Lutik (Spiced Squash & Sweet Potato in Coconut Milk)

In a bid to make vegetables more interesting, I have tapped into my roots for some inspiration.¬† (For those who do not know, I come from the Philippines – Baz.) ūüėÄ

One of my favourites is called lutik, a simple dish of squash in coconut milk. The type of squash normally used is the green-skinned variety, but I reckoned butternut squash will do as well.  This would also make a good paleo dish.  I added a bit of sweet potato for a novel twist, and used dried little shrimp instead of guinamos (shrimp paste Рgoogle it!). Here is a list of what I used:

Butternut squash, skinned and cubed, about 1.5 kg
Sweet potato, skinned and cubed, fist-size
Coconut milk, 400mL
2 big handsful of dried little shrimps (from any Oriental shop)
Garlic, 6 cloves, minced
Shallots, 6 bulbs, sliced
Cumin, half a teaspoon
Cayenne pepper and Salt, to taste

Sweat the shallots in a little oil until just transparent, then add the garlic and cook for about a minute.  Add the shrimp, and cook some more until they brown just a bit. Dunk the veggies in and about half a glass of water.  Bring to boil, cover. and let it simmer.

When the squash and potato have just about softened, pour in the coconut milk.  Stir and let simmer until only about half of the liquid remains. Season with cumin, pepper and salt. Taste and re-adjust until you get the right balance.  This will taste a little bit sweet, because of the sweet potato and the other natural sugars in the squash and coco milk.

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If you cannot find the dried little shrimps, you can use normal prawns but add them at the very last minute when you are nearly ready to serve; otherwise they will turn rubbery. And if you love it spicier, add one dried chilli at the simmering stage. Or add some baby spinach leaves near the end to up the vitamin content. Blitz it for a nice hearty soup. Enjoy!

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‚Äôve tasted. The muffin was lightly toasted, the ham was ‚Äúproper ham‚ÄĚ 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

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 ‚ÄúHonest‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äútoken gesture here-are-the-chips-to-gowith-your-burger-chips‚ÄĚ.¬† 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

Franco Manca

A friend of ours pointed out this pizza place once after a Sunday lunch catch-up at the Brixton Village. Apparently, they serve one of the best pizza in London town. Curiosity was further piqued when a fellow blogger (@theswfoodblog) posted a review of Franco Manca. It seemed like we were missing out, so a plan to visit was quickly hatched.

Remembering there was a huge queue outside when we passed by Franco Manca before, we agreed to be there early and were rewarded with seats inside.  As soon as we sat, and lucky for us, the number of people waiting outside grew to about fifteen. No kidding.  Testament, perhaps, of how good the pizza actually are.

I ordered number 4 on the menu, with Old Spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms; G chose number 6, with tomato, organic chorizo (dry and semi-dry) and mozzarella. After about 10 minutes, two whole blistered pizzas (or pizze) were delivered. And the glory of the bases!

Franco Manca pizzas have sourdough crusts, characterised by a slightly more sour taste than the usual high-street / shop-bought / across-the-road versions.  [Technically, it has lactobacillus (think Yakult) in the leavening culture and the sour taste is due to the lactic acid by-product.]  The crust was chewy and moist and thin apart from the edge. These were indeed different from any pizza we have tried before. With rich, heavy, and I dare say, fatty toppings, the acid cuts through and helps to balance the dish.

B. This worked particularly well with pizza number 4, on which the tomato sauce was sparse (see photo). The toppings, too, were excellent.  The buffalo ricotta, in particular, was unlike any I have tried before. Call me crazy but it was intense but mellow at the same time. And the amount was apt Рmore of which I would have gagged at the richness. FM got the balance just right. I actually drizzled a bit of the chilli-infused olive oil on mine which gave it a kick and a potent kick it was!

G. I opted for the chorizo-topped pizza which had on it an assortment of chunky and thinly-sliced pieces. The chorizo itself was very flavourful and was used sparingly. I feel if there has been any more meat then it may have become slightly over-powering. They judged it just right and was served in a typical base of tomato sauce and mozerella cheese providing an excellent balance of flavours.

