Paleo-friendly Bars

We have recently tried adopting the paleo way of eating. This is based on the understanding that human bodies have not yet evolved to break down food that have only been introduced in the last hundred thousand years. There are a lot of resources on the internet about this, and we would encourage you to look them up.  Bottom line is, remove dairy, legumes, potato, grains and all processed food in your diet. Meat, fruits, nuts, seeds and veggies you can eat in abundance.

Anyway, this paleo-friendly bar recipe is inspired by such, and could help those partial to sweets.  (Just FYI, been doing paleo for 3 weeks now, and have lost 2 kg [Baz here], feeling better, no sugar crash. Although I also fit in at least five Body Combat sessions a week. But I eat a lot. I mean, a LOT.)

Ingredients:

200g ground almonds
50g unsweetened shredded coconut
1 dozen chopped medium pitted dates
2 free range eggs
Handful of walnuts or other nuts
1 tbsp honey
Handful of linseed / sunflower / pumpkin / sesame seed mix
A bit of water maybe 2 tbsps
2 tbsps peanut butter
2 tbsps coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all the ingredients together. It should feel a bit doughy and moist. If not, add a bit more water.  If you want it sweeter, add more dates.

Pack and flatten into a baking pan. 20-25 minutes at 180C. Let cool before cutting into bars.

Image

Note 1: Try and experiment with different nuts. And maybe use pandan extract or cloves instead of vanilla.  Next time I’ll include a bit of fennel seeds for that fresh liquorice taste! 😀

Note 2: Some claim peanuts are non-paleo. Perhaps use almond butter instead if you want to be super strict.

Asian Beef / Pork Mince

Trying to stick to the Paleo diet, I needed to find more interesting recipes before the curse of food boredom ruins my determination.  I had some lemongrass leftover from the trip to the Real Food Festival, so I planned dinner around it. Picked up some shallots, lettuce and beef mince on the way home and got cooking as soon as I got in.  Already had some pork mince in the fridge so I thought I’d use that as well.

Here’s the list of ingredients:
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
3 stalks lemongrass
5 shallots
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fish sauce
as much chilli as you can handle (I used cayenne)

To start, I browned the meat and really broke it up.  Mince has a tendency to clump together if not constantly stirred and tumbled. I normally cook mince until all the water has dried up and the fat renders out. Then I leave it to fry and brown in its own fat, and soak the excess fat away with a paper towel.  [Tip the pan at an angle until the fat gathers at the bottom, then let the paper towel do its work ;)]

While the meat is undergoing the Maillard reaction, chop the lemongrass stalks, garlic and shallots finely. Pretend to cry to add a bit of drama.

Once the meat is a little brown, add all the other ingredients and take off the heat. Adjust fish sauce / chilli / lime to taste. That’s it. Really simple.  Traditionally, dry roasted brown rice is added to the dish for a bit of a crunch. I left this out as this is supposed to be a Paleo dish 😉 You can add nuts if you wish!  Serve on little lettuce leaves and enjoy until satisfied.

[‘Fessing up: I forgot to add mint, so shred it and mix in if you fancy. About a handful will be enough.]

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

Nardulli

The sun is out and the Spring weather we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. 24C. Blue skies. Cool breeze. I’m going to keep this entry short.

On a warm day like this, nothing beats the refreshing treats at Nardulli.  A stone’s throw away from Clapham Common tube station, this ice cream parlour offers a wide array of Italian gelato: flavours of deep chocolate to fruity mango to an assortment of nuts.  It also offers coffee and pastries.

 The gelato is creamy and smooth, and king of these is the pistachio.  The best I have ever tasted. Ever. Combo’d with chocolate. Heaven.

Nardulli / 29 The Pavement / Clapham Common / SW4 0JE

Samphire

Should you find yourself in Whitstable searching for some brunch we urge you to seek out Samphire because you won’t be disappointed. We ate here last weekend on a recommendation and really loved the place. The staff were friendly and relaxed as they guided us to a large table at the front of the restaurant. The whole place has a rustic, airy feel about it, very fitting to the location just a minute or two from the Whitstable seafront.

The brunch menu ticks all the boxes with the traditional fare: eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine and a full English as well as the likes of lamb’s liver on toast.

