to bring or prepare some dish that represents their background, so we ended up with many different dishes for the evening. Combined with a 7.5kg turkey, let’s just say that there was plenty of leftovers at the end of the night.

Now my only challenge has been to work out what other things I can cook with turkey as a meat.

The Modern Pantry

I’m glad more and more decent cafes are opening up around Clerkenwell, especially since it’s very convenient for me. I’m therefore very glad that The Modern Pantry opens its cafe for breakfast Saturday and Sunday offering a decent selection from basics such as toast and porridge, to the more exotic sugar cured prawn omelette or feta and onion waffle.

Modern Pantry menu

Our group decided to try the ricotta pancakes, grape and stone fruit compote, creme fraiche and one of the classic fry up (with poached eggs instead).


The dining room is bright, helped by the large windows that surround two of the large walls. They also have a small bar area that people ended up standing in to avoid the squall-like downpours whilst they waited to be seated. It seemed to get quite busy the closer it seemed to lunchtime.

Fry Up

The coffee is reasonable, and with ex-Providores experience, a flat white order was taken without question. When it arrived, it was certainly a decent brew, although looked a bit lacklustre when it arrived. The breakfast menu is reasonably priced, and with high quality tasting ingredients I really couldn’t complain. The fry up came with perfectly poached eggs (the white just cooked with the yolk still runny) and flavourful tomatoes, mushrooms and salty streaky bacon crisp and not burnt. The pancakes on the other hand slightly disappointed. They were fluffy and light, yet the stone fruit compote towered over the small golden discs, and upset the delicate balance that should have been presented.

With a decent breakfast offering, I’d be interested to see what a proper lunch and dinner menu would look like in the upstairs dining rooms. It’s a welcome addition to the area, and a great place to meet up with friends. Rating: 6.5 out of 10

The Clerkenwell Dining Room & Bar

I booked three of us in for dinner yesterday as I’ve walked past this place dozens of time. I’ve always thought it a little too fancy, most of the time seeing people in suits, or couples for some sort of romantic dinner. Inside it’s both intimate and roomy at the same time with most of the tables spread out against each wall, leaving plenty of personal space without the feeling that you’re dining by yourself.

Amuse Bouche

The menu, put together by head Chef, Andrew Thompson is a combination of classic European dishes, nothing especially fancy, yet all very appealing such as seared salmon, rump of lamb and a crisp confit pork belly. Throughout the night, the kitchen impressed us with all the little food touches they brought throughout the evening, starting with a amuse bouche, a bread basket (white and olive bread), and a handful of bite-sized chocolate, caramel and chocolate chip assorted plate with the bill. The waiters presented the amuse bouche, describing that it was a gift from the chef, yet didn’t explain what it was exactly. Whatever it was supposed to be (to me it tasted like a small amount of pumpkin soup, drizzled with coriander oil and served in a shot glass), it was thick, creamy and definitely tasty.

Roast monk fish

The rest of the food, for some reason I found was reasonable and filling, yet not quite spectacular. All indicators pointed in the right direction – the monkfish I ordered perfectly cooked, the pork belly someone else ordered melt in the mouth, yet all dishes seemed overseasoned and though pleasing, missing that special thing to delight. Admittedly each dish was beautifully presented and we still enjoyed each dish.

Pork Belly

Thankfully, service for most of the night really impressed us with our tap water constantly topped up, and enough time given for us to peruse the menu without waiting too long. I think it did break down was the rest of the restaurant filled, as after we had finished our desserts, we ended up waiting another ten minutes for the pot of mint tea we had ordered (with the desserts) finally arrived, and another significant amount of time to get the bill. Admittedly our waiter was extremely friendly, smiling all the time and quite helpful at explaining the menu.

Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Though I won’t be running back to the Clerkenwell Dining Room anytime soon, we had an enjoyable evening in a relaxing atmosphere, and indulged in quite a lot of food. I’d recommend this place for groups of up to four, and definitely more suited for doing business or the romantic dinner.

Tonight’s Dinner

One of the benefits of living near Smithfields is access to a wonderful range of butchers offering fantastic cuts of meats at very affordable prices. If you get up early enough, you can find any sort of cut of most types, as well as plenty of other products made from them including black puddings and various smoked meats.

Tonight I got to finally try some sticky maple ribs that looked fantastic. Here it is served with honey spiced squash, mashed potatoes and romaine heart leaves.

Sticky Maple Ribs