Category Archives: The Restaurant Recipes

Recipes derived from restaurant meals

Salad of Crisp Pork Cheeks, from Arbutus

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I did say as soon as I get my hands on some pork cheeks I would make the delicious starter I had at Arbutus, and to my utter amazement (and I’m sure yours also) I was able to grab some off Morrison’s pork section in the supermarket, and at an astonishing £1.24 a pack.

To those of you that think pork cheek sounds a bit odd, they are delicious when cooked properly, with a beautiful soft texture and heaps of flavour. They need to bebraised or slowly cooked so that the meat just falls apart, otherwise they will be tough and chewy.

I thus set forth in my little London kitchen, and have conjured up a reliable recipe similar to the one served up in Arbutus  the other week.

Serves 2 as a starter, or light meal:

For the crispy cheeks:

300-400g pork cheeks
1 glass of red wine
500ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp juniper berries
1 clove garlic, peeled and bashed
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp lard for frying

For the parsley puree:

Large bunch of parsley, stalks removed
Juice of half a lemon
100ml olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
½ clove garlic grated

For the Puy lentils:

100g Puy Lentils
200ml stock
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
100ml double cream
½ clove garlic grated

Handful of parsley to serve (optional)

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 160oC

First make the parsley puree by wizzing the parsley in a blender, before adding all the remaining parsley puree ingredients, blitz until smooth and set aside until required. (You can keep this for a week in a covered jar in the fridge, great with fish!)

Season the pork cheeks generously with salt and pepper, then on a high heat sear the cheeks in a frying pan for about a minute on each side so that they brown in colour, this adds flavour to the dish. Then remove the cheeks from the pan and place in an ovenproof casserole dish. Add the wine into the hot frying pan and swill this out onto the pork cheeks, along with the stock, bay leaf, juniper berries and garlic.

Place the casserole dish with lid on (or tinfoil if you don’t have one) in the preheated oven and cook for 2 hours, or until the pork is falling apart.

Remove the pork from the liquor (you’ll need this later) in the casserole dish and place in a large bowl, shred the pork using 2 forks. When it is all shredded form into patties, about 1 per cheek (so if you had 4 cheeks this will make 4 patties), compressing them as tight as you can.

If you have a ring mould this will make them neater and firmer, but they do firm up in the fridge. Keep them in the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until you are ready for them.

Make the Puy lentils by bringing to a simmer in the vegetable stock and garlic for 20 minutes, partly covered. If you are running out of liquid add some more, after 20 minutes remove the lid, turn up the heat and add 1 tbsp of sherry vinegar cooking for a few minutes until the liquid has just about evaporated. Stir the cream into the lentils, remove from the heat, cover and set aside until required.

Take the pork cheek patties out of the fridge, put the cornflower onto a separate plate. 1 by 1, using the liquor that the pork cheeks were cooked in, dunk the pork cheeks in the liquor before dusting with the corn flour, this will help them get a real crispy edge. Melt the lard in a frying pan on a medium high heat before frying the pork cheek patties for a few minutes on each side. Let them colour and crisp up on each side before turning.

Serve by placing the puy lentils on a plate with the parsley puree, then the pork patties on top, I served this for dinner with buttered french green beans.

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The Langley, Covent Garden

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Do some restaurants -before they even design the layout of the dining room- intend that the food they will serve will be below average? Surely it’s at the forefront of every restaurateur’s mind, to serve good food?? Apparently not. I visited The Langley, for I must admit a really fun night out with friends, but I never would have chosen the destination for its quality food.

The food was below average, but the place was quite a good venue for evening entertainment. Not that the suited workmen dancing like David Brent to girls aloud alongside stilettoed pouty women on a sticky dancefloor, a scene resembling somewhat like a school disco for 25+, was intended to entertain, but following the mild judder of discomfort it gave me, it did entertain.

So what did I eat?:

To start with I supposedly had ‘Mushroom in a Peppercorn Sauce, on toast ciabatta bread topped with melted blue cheese, served with wild rocket’. But what I really had was a soggy mass of slimy mushrooms and pre-manufactured peppercorn sauce on soggy bread, with the odd hint of blue cheese. Quite a good size though which I’l mark as a positive for £4.95

 

I then had ‘Langley Sticky Chilli Lamb Rump, served on sweet potato wedges and drizzled with coriander, mint & chilli yoghurt, because they had no Canadian lobster.

Which to my pleasant surprise wasn’t too bad, the lamb was rare as requested, the sweet potato wedges were good, and the sweet chilli marinade was subtle but present on the lamb. One negative, the lamb was quite sinewy so hard to chew, It also had a more mature taste which although was nice suggested that this lamb was nearer mutton.

 

Desert, from bad to worse in one clean swoop, the last thing I ate: ‘Naughty but Nice Profiteroles ice-cream filled choux pastry with Baileys and white & dark continental chocolate sauce’.

I sure hope that they weren’t paying a qualified chef to create this, an amalgamation of the pre-manufactured frozen profiteroles and sauces (not sure what advantage they feel they’re making to the dish by calling the sauce ‘continental’?) into a sundae glass, something that a 5 year old could whack together after mum had been to Iceland.

 

One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is that the Langley is on the Taste London map, so if one is in possession of a card, you will cut the cost of your bill down by a much needed 50%, making the quality for the price vaguely tolerable.

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Benares Inspired Monkfish Curry Recipe (Meen Molee)

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I went away from my evening at Benares, not just with a happy tummy, but also a head buzzing with flavours. For my main course I had Sea Bream with curried moghrabieh, and coconut sauce. The sauce was creamy and mildly spiced, with a wonderful depth of flavour, and the curried moghrabieh was a fantastic alternative to rice with its pearl like texture. Moghrabieh is basically the same as giant couscous, a toasted larger form of regular couscous, with a smooth texture similar to pasta.
The sea bream was pan fried with a crispy skin, but I decided to simplify things, using monkfish I cooked this in the sauce to develop the flavour of the sauce. This