One gripe, however, was the one grumpy waitress (bordering on rude). Chill out, we just asked about the seating. We do not expect 3-star curtsey, but service with a smile would make a difference.  Kinda ruined the fun, buzzing atmosphere of the place.  (Last time I checked, smile and manners are still free, unless I missed the memo of the price increase??)  Kudos to the men though, fast, friendly and efficient.

Altogether, we agree that this is quality cheap eats.¬†Most prices are actually cheaper than Strada or Pizza Express. Hard to beat that!!¬† If you want to try the place, get in there early.¬† Otherwise, you’ll be tortured in the waiting line by the aroma and sight of the food. Better bit: They¬†DO takeaways. ūüėÄ

Franco Manca / Brixton Village Market / SW9 8LD / London

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Pork Meatballs

A lot of people never really consider pork as an option when they are cutting down on calories.  One thing I discovered, is that lean pork mince has less fat than lean some versions of lean beef.  I would normally use beef for chilli con carne, bolognese or meatballs.  This time, however, I thought I would give pork meatballs a go.  And as an added twist, I will use chorizo flavours to make this hearty dish! The broth I made with this is lighter than what I would normally do (there was no tomato sauce / passata in the cupboard, ha! tut tut!)  These are what I used:

Meatballs:
500g minced pork
4 tsps smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
6 cloves of garlic (grated)
pinch of salt and pepper

Sauce:
3 plump tomatoes (chopped)
1 large onion (sliced / chopped)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 chicken oxo cube  (dissolved in a pint of water)
4 dried bay leaves
pitted black olives
chopped parsley
2 dried chilli (optional ;))

Mix together the ingredients for the meatballs and shape into bite-sized balls.  This portion made about 30. Place under the grill, turn around a few times to get even colouration. (You can fry these little babies but it just defeats the purpose of low-cal.)

Meanwhile, fry the onion over medium heat until just translucent then add the tomatoes, and further cook for about 3 minutes. Pour in the stock and everything else, and simmer.  When the porkies are ready, dunk them into the sauce and simmer until, say, 10-15 minutes or about a quarter or half of the sauce has evaporated.  The sauce will thicken slightly during the process.  Adjust seasoning, as appropriate, and serve to the hungry!

 

¬†Of course, I HAVE to have rice. ūüėČ Enjoy!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Inspired by a Jamie Oliver 30-minute meal episode, I tried my hand on this recipe for puttanesca.¬†¬†The name literally translates to ‘whore-style spaghetti’, apt for the guest I’m having tonight. (haha joke Ric!!!)¬† I’ve had this dish before ages ago, and it actually packs a strong punch from the anchovies and capers.¬† Easy and simple to make, you would need these:

400g spaghetti, cook as directed
4 cloves garlic, crushed / grated
5 fillets anchovies
2 cans tuna in oil
pitted black olives, halved or sliced
capers
cayenne pepper
700mL passata (sieved tomatoes)
stock
parsley

As the pasta is cooking, fry the garlic in a little bit of oil for about a minute in medium heat.  Add the anchovies and mix until the fish disintegrates.  Throw in the olives and maybe 2 tbsp of capers. (I added some sliced mushrooms last time I made it.) After a minute or 2, put the tuna in, pressing on the chunks to break them. Cook for about 3 minutes and sprinkle in the parsley and some cayenne pepper if you fancy. If you have oregano, add half a teaspoon of it. 

Thereafter, stir in the passata and stock. For the latter, I just¬†dissolved an Oxo chicken cube in about 100mL of water.¬† You can buy some ready-made stock but this dish shouts convenience, hence the cube. ūüėȬ† Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.¬† Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Now, spoon about a quarter of the sauce into the pasta to just about lightly coat each strand with a red tinge.  Divide on plates and pour more sauce on top.  Serve. Best enjoyed with a glass of red and good company.

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 ‚Äúspecials board‚ÄĚ, we chose a delicate dish of monkfish ‚Äúfishballs‚ÄĚ (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‚Äôt make an appearance, only to be replaced by slices of shrimp. A bit of a disappointment there!¬† ūüė¶

 

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

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Mama Lan

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

How annoying is it when you suddenly realise you live a mere 5 minutes down the road from such a fine collection local eateries? Having lived around the Clapham / Brixton border for the past 6 years, we were kicking ourselves at only just discovering Brixton Village Market.  Located behind Brixton tube station just off Electric Avenue, the market is home to 20+ cafes, restaurants and takeaways. So taken by this gem of a find we’ve been two weekends on the bounce and plan to continue making visits until we have systematically tried each and every option. 

