Friday, December 26, 2008

Mince Pies

My Dad rang me in a bit of a panic on Christmas Eve "I can't find Mrs. Dunbar's pastry recipe", having made six dozen mince pies the previous weekend I could rattle this one off the top of my head. By now my mincemeat has matured nicely, much more moist than the commercial variety with an added citrusy kick.

Rich Sweet Pastry
makes enough for 15 mince pies

8oz of plain flour
2oz of icing sugar
5oz butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp ice-cold water
1 tsp lemon juice

  • whisk together egg yolk, water and lemon juice
  • sieve together flour and icing sugar
  • place all ingrediants in a food processor and blend until they come together
  • wrap in cling film and refridgerate for at least 1 hour before using
Preheat the oven to 180 deg C and brush the tart pans with melted butter. Roll out pastry to approx 1/2 cm thick and cut rounds using a pastry cutter or glass (I like to cut bigger rounds for the base than the lids). Place the larger rounds in the base of the tart pans and add a generous teaspoon of mincemeat, cover with the smaller rounds and pinch together. Brush with egg wash and bake for 20-25 mins.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Boxwood Cafe

To those of us not in the know the reservations policies of well-known London restaurants can be something of a mystery. For our London trip we were on the waiting list at the River Cafe - to this day I have no idea if we came anywhere near getting a table or not. Happily Gordon Ramay's Boxwood Cafe operates a very egalitarian resevations policy, and bookings for tables up to 4 persons can be made online from one month before the date in question.

We turned up for lunch on a wet cold Sunday afternoon and were greated warmly despite a backpack and a myriad of parcels - all these, plus coats, were wisked away allowing us to proceed unemcumbered into the dining room. The clientele was a varied mix on a wet sunday afternoon, some hotel guests, well-heeled locals, out-of-towners doing their Christmas shopping and a few tourists.

What we ate:

For The Doc a kind of deconstructed salad - this is the sort of dish that relies on the quality of the individual ingredients and in this case everything was spot on. I've been trying to replicate the texture and creaminess of the advocado and I'm close but not there yet.

For me a ceviche of salmon with crab, grapefruit and chilli. I was slightly afraid that the chilli would overpower this dishes but it was a simple background presence with the citrus of the grapefruit the predominant note.

The Doc went for the burger - but not any old burger, a veal and foie gras burger. The veal was melt in the mouth tender which is not what you expect when biting into a burger, and he didn't feel the texture worked in a burger setting. Surprisingly, given Gordon Ramsay's rants on the subject, the burger could only be ordered "Medium" (or "mooing", as the Doc commented).

Once I started reading the menu this dish intrigued me, I would never have paired tuna with parsnip and then added a pepper sauce to the mix - I just had to order it. The tuna was served rare, as I had requested, and was meltingly tender. Surprising the combination of the slightly sweer parsnip puree with bold flavour of the pepper sauce worked really well and the parsnip crips added a dramatic flair to plate that needed something to bring it all together.

This was possibly the best pear and almond tart I have ever had. Drenched in syrup it was moist without being too sweet. The custard was spot-on, silky, sweet and warm.

When I ordered the chocolate fondant I was told 'there will be a fifteen minute wait madam' , 'not a problem' I replied. There was no way a fifteen minute wait was going to come between me and a chocolate fondant. Was it worth the wait? Definitely. What arrived on the plate was perfectly cylindrical but one small slice in with the side of a spoon and the whole thing collapsed with molten chocolate flowing accross the plate. Accompanied by some salted caramel and mint ice-cream (kept from melting in a pre-chilled metal canister) which just tempered the richness of the chocolate slightly.

Two coffees were ordered and arrived with two chocolates each. The looked like pretty standard chocolate truffles coated in cocoa powder. I bit into one to find molten caramel cascading out, simply wonderful.

The total bill including sparkling water (but not wine, we don't tend to drink a lunchtime) was a nice round £100, which is a lot less in € than it was a year ago, but there is a set lunch menu which I feel is a steal at £25.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

London Calling

The Doc and I made the trip to London last weekend and our first stop of the trip was Borough Market. The Doc described it as 'medieval' and he's right, it's been there since AD43. It's a true market - full of tourists too - but the primary focus is still the daily trading.

My favourite trader is definitely Brindisa - set up in 1988 they import fine Spanish food into the UK. I got some cheese, manchego and membrillo to go with it (unfortunately I had to had the membrillo over at security in Satanstead as they consider it a liquid :-().

There was a huge queue for the coffee at Monmouth both at the stall inside the market and at the shop outside it. We joined the throng to see what they were excited about it, the coffee of the day was 'Finca La Fany' from El Salvador. It definitely not a 'standard' coffee, I liked the taste, a rich dark flavour and the heart shaped foam was a nice added extra!!

Our other foodie shopping experience was as the food halls in Harrods. If you have never been here it has to be seen to be belived, any place that has a whole room devoted to chocolate goes right to the top of my list. The Doc's head was turned by the whole corner devoted to Jelly Belly. We spent a good hour wandering around marvelling at the selection. The thing that I found odd was that they also sell staples like milk and Wheetabix - are there people out there who buy everything in Harrods???

Say tuned to see where we went for lunch...........