20/06/2013

The Turkish Deli

I have a romantic ideal of living in a country that treats going food shopping every day, for what’s good, as the normal thing to do. I know that this country isn’t really geared to that, and it’s just not practical here, because we are not geared up for it, and then there’s the rush to get to work or get the kids sorted out before everyone has to hurtle off to somewhere else, but I can dream.

I found myself at London Bridge this morning and, realising that a fair few of the stalls open at 8am, I went for a wander to Borough Market.

I love Borough in the early morning.

Borough

Actual people are buying things, not just tourists who gawk and stare but never buy. Office workers picking up their breakfast, having a quick chat in the patchy sunshine before they have to dash off, parents who have dropped the kids off, and are collecting a few bits for dinner in that peaceful hour prior to the crowds descending...

Then there are people like me. Just wandering about, soaking up the atmosphere, looking at the cathedral, imagining perhaps that we are walking foreign streets, hearing Italian or French spoken, instead of British.

Southwark cathedral

Tricking ourselves that it’s warmer and sunnier than it really is when we smell the olives, and the freshly baked bread, or see the amazing fruit and vegetables dotted all over. Walking past the displays of tomatoes without buying any is a very hard task for me.

It’s in the early morning that you get the chance to talk to the stallholders, and learn more about what they do, where their produce comes from. One week I learned about elderflower champagne, today I learned about salt curing my own olives. To me, that’s a bargain all on its own. I love that people take the time to talk, to explain their own products and to even swap recipes and ideas.

I’d originally started swapping Tweets with the nice people at The Turkish Deli quite a while back, but they disappeared offline for a bit. They were victims of that pernicious ‘click this link’ scam that makes your Twitter account DM everyone, so they changed all their passwords, and went inactive on Twitter. It seems to have worked, and now they are back again.

Jay Rayner asked Twitter for the best place to get Turkish Delight in London, so I recommended Turkish Deli, and then decided to go and get some for myself as well. I know that what they do is excellent, and authentic, and I just needed some. You know how it is.

http://www.theturkishdeli.com/about_us.html

So that’s why, at just gone 8am this morning, I was heading hopefully towards their stall. The smell of olives as you approach is just lovely. Well, it’s lovely to me, probably not so good if you don’t like olives, but thankfully I do not suffer from that particular affliction. Olives, cheese, good bread. That is what makes a proper breakfast for me. Sadly colleagues at work don’t quite agree, but there we go. Philistines.

The counter

I tried some green olives this morning, but then I tasted the salt cured black olives. They are fairly small, and because of the salt cure drawing out all the juices, their flavour is intense and the texture quite fudgy. They are brilliant for olive bread, which I suspect these will go into.

Next up was the Delight.

Turkish Delight

Date and Cinnamon caught my eye, so I bagged some of those for my husband. Then the very nice man, Graham, showed me the Turkish Coffee flavour. Sound unusual? Well, it is.

Turkish Coffee delight

The first taste is of the sugar, of course, but then as you chew, the coffee flavour come through. Turkish Coffee has a fairly mellow, almost woodsy – to me – flavour, and this was absolutely present. Then there was a slight hint of a grainy texture, because of the coffee grounds I assume, but that melted away very quickly. Your head is telling you that you taste a sweet Turkish coffee, but your mouth is saying “Sweeties!” All in all, I really liked it, and I do not like drinking Turkish coffee. Go figure.

Next I spied jars of white kourabiedes, snuggled in their snowy drifts of icing sugar. These are an almond cookie, similar to shortbread in style, very popular at Christmas and at weddings.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kourabiedes_platter_2008_01_08.jpg

There were two options, one stuffed with Turkish Delight, and one with Walnuts. Walnuts won. My cookie will be eaten at home, over a plate, with my always-black-clothed self covered in a towel.

Kourabiye

Jars of homemade tahini (which I’m getting next time) grape molasses, and rose petal jam sat next to stacks of olive oil soap and many more goodies. The baklava is at the front counter, and I believe some pistachio baklava was about to be made. I’m not sure how I tore myself away, to be honest.

Jars

baklava

So. If you are in Borough Market, go and find them and have a cup of coffee while you browse the stall. You will not be disappointed, I promise you.

Now, excuse me while I go and find me a towel, and a plate, and a cup of coffee...

17/06/2013

Total Greek Yoghurt’s 30th Birthday Bash

 

Please note: the photos on this post are not by me, (except the Tzatziki) they were provided very kindly by Total Greek and their fabulous photographer, Rick of http://www.satureyes.com/.

There are things you don’t often get to see on a weeknight. One of those things is chef Eric Lanlard scrubbing down tables, and lugging them outside to a van still dressed in his chef whites, and the other is two utterly beautiful Cypriot women, Greek dancing in a venue decorated with olive trees in enormous yoghurt pots.

I got to see both of those, and feel quite privileged, I can tell you.

Tuesday 13th saw Icetank in Grape Street turned first into a French patisserie, and second into a Greek kitchen, for the occasion of Total’s 30th birthday.

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I had to miss the first session with Eric, as I was needed at work, but come 6.30pm, I was there, got a drink and settled in to wait as the Total Greek team bustled about like mad, moving things, serving people drinks, making sure everybody was looked after and generally being fabulous. It was a bit late starting, but as me and others all said “How very Greek.” Everyone was happily milling about and catching up with people they knew, so all was fine. Champagne is also a great social mixer.

By all accounts, the cake making session had been a great success, and everyone was very happy with what they produced, as well they should be!

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I was happy to see Solange, from Pebble Soup, as it meant I then knew someone, plus I hadn’t seen her since we visited Kelly Bronze Turkeys. We mingled a bit, and watched the event start to take shape. We also admired – and possibly coveted - the beautiful cake that was the centrepiece on the table. My goodness.

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Next I spotted Dee Thresher and that there Dr Hilary Jones off the telly. We had originally met at another Total Greek event, a breakfast in January of 2012 at The Goring hotel by Victoria station, and I found them both to be utterly delightful, down to earth people. Dee is another Cypriot. I think we just find each other. Look how cute they are!

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Now. Back to the event in hand. I had come to see another of my cooking idols, Tonia Buxton. I’m sorry Eric, you’re lovely, but Tonia…well, you know how it is.

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I first saw Tonia on television, quite a few years ago now, when she presented some cookery items on Market Kitchen. The utter fools didn’t have her back very often, but oh they should have. She is a force of nature. I remember finding her website, and emailing her way back then in 2009:

Thank you for being an inspiration. You bring those Cypriot recipes to life - and prove that Greek cooking is not all kebabs.

You have shown me foods from my childhood, and it is wonderful.

Good luck with whatever you do in the future - I am sure it will be a success. Always good to see a beautiful Cypriot lady on the television!

And she answered. Well that did it. I was sold.

Tonia also did Beauty and the Feast, in which she made healthy food tasty and interesting. Which is as it should be. Sorry Rosemary Conley, but...just...NO. White sauces made from cornflour and water? No, no, no.

A former Miss Universe competitor (I think, but I am sure she will correct me, because I may be misremembering!) and, as her site says “Presenter, Historian, Writer, Gourmet Cook and Beauty Expert which she balances with being a wife and mum to four children!”

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She’s also an all round good avgo. Look that one up in your Greek dictionary.

I love her programmes, because they make me feel at home. To hear the familiar words, see dishes cooked on television that I had last seen made in my own house, and in various family members’ houses, is very comforting.

My father was born in Cyprus, way back in the mists of time, so I grew up with his Cypriot accent, not mainland Greek. There is a difference. Even now, if I hear a Cypriot man speak, it makes me smile. You can tell that accent a mile off. I love it.

We do have different names for things, and our cooking is different too.

One of our island specialities is the Easter pastry, flaounes. Tonia features that in her show My Cypriot Kitchen, and I have adapted the traditional recipe to make my (quicker and easier on the back) Halloumi Pie. Fresh mint, dried mint, sultanas, halloumi, spices. Fabulous stuff, quite Middle Eastern in flavour. When I’ve mentioned flaounes to mainland Greeks in the past, they’ve never heard of them.

But, as ever, I’m rambling. I could go on about food for some time, and often do. I probably bore people with it, to be honest. Oops.

Anyway.

We all gathered around to watch the brand new Total Greek advert, which is incredibly well put-together. I admit I found it amusing because it’s just the sort of thing my dad would have done as a boy. He was always scandalising someone.

http://youtu.be/6cBqKQPisQQ

Once we’d watched that, and I had stopped coveting all the fabulous little Greek touches that adorned the space,

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Tonia started off her demonstration by making some savoury fig and feta tarts.

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Press puff pastry into mini muffin tins, and load with spiced figs and onions, top with yoghurt, feta and thyme, and bake. They are truly a revelation, and incredibly easy to over-indulge on as well. Eric Lanlard says we can use bought puff, if it’s made with real butter, so that’s what I’ll do. They are a delicious treat, and the salty cheese works incredibly well with the honey-sweet figs. Warning; the fig filling gets incredibly hot, and stays hotter longer than you think, so be careful of the old tongue there.

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When they brought the trays round after the demo, Dr Hilary and I became rather taken by these, and discovered that it’s very difficult to chat when you have a mouthful of searingly hot fig and crumbly pastry, but oh my…they were SO good. Dee stuck to champagne. Smile

Onto the next recipe – and here arose something that does seem to be a problem at foodie events. Talking.

We had in front of us a person who had travelled to do a demonstration specifically for us. I can’t comment on how Eric’s session went, as I wasn’t there, but I do consider it quite rude if the person doing the demo has to shout – and in this case actually sing a bit of opera – to make their voice heard above the babble. I know we’ve all got things to talk about to fellow bloggers we haven’t seen for a while, but at least have the decency to shush until the demonstration part is over.

You can talk all you want then. Comments, quick exchanges, yes, even quiet conversations about your own stuff are fine, but if they are loud enough to drown out the chef, then they are not fair on those who might be novices to cooking, or those who really want to listen. It’s also not fair on the chef/cook who has to shout to be heard. It just seems more than a bit disrespectful.

Pfft part over.

The next dish was chicken with pomegranate molasses on mini skewers, served on a bed of yoghurt. I couldn’t hear what else was in there, but I will find it in the book, because my goodness it was delicious. Tangy and yet mellow at the same time. Lovely, and very moreish.

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Next up was Rose Petal and Yoghurt Ice-cream. Oh my god. It was a cloud of Turkish Delight-flavoured smoothness. So easy on the palate, and very easy on the eye. It came served up in mini ice-cream cones, which just made it both adorable, and effortlessly easy to over-indulge in. The room filled up with the sound of crunching as everyone reached the cones.

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Once the socialising proper started, the music was provided by a rather lovely duo.

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This led to Dee and Tonia doing some Greek dancing, which was something to fill me with delight. I mean, look at the two of them!

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I could have stayed all night swapping “Do you remember when…” style stories, but I had to leave after that, as I had a train to catch, but it really was a fabulous evening, and I enjoyed myself tremendously. Not to mention that I got a goodie bag of pots of yoghurt, mint, garlic and cucumber. I used that to make Tzatziki, and we loved it. (Husband is actually finishing it off now with tortilla chips, literally as I type.)

Tzatziki

Thank you to all at Total, Eric, Tonia and all the others who made it just a brilliant evening.

Χρόνια Πολλά Total!

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Σας ευχαριστώ πολύ! 

Tzatziki

This is the ‘classic’ recipe, as given to me by Total Greek Yoghurt.

170g Total (I used 0% as that’s what I had but usually I’d use full fat)

1/2 cucumber, grated

1 fat clove garlic, crushed

3 springs mint, finely chopped (I used a mix of English and Moroccan mint leaves)

sea salt to taste

olive oil to garnish

Grate the cucumber onto a towel or kitchen paper, and then squeeze out all the juice.

Put the cucumber into a bowl, add the crushed garlic, mint and yoghurt and mix well.

Season to taste.

Changes: I used 200g yoghurt, and I also added 1/2 tsp dried mint because I lie the flavour. I usually add a squeeze of lemon as well, just to give it a bit more sharpness.

Tzatziki i

Tzatziki ii

Tzatziki

16/06/2013

Pork Not-Souvlaki

You know when you have one of those ideas that seems great at the time, and then when it comes down to it, you can’t be bothered? Yes, today was one of those days. I was going to make this;

http://greekfood.about.com/od/barbecuedgreekfoods/r/Souvlaki-Recipe-Recipe-For-Grilled-Pork-Souvlaki.htm

but then the thought of cubing the meat, putting it on skewers, firing up the barbecue etc., just put me off. I still had 4lb of pork shoulder to use up though, so I had to do something! (Half price in the Co-op, not going to pass that up!)

So I figured why not just use the marinade and then roast the meat? So that’s what I did.

4lb pork shoulder, cut into big chunks, fat and skin left on

1 cup red wine

1 cup olive oil

6 cloves smoked garlic

2 tsp sea salt

2 tbs dried mint

1 tbs dried oregano

1/2 tbs cinnamon

Pound the garlic with the sea salt to a smooth paste, and mix with the wine, oil and herbs.

Garlic and salt

Pop the meat in a bowl, and add the marinade.

Marinade 

Turn the meat in the marinade until well coated, then push down into the marinade mixture and leave for half an hour, then turn over and leave to soak again. You can leave this for an hour, 2 hours or even overnight.

Pork in marinade

When your choice of marinade time is done, place the meat into a roasting tray, pour over some of the marinade.

Meat in the roasting tin

I roasted it at around 170C (fan) for 20 minutes per pound. Most advice said 20-30 minutes per pound but I usually go for the lower number, because I can always put it back in the oven, but you can’t uncook an overdone roast. I basted it halfway through, and remembered to set a timer for it!

It turned out juicy and tender, using the 20 minute per pound measurement, with a good herby crust to it.

Served with lots of salad and freshly made tzatziki, it was a good, hearty dinner.

Tzatziki

Plated

Plate closeup

As usual, of course, I have way too much left over, so I guess that’s lunch for the week!

10/06/2013

Hush Brasserie–St Paul’s.

Last year, when I was working in Holborn, I went to the Hush Brasserie there,  and enjoyed it very much. Very nice food, decent pricing, efficient and smiling staff plus a nice, relaxed atmosphere. I was hoping, when I saw that a new branch was opening in St Paul’s, for the same and I was not at all disappointed.

Maybe it helped that it was a gloriously sunny evening, which reinforced the air of “a la Parisienne” about the restaurant.

The view outside

The decorative racks holding bread and croissants, and the marble topped tables, certainly helped with that.

Loaf in the window

View from my table

The very professional staff attitudes proved what can be done with good service. Even though this was their opening week, everything just worked.

The staff members are attentive without being cloying, which can be the case at many other restaurants. My particular waitress, Marta, was very knowledgeable about the menu, and not afraid to state which dessert, or drink that she liked, but she didn’t push her choices onto anyone.

It took me a while to choose what I wanted to eat, as there were many things on the menu that I wanted to try.

Le Menu

A starter of Yorkshire Pudding with pulled pork, apples and Calvados did catch my eye, as did grilled tiger prawns with chilli and garlic, but in the end, it was the Lemon Sole Fish Fingers that won that round.

My Rose Vanilla Iced tea arrived. I had been merrily Tweeting back and forth with their PR person, Lizzy, and discussing which iced tea we preferred, and we both like the Rose. One of my friends suggested it would be very nice with a slug of gin in it. I hate gin, so I will have to take their word for it.

Iced tea close up

I had a good slurp of the very refreshing tea, and then my starter arrived.

Lemon Sole Fish Fingers

Beautifully crisp, not over-seasoned, with proper, home made tartare sauce and enough salad garnish to complement it, but not get in the way. It was also a decently sized serving of food, but small enough that it wasn’t intimidating, and didn’t make me worried that I would be too full for my main course. I already knew that I would be too full for dessert, because I always am.

Sole close up

Steak was the only way to go for my main. Ribeye was offered, and ribeye was what I wanted. I asked for it to be cooked medium rare, and it was, perfectly so. The meat had a good, deep flavour, though it was a little tough for ribeye. In a way, I think I actually preferred that to something that didn’t put up a bit of a fight. That’s what we have teeth for, yes? You know exactly what you are eating. The little serving of Lamb’s Lettuce with it was lightly but expertly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette, nicely cutting the richness of the steak.

Perfectly medium rare

Now I know people say “Oh but chips are the easiest thing to do! You can’t judge a restaurant on those.” but they are so very often NOT done properly. Nando’s I am looking right at you here. Soggy, that’s what yours are.

Hush serves frites. Golden sticks of nicely salted, potato goodness, the like of which you only seem to get in French restaurants. No, Belgo, you didn’t do them right either. Yours were soggy and tasted like cardboard. Côte Brasserie, across the road from Hush? Yes, you do them right every time.

Okay, so they came served in the ubiquitous small metal bucket, but it keeps them hot, and they stayed crunchy. They were reminiscent of frites eaten by the side of the road in the French Alps.

Steak and fritesi

I do wish other restaurants would realise that a properly cooked chip is an absolute pleasure, and not just a cheap item to bulk out meals. I’m still looking at you, Belgo.

Condiments were offered, but not needed. The food didn’t need anything else added to it.

The couple at the table next to me were going the whole hog. Starters, wine, spritzers, mains and three desserts! They came in after me, and left before I did. I think they were very hungry. I also know they enjoyed their food, because they kept saying so. They were also very pleased to find out that they could have their burgers cooked to medium.

The thought of a Hush burger topped with pulled pork really did appeal to me, especially when I saw what theirs looked like when it turned up, but my ribeye won out in the end. It was my treat to me after a bit of a week (and yes, it was only Tuesday) and steak always feels like a treat. Maybe next time...

The dessert menu was waved away, albeit wistfully, but I definitely wanted a coffee. Again, perfect.

Perfect Latte

This is a restaurant where, as a woman dining on her own, I felt totally at ease. I would have no problem sitting there reading the papers in the morning, or dining along there at night. They have achieved just the right balance between attentiveness and leaving you to your own thoughts.

When the bill came, there was another pleasant surprise. 50% off because it was their opening week. I must have registered surprise, because the charming General Manager, Werner, came over to see if everything was okay. He told me the story of how the restaurant came about (originally started by Geoffrey Moore, Roger Moore’s son, in Mayfair. Then Jamie Barber, previously an entertainment lawyer, came on board and developed it further.)

Whilst we were talking, Jamie Barber himself also came over to say hello. I’ve been following him on Twitter since I first ate at Hush, so it was very nice to meet him in person! He asked Marta, my lovely waitress, to take a photo of us together. I look fat and happy, and Jamie looks very tanned and happy.

Jamie Barber with additional Witch

I wish them every success with this new venture, because it really is a very nice place to eat and relax. The free WiFi is also very helpful indeed, especially if you happen to be showing Facebook and Twitter what you are having for dinner.

10/10, Hush. I’ll definitely be back.

1 Ludgate Hill
London
EC4M 7AA

020 7236 1544

stpauls@hushbrasseries.com