On our first trip we ate at Mama Lan‚Äôs and immediately fell in love with this tiny family-run joint. The menu focuses on Beijing dumplings, popular street snacks and noodle soups. You¬†can’t really go wrong with anything you chose.¬†

After a morning gym session, we started the tiresome job of refuelling with one of each flavour of the Beijing dumplings [beef & carrot, pork & Chinese leaf and dill & spiced tofu] all of which sported a lovely golden colour, crisp bottoms and were equally delicious. Served simply with pickled vegetables and variety of dipping sauces, these little treasures didn’t last long. It would be a tough to call a favourite but if pressed on the matter I think we’d have to opt for the beef & carrot (Greg) or the pork (baz).  All the dumplings are made right in front of you, which kind of added to Mama Lan’s charm.

Two servings of beef noodle soup quickly followed, the broth was rich in both colour and flavour, the beef was plentiful and perfectly tender and noodles cooked just right. The dish was simply garnished with coriander and chopped chilli (which lent some heat appropriate for a cold Sunday afternoon) without being over-powering. We were left feeling full and satisfied. Four thumbs up!

All in all, Mama Lan is good value with the dumplings priced at ¬£4.00 for 5 pieces and the beef noodle soup priced ¬£7.50.¬†Uncomplicated menu, cheap eats, very straightforward. We would definitely recommend a visit should you find yourself in Brixton.¬† We know we‚Äôll be¬†returning very soon. ūüėČ

Mama Lan / Brixton Village Market / Coldharbour Lane / SW9 8PR

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Nusa Dua, Pan-Asian

Planned a catch up with a friend yesterday.¬† It was after work so decided to¬†grab an early light dinner. As he cancelled on me¬†previously, he had the¬†burden of choosing¬†where to feed the tummy at.¬† So, it was either Japanese or Indonesian.¬†As I really have not had much experience in¬†Indonesian gastronomy, I went for that option. It turns out, the¬†Japanese he had in mind was Koya. ha! I’ve just very recently been to that¬†eatery¬†(see last post) so I am quite glad I opted for the other.

This restaurant, Nusa Dua, turned out to be pan-Asian with heavy Indonesian touches. The expansive menu ranges from several curries in the region to pad Thai, Vietnamese chicken to roast duck. It really is heaven for lovers of Southeast Asian grub. 

By the time we sat down, I was marvin’! Chop, chop, I’m heading for the main. After a bit of silent deliberation in my head, I opted for Ayam Bali, strips of chicken in Balinese sauce.¬† A bit of excitement there, ordering something I’ve never tried before! Of course, I had to order coconut rice. ha!

I grazed on prawn crackers while waiting for the food to arrive,¬†coversing over a bit of Tiger beer, imagining the sunset in Boracay. Life, int it? ūüėÄ

Snap! Back to reality. Food arrived quite promptly (at this time, we were the only customers in there), and these are what I got:

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Ayam Bali has in it chilli, lemon, sugar, lots of garlic, pineapple chunks, a hint of ginger, coconut milk, some cashew nuts, and a bit of coriander and some peas.  It had a bit of shrimp-y taste to it.  I could only posit that some shrimp paste was added along the way. The chilli was surprisingly mild. I am not sure what variety it was, but not birds eye definitely.  It was a nice salty / sweet / sour mixture typical of the food from the region.  Went really well with the coconut rice*. 

Overall, the experience was pleasant, service was attentive and very friendly. I have already lined up a next visit to explore the rest of the items in the menu. To top it all off, it was less than £12 for my share.

So, when are you going???

(*Coconut rice deserves a post of its own.  One weekend, I will try and decipher the secret in making a perfect serving. It is truly a hug in a bowl :D)

Addendum: Back for the second time on 24 February 2012 — received the same warm welcome and great food. The curries have depth to them. The spicy lamb chops were spicy indeed. The beef penang was very comforting and satisfying. And it was around ¬£25 / person, with tiger beer and all. Definitely a treat in the middle of town. ¬†Coming. Back. Again.

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