G – My eggs Benedict was probably amongst the best I’ve tasted. The muffin was lightly toasted, the ham was “proper ham” thick cut and bursting with flavour – a refreshing change from the usual wafer thin reformed ham you sometimes have to tolerate. The eggs where perfectly poached with thick runny yolks and the hollandaise sauce not too rich and over-powering but packed enough flavour to bring the dish together.

B – My lamb’s liver on toast didn’t look a lot at first glance but served with field mushrooms and slithers of bacon on thick cut toast, it certainly filled the grumbling tummy. I would have preferred the liver to be slightly pinkish than what was served but in the end, it didn’t really matter much. The meaty, earthy dish left me feeling satisfied for a few hours until lunch.

There was also a great range of juices and coffees to wash down the food. One of our mates couldn’t just resist the cupcakes on display at the counter, too. He literally inhaled one in 10 seconds flat.

We like Whitstable and no doubt we will be visiting Samphire again soon although perhaps for lunch or dinner next time.Good quality food and at a reasonable price, throw in friendly, efficient service: what more could you ask for really?

Samphire / 4 High Street / Whitstable / CT5 1BQ

Seeded Turkey Breasts

Faced with the necessity of making quick, healthy and lean after-work meals, I made up an alternative to breaded turkey.  While I am not averse to crumbs, I pondered there should be a way to make it healthier and interesting. Then it hit me, ‘Why not use seeds instead?’ That would make good use of the Omega Sprinkle from Holland & Barrett – a mix of linseed, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  Added omega fatty acid benefits, too. Shhhha-ting!!  And to make them stick to the poultry, the versatile mustard came to the rescue.   Ever-so-easy to make, you’ll need:

Turkey breast slices
Enough seed mix (partially ground in the mortar and pestle, just to break the big ones)
Mustard
Salt / Pepper

Season the seed mix. Coat the turkey slices in mustard, sprinkle the seeds on the surface and press with the back of the spoon. I find this works better as the mix tends to stick to the fingers. Be as generous as you can but make sure they actually stay on the meat.

Fry in a medium hot pan with little oil (or use non-stick) for 5-7 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Or afterwards pop under the low to medium grill for an additional 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your meat.

Devour.

NB. Free range chicken breast slices work good too, as well as boneless chicken thighs.  The latter is the best option of the three.  And promise, I’ll wipe the plate next time. 😉

Honest Burgers

If you know me you know I like a good burger. I’m probably amongst the few who have endured an hour and a half wait for a table at Burger & Lobster to order the burger [promptly wish I’d ordered the Lobster, had serious food envy]. Luckily we’re not talking lengthy waiting times and £22 price tags at Honest Burgers but how does it fare against the competition.  Pretty, well I’d say!

The venue is typical Brixton Village, small and a bit cramped to be honest but the service is brisk and friendly so there really is no real need to linger.

Menu options are pretty simple, Chicken, Beef or Vegetable burgers. Quality is certainly top of the agenda here and it shows. The chickens are free range, the vegetables, market-sourced, and the beef 35-day dry aged. We both opted for beef; I have made a mental note to sample the menu more widely for future reviews!!

The cheese burger [£7.50] was served with a red onion relish and lettuce. There was a choice of mature cheddar, red leicester or stilton cheese; I opted for the mature cheddar. My dining partner ordered the “Honest” burger [£8.50] again served with red onion relish but also with smoked bacon, mature cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce. These burgers were slabs of seriously good meat.  Cooked medium, the beef was full of flavour and juice aplenty. The red onion relish was packed some real sweet flavour and the cheddar was super mature just the way it should be. All burgers come served in a glazed bun (gluten-free also available) and with house chips.

These house chips deserve a few words to themselves because these we these were no ordinary “token gesture here-are-the-chips-to-gowith-your-burger-chips”.  These chips were pretty epic! With a generous seasoning of rosemary salt they had a super crispy exterior and were light and fluffy inside, they must have been triple cooked. There were also plenty of those little tiny super-crispy bits that everyone goes crazy for. These were damn fine chips!

There were also a few quirky touches we really liked, traditional lemonade served in jam jars and the bill coming in a battered old metal box also added to Honest Burgers’ appeal.

