Duck Leg Confit

Last time I roasted a duck, I separated the legs and practically just cooked the crown.  This has always been a dilemma, as the leg always comes out tough when the breast is perfectly cooked. Roast for longer, and the breast meat is dry as.  Confit-ing seems to be the perfect solution.  Besides, anything cooked in (duck) fat sounds delicious to me. 

So, I salted 2 legs of duck, plus the giblets, and kept them in the fridge overnight.

The following day, l confit-ed the legs and the giblets using the fat rendered from the crown, a bit of stock, 3 bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, 5 cloves of garlic and a few whole peppercorns. The cooking liquid should be Kept at just below boiling point, at the lowest setting on the hob. I left it there for around two hours while we had the last beer of the new year. This resulted to really tender, fall-off-the-bone meat. Lovely.
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Duck leg is such a delicious meat. So simple and easy to prepare. It takes awhile to cook but the result is just mouth-watering. You can buy duck fat in supermarkets now. The other ingredients easy to find, practically staple. Do your laundry, ironing, or blogging while this is gently simmering in the background. Hardly any effort and you will be greatly rewarded. I’ll have mine wrapped in Paleo Pancakes tomorrow morning for breakfast. How are you go in to serve yours?

Green Tea Cakes

Clearing up the mess inside my bag, I spotted a tear-out from the Metro (free daily newspaper). It was a simple recipe I quite fancied trying which just slipped out of my mind. Green Tea Cakes.

This occured months ago, prior to me adopting the paleo lifestyle.  I have a treat very occasionally so I reckoned this will be it. I used:

125g salted butter
3 tbsps honey
3 egg whites
2 tbsps caster sugar
150g ground almonds
green tea powder  (3 bags of Clipper, see note)
40g rice flour
sesame seeds

Make a beurre noisette – butter in pan, on heat, until the butter solids just turn ever so slightly golden. Take off the heat right away to cool.  The solids will continue to brown with the residual heat. Add the honey to loosen it up a bit. Stir and taste: just like salted caramel HEAVEN!!! Set aside.

Hand-whip the egg whites then gradually add the sugar when a decent foam has formed. Maybe until just before soft peak. Fold in the ground almonds, tea and the beurre noisette. Then mix in the flour.  Rest in the fridge for a bit while you pre-heat the oven to 160C.  Spoon into moulded trays and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool and eat. Enjoy. 😀

NB1. The original recipe calls for matcha tea powder. It actually makes the cakes look very green. In this case it’s just a super-pale green.

NB2. I partially substituted the sugar with honey.  Actually if I used honey altogether, it wouldn’t have had made a difference. Mix all the honey in the butter and not put any sugar in your whisked egg whites. More paleo-friendly. Also, the original recipe called for plain flour.  I used rice flour for a gluten-free treat.

NB3. A mixture of black and white sesame seeds will make the cakes prettier.  😀

 

The Cameron Grill

We have been visiting Scotland annually to take a break from the hectic London lifestyle. Cameron House is located along the tranquil shores of Loch Lomond and provides much needed tranquility in its surroundings.  The lush greenery offers a stark contrast to cramped city living. This is the place for definitive mooching, if you insist not to do anything at all.  😉

But of course, wherever we are, food still sits high up the list.  A daily visit to the gym ensures that the extra calories we consume are spent (more or less, less).  Within the castle are a couple of restaurants and a really atmospheric bar.  We have spent many a night drinking until last orders in the The Great Scots Bar.  But that is for another time…

Our second visit to the Cameron Grill was greeted by the usual cheerful Scottish hospitality.  Nothing much has changed except for the addition of the salmon bar, where you can choose from a selection of smoked salmon for your starters or mains.  They have also opened up what looked like a VIP room. Unfortunately, we weren’t to be seated there. Dayum. Haha

To start with, we had smoked duck, ham and eggs and tomato broth.  The duck was so-so, five very thinly-sliced pieces didn’t really deserve their £12 price tag. The vegetarian option was the spring vegetable and tomato broth which our friend didn’t particularly rave about. The ham and eggs though, brilliant. Little discs of sweet/salty ham and a Scotch egg with runny yolk and tomato jam. Nom nom.

We are in Scotland, so the mains have to involve something of bovine origin. A rib-eye steak, a sirloin steak and a chateaubriand for two. These were served with simply roasted rosemary tomatoes, onion rings and chips.  The steaks were thoroughly enjoyed by our friends.  The chateaubriand, which is thick-cut beef tenderloin, was beautiful. Really, it was. Cooked medium-rare, this was better than anything we’ve had inLondon, even in the famed steak houses. ‘Nuff said.

For the third course, we opted for the salted caramel mousse and textures of chocolate.  We were stuffed after the mains so we shared these treasures. The former was a pyramid-shaped mouse on top of a sponge covered in salted caramel, served with chocolate ice cream and elderflower jelly. Nice enough dessert but could have done with more salted caramel. More salted caramel. (Did I say more salted caramel?)  The other dessert was chocolate in four forms: sponge, mousse, delice and ice cream. A truly nice way to end the meal. 😀

While all the food weren’t earth-shattering, the total experience had been and (hopefully) will always be great.  Friendly staff members and impeccable service. And the best part is, the Cameron Grill delivered what was expected: excellent quality beef.

The Cameron Grill / Cameron House /Loch Lomond/ Dunbartonshire / G83 8QZ

Pollen Street Social

Pollen Street Social is the new home of Jason Atherton, the celebrated former head chef of Maze. The venue aims to cater for those looking for a three-course meal or a drink and light nibbles in the bar area [or three-course lunch followed by a drinks in the bar in our case]. The décor is relatively neutral and simple yet effective, with wooden floors, white walls adorned with a variety of modern artwork and dark brown leather furniture. The use lighting really adds to the overall modern feel with multiple large glass light fittings and a collection of these at varying heights over the bar area.

We were a party of four friends booked in for a good catch-up over a 1pm Saturday lunch time table. We were seated at the far end of the dining room by the window. Aperitifs were promptly ordered as we perusde the menu. Bread arrived shortly afterwards along with an amuse bouche of salted cod and olives. Good start.

There was a choice of either a set menu or a la carte; I think we all got seduced by the a la carte menu in the end although the set menu also featured some great dishes. Food decisions finally made and ordered and with guidance from a very helpful Sommelier on wine choices, we were all set to lunch!

STARTERS

Amongst others, our starters consisted of the All Day Breakfast and deer tartare.  G: The All Day Breakfast certainly didn’t disappoint. A perfectly runny poached egg sat on a deep tomato ragu served with sautéed mushrooms, bacon strips and croutons. This dish was a much a feast for the eyes as it was for the taste buds, excellently executed, and it really raised the bar for the courses to follow.

B: The fallow deer was served with slivers of toasted bread, pickled beetroot, salted sesame and pumpkin seeds and a broken egg sauce. As a fan of rare meat, all I can say is I enjoyed it very much. The pickle replaced the typical caper accompaniment and presented a good contrast to the richness of the egg sauce and the meat.

MAINS

G: My main course consisted of lamb with creamed spiced aubergine, Jerusalem artichoke and a black olive reduction. The lamb was perfectly cooked, tender and pink. My plate was squeaky clean at the end of it. ‘Nuff said. (Of course, bone on the side LOL).

B:  I had slight food envy looking at the pretty lamb served right across me! Thankfully, the jealous feelings were quelled when the duck was laid in front of me. Certainly not an ugly duckling. 😀 Served with Jerusalem artichoke and braised duck leg, the pink meat (and skin) was rich, and the clementine and mandarin conserve served its purpose well.

DESSERTS

Before our official desserts arrived we were brought a lovely refreshing pre-dessert in the form of lychee granita, topped with lime foam, passionfruit coulis (or something) and lime zest. G: It was so good I ate mine and another of my friend’s.

G: Of party of four, two of us opted for the same dessert, the apple caramel puff. It was a close call between this and the tiramisu, but after consultation with our very helpful waiter the apple caramel puff won by a whisker. The dish comprised of a chunk of caramelised apple with some strategically and artfully arranged puff pastry sticks. This was topped off with a calvados cream. The apple was full for flavour with just the right mix of texture so was soft but still with some bite to it. The calvados cream added a subtle hint of alcohol which wasn’t too over-powering and really complemented the sweetness of the caramel apple. The puff pastry also added some texture. As a bit of a dessert addict this isn’t the type of dish I would ordinarily order but I was very pleasantly surprised.

B: The other two guys opted for a selection of cheese from the cheeseboard, all introduced and well explained beforehand and served with a selection of biscuits, chunky piccalilli and a tomato chutney. I cannot remember all the names of the cheeses as we had 10 different types. Finished all of them and the Cashel Blue was a stand out. I admit though, I am partial to blues 😀

Just when we didn’t think we could eat any more along came a little wooden chest with our coffees which contained mini macarons, chocolate-covered coffee beans, mini cakes and chocolate praline bites, all of which were an absolute delight. In fact, we actually requested additional macarons which they gladly provided with no fuss or additional charge. Brownie points (ding ding!!).

 

Overall Pollen Street Social is certainly up there as one of the best dining experiences we have had in London. Not only was the quality of the food exceptional, the service was also friendly and professional, we actually grew quite fond of our waiter towards the end of our epic 4-hour lunch.  He answered our many menu queries, demonstrating a real knowledge of the food, being served. Even when they needed our table back to prepare for the dinner service, they helpfully re-located us to the bar. The bill came to £400+ which is excellent value for four of us having a three-course lunch, bubbles and drinks, two bottles of wine and coffees.

We would certainly recommend Pollen   Street Social to anyone looking to indulge themselves in a quality and memorable dining experience.

POLLEN STREET SOCIAL / 8 Pollen Street  / London / W1S 1NQ 

Del’Aziz (Clapham)

With its colourful and abundant displays, one can’t help but take a second glance at the merchandise of Del’Aziz. I noticed this new eatery / deli one Saturday on the way to the gym in Clapham.  The mound of giant meringues particularly. Actually, I went in once before to check out what’s being sold one morning – oversized flapjacks, glazed fruity cakes – hmmmmm, not very good after work-out replenishment.  And price-y too.

Well, just this past Thursday, we had the chance to check out what Del’Aziz is all about over a catch up with friends over dinner.  Front of house was friendly and efficient. Ambience, quality.  Then, it’s downhill from there.

I’m relatively easy to please and I am not normally critical, but the waiters don’t seem to know about the food on the menu. One of our friends asked the difference between sirloin and rib-eye, and the waiter did not have a clue. Considering these were the only choices for the steak, it shouldn’t have been that difficult.

Anyway, onto the food.  We had mezze platters to share – humous, tzatziki, tabouleh, meatballs and sausages. There were 3 choices of bread, we treated ourselves to one each 😉  Starters weren’t too bad, I must say.

I had rib-eye (medium rare) for my main. This was served on a wooden board with skin-on chunky chips, one whole roasted tomato and watercress. That was it. No sauce or anything. I initially thought this must be really good for them to serve it out without any embellishment.  Then I had my first bite. Hmmmm. Pretty underwhelming. Literally unseasoned. It was flavour-less, it could have been soaked in water overnight. Seriously, Sainsbury’s steak would win hands down.  I only finished it coz I was marvin’. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

The other three guys had desserts afterwards. The portions are humongous. Sickly gargantuan. I had a bit of the banana (& apple?) cake but I could only have 2 mouthfuls of that. The massive portions are really unnecessary.

Overall the food was distinctly average with the main draw card being the desserts; however, the massive portions are just too much!  We appreciate the Del’Aziz only opened within the past few months and of course teething problems are to be expected but the waiting staff really should be better briefed on the menu.

With a bottle of wine, a couple glasses of prosecco and coke, the bill came in at around £45 each.  We left feeling this really wasn’t good value.  Not sure if I would go back again for dinner but it may be worth a trip for those with a serious sweet tooth and a serious appetite to match!

Del’Aziz / 55-57, The Pavement / Clapham Old Town / London / SW4 0JQ

Del'Aziz - Clapham on Urbanspoon

Upstairs

If you live in the Brixton / Clapham area, appreciate good food and haven’t been to Upstairs, you are definitely missing out. In fact, regardless of where you live in London, dinner at Upstairs is well worth the trip.
 
This was our third time dining at this secluded little eatery: located above Opus coffee shop on Acre Lane, the entrance is discreet doorway on Branksome Road. On the first floor lies a relaxing bar area [which doubles as an additional dining room on busier nights] and a second flight of stairs takes you to the main dining room. Intimate is probably the best description of both the size and ambiance. There must be approximately 12 tables neatly packed in but not so close that you spend your evening listening to the neighbouring table’s conversation.
 
One of the many things we really like about Upstairs is the simplicity of the menu which offers a choice of only three starters, mains and desserts. Some people would regard this as limited but if anything, it makes your choices more difficult as everything sounds so damn good and you really can’t go wrong whatever you pick. Also, with this menu format, you invariably end up eating something you wouldn’t normally choose – great for expanding the culinary experience!
 
At the time of writing, Upstairs was offering a tasting menu throughout January & February which consisted of smaller portions of 2 out the 3 dishes for each course. We figured the opportunity to sample 66% of the entire menu was too good an opportunity to let pass.
 
Drinks in hand, we settled into the starters. We must add that Upstairs offer a great selection of aperitifs [£8.50 each] the Prosecco and Peach Liquor cocktail being a particular favourite. [The Frangelico drink is dangerous, it crippled me once – cost me a day! haha].

The amuse bouche was smoked mackerel, a rather pleasant surprise. The starters were parsley root soup and confit of rabbit. The soup was thick, smooth and hearty, served with shavings of truffle and walnut royale. The truffle lent it an earthy taste, and was fit for the cold winter night. The rabbit was served with pieces of heritage carrots with rhubarb. Again, excellent.


First of the main courses was salmon, served on a bed of haricot beans, foam and fennel. The fish had a very delicious crust on it. The fennel provided a sweet-ish aniseed-y undertone to contrast with the well seasoned and robust salmon.  Second was the lamb, sliced and served on a bed of smoked butter mash, shredded greens, mint jelly and cubed root veggies. The lamb was perfectly cooked pink, but the stand-out was the mash, hands down. Rich, delicious and more-ish. It could have been served just on its own. 😉  [Upstairs, we want the recipe please. :D]


 
Desserts were poached pear and chocolate mudslide.  The pear was poached in star anise and topped with amaretto granita. The white wine jelly and the olive oil biscuit added depth to the dessert when gently wolfed down together.  The chocolate mudslide was a revelation. It was light, paired with vanilla ice cream, marshmallow, crumble and pumpkin seeds. The salted caramel sauce is a treat on its own. (I wish there were more of it though, but that’s just me. – Baz). A great way to end the meal, indeed.
 
 

All in all, a trip to Upstairs never disappoints. The food is consistently great, the restaurant itself has a real charming quality about it, and husband & wife team Philippe and Stephanie are friendly and attentive as front of house. 

As one actor / politician said: I’ll be back.  (clue: he’s the Terminator)

Upstairs / 89B Acre Lane / Brixton / SW2 5TN
 2 courses: £27.00
3 courses: £33.00
4 courses [incl cheese] £38.00

Upstairs Bar on Urbanspoon

Vanilla / Coconut Macaron

This love affair started when I saw Lorraine Pascale make French macarons.  I have tried several shop-bought ones and yes, they are good. Stand-outs so far are ones from Yauatcha and Laudree.  The lemon ones are a favourite of @holland_greg. I personally prefer the coconut and vanilla varieties. Demolish a dozen?? Easy.

So, I tried my hand in making these little pieces of heaven. I have actually done this before, although I didn’t get to document that one. Of course, there were duds along the way, can we just pretend they didn’t happen? LOL.

I used:

3 large egg whites
25g caster/granulated sugar
about 1 tbsp vanilla extract (one with seeds in it)

225g icing/powdered sugar
100 g ground almonds
25g desiccated coconut

Sift the last 3 ingredients together and set aside.

Thanks to the handy whisk owned by @GillyJA, making the meringue is a not forearm-breaking anymore. Worked the egg whites (best at room temperature) to a soft peak and slowly added around 25 grams of caster sugar until it forms stiff glossy peaks.

Then, very gently fold in the dry ingredients (sugar/almonds) into the meringue, maybe 2 big tablespoons at a time. The key is to gently fold; otherwise, the meringue will lose a lot of air. Ms. Pascale recommended around up to 50 folds. Add the vanilla extract halfway through the folding.

Pipe batter into little circles and let stand for a while.  I find that the longer you let it stand, the better the results, roughly 20 to 30 minutes, or until a ‘skin’ forms on top of the batter.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 115C and bake for about 15-18 minutes.  A lot of recipes call for around 140C to 160C and 9 to 11 minutes cooking time. I find the lower temperature is appropriate as I use a fan oven and the longer time allows for the shells to cook without burning.

Now, while this is all happening, blitz about half a bottle of coconut sport jam (available in Chinese / Asian shops) and some desiccated coconut. Add more dried coconut if the mixture is a bit runny until you get a thicker-than-jam consistency.

Fill the shells with the jam mixture and you’re done. Ta-dah!Image

BOQUERIA Tapas

(Reviewed by Bazzimus and Greg. Follow us on twitter @barriowalterio and @holland_greg)

This sleek, contemporary-looking newcomer on Acre Lane in Brixton couldn’t help but catch a passer-by’s eye. Having opened only a mere 8 weeks ago (their website is still under construction as time of press), we were keen to sample what Boqueria had to offer in the hope that it would go some way to fill the current void of quality tapas venues south of the river. We weren’t left disappointed.

The whole look and feel of Boqueria is completely different from your typical tapas joints: bare wooden floors, simple uncluttered table arrangements and the neutral contemporary décor was a refreshing change. Hints of fiery red adorn the walls: bare picture frames on one side and a selection of scenes ofSpainon the other. We were sat at the dining area at the back, although punters can also choose to have their grub served at the bar. Being a Saturday lunchtime, it was relatively quiet although I can imagine the bar area being a great place to sit and soak in the atmosphere on a weekend evening.

Drinks ordered, we tackled the menu which not only offered a combination of the classics but also a great selection of special dishes detailed on large chalk board at the end of the dining room. We opted for 5 tapas plus a plate of paella to share. The more traditional dishes were done well: Spanish style eggs served with chorizo and mushrooms were tastefully presented in a stack, the calamares had lovely light, crisp batter which was cooked to perfection and served with garlic mayonnaise. The aubergine cannelloni (thinly sliced aubergine wrapped around a mushroom filling and tomatoes, and topped with the goat’s cheese) offer a particularly tasty vegetarian option.

 

From the “specials board”, we chose a delicate dish of monkfish “fishballs” (albondigas) sympathetically spiced with saffron.

 

The paella negro (squid ink paella) was as good as expected, full of sea-goodness, albeit the portion was on the small side. We expected it to be served on a traditional paella pan but it came on a similar plate other tapas were served on. The clam stated on the menu didn’t make an appearance, only to be replaced by slices of shrimp. A bit of a disappointment there!  😦

 

The stand-out dish, without a shadow of a doubt, had to be the slices of pork shoulder served on a bed of sweet potato puree. This really was something else: the Iberico pork was ever so slightly pink in the middle and it simply melted in the mouth.  The light salt seasoning indeed brought the flavour out. One word: QUALITY!

  

All in all, Boqueria Tapas is a great addition to the emerging Brixton eating scene. We’re pretty sure this venue will continue to flourish with such delicious food and friendly, attentive service. Roughly spent £23 per person, not exactly cheap eats, but a moderately-priced treat we would say!! Will definitely be back very soon to sample the other special dishes on offer. 

 Boqueria Tapas / 192 Acre Lane / SW2 5UL /London

Boqueria on Urbanspoon

The Hind’s Head

Well, this is my maiden post and I think it is quite fitting to start with a ‘treat’.  😉 

Located in Bray, just over an hour’s drive from London, the Hind’s Head is Heston Blumenthal’s pub/restaurant.  It is very charming in its English-ness, with all the period features Kirtsie and Phil would kill for. The entrance is a rather low door that even a person of average height like me (aahhhhmmmm) had to duck (or grouse). Inside, exposed beams and tilting walls added to the character of the place that was apparently built in the 1500s.

But enough of that and back to the most important thing: the food.

Expectations were high, considering the significance of the HB brand.  And disappoint it did not.  The starter of thin slices of raw venison with pesto and baby leaf salad was spot-on. I also had a try of the scotch egg with the perfectly runny quail egg yolk in the middle, and the devils on horseback, prunes in armagnac wrapped in ham.

For the main course, I had (drum roll……) pork belly. Yep, predictable I know, but I have to have it everytime it is on the menu.  I can only guess, but I think it has been slow cooked for a few hours in a water bath 😉 Tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat served with pearl barley cooked in wheat beer. It looked so good I had eaten half of it before I even thought of taking a photograph of it. Oh, well.

Then came dessert, the first peach tart I have ever tasted. A wonderful crust of almond-y deliciousness surrounded the fruit dome. The rosemary caramel underneath the ice cream accompaniment nailed it.

(Also had a little bit of the chocolate fondant pudding which was faultless.)

And yes, even the cubes of clotted cream fudge that came with the coffee were heavenly. 

Although the glass of merlot I had wasn’t exactly my favourite, the pinot gris successfully turned it around. Overall, the atmosphere of the pub was warm and welcoming. The service was excellent.   And it was, surprisingly, not a wallet-shattering dining experience.

Planning on going again for some yuletide treats!!!!!!!   😀
Hinds Head on Urbanspoon