Our total bill came to £20.50, pretty reasonable for the quality of the food and drinks.  We can see why this place has such a strong following. Definitely recommend.

Honest Burger / Unit 12 / Brixton Village Market / Coldharbour Lane / SW9 8PR

Vietnamese Pork / Beef Skewers

Inspired by Luke Nguyen who I stumbled upon on YouTube, this recipe of Vietnamese Pork and Beef was just too good to resist.  I had to tweak it a little bit just to make it more practical and slightly leaner.  The original recipe calls for pork fat and pork skin / rind which make the finished meat lollipops very moist.  As I can’t find pork fat, I used suet instead but only used about half the amount.  The meat mixture is then traditionally wrapped around a lemongrass stalk, but this would have cost so much to make, considering one stalk is 40p at the supermarket (booooo!).  Bamboo skewers make good alternative.

So, to make these, you will need:

250g mince pork (I used free-range for a clear conscience)
250g mince beef (FR too, I should be a saint!)
Small handful of suet
4 tsps sugar (add a little bit more if you want a sweetish caramelised coating)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fish sauce
6 cloves grated garlic
6 finely chopped kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk finely chopped and bruised lemongrass
1 finely chopped chilli
Grated lime rind

For the dipping sauce:

Juice of 1 lime
Fish sauce
Chilli, to taste
Sugar, to taste

Mix all the ingredients well, form into little sausage shapes and insert the skewers through. Job done. If you cannot get hold of the ingredients, e.g., lime leaves, don’t fret. It will still work.  Maybe add a bit of lemongrass and more lime rind to achieve that Southeast Asian aroma.

A barbeque grill is very ideal to cook this as the will fat drip over the coal, giving the meat a smoky flavour. A conventional grill will do ok, too. Cook under the lowest setting for about 15 to 20 minutes turning every now and then.

For the sauce, stir in all the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved.  Fire away!!! 😀

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 

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Looking for fast food with a difference? Chipotle Mexican Grill claim to be pioneers in changing the way we think about and eat fast food. Their philosophy, and essentially their USP, is that all food served is the freshest, finest and most wholesome they can source from local and family farmers, each of which are committed to producing Higher Welfare and Farm Assured meats and vegetables.

A recent change in job has opened up a whole new world of lunching options for me to explore and it wasn’t long before Chipotle caught my eye. Offering a welcome light relief from the usual lunch break suspects such as Pret and Eat, I can see Chipotle featuring quite heavily in my weekday quick eats hit-list.

The concept is so simple, your first of many choices is whether you want Burrito [flour tortilla], Burrito Bowl [Burrito ingredients served in the bowl sans the tortilla] Taco or Salad. Then you move onto the meats, choices being Chicken [no ordinary chicken but Higher Welfare chicken, marinated in chipotle adobo then grilled] Steak [Farm Assured beef, again marinated in chipotle adobo and grilled], Carnitas [outdoor reared Pork, seared, braised and shredded], Barbocoa [Farm assured beef, seared, braised and shredded] and finally a vegetarian option.

Next is the choices of white or brown rice, mild or spicy sauce, guacamole, beans, peppers, cheese, lettuce…the list seems endless. The result [in my case] was a Burrito with chicken, brown rice, lettuce, peppers, sour cream and cheese.

The end result really is pretty damn good, the adobo marinade gives the moist chicken a real kick of flavour. The rice helped add texture, the peppers also packed a bit of spice which was cooled by the sour cream and lettuce. I was left feeling full, satisfied and healthy. Chipotle has evidently put a lot of thought and effort into their “fresh and wholesome” concept, it really shows, and most importantly it works. Slightly more expensive than maybe your average work lunch at £6.70 for a Burrito [surcharges apply for eating in], it is money well spent in my opinion.

The staff are exceptionally efficient and friendly. Please don’t be put off by a lengthy queue when you arrive, this moves pretty quickly. Should you choose to “eat-in” the interior is superior to other sandwich joints. Lengthy, communal metal topped tables run down the middle of the venue in a communal dining style. Alternatively, there are smaller tables for four if you are eating with friends or high tables for two with stool for a more intimate experience [I jest ofcourse!].

For a decent hearty bite at a reasonable price, I recommend checking Chipotle out. I know I’ll be going back to continue working my way through the menu options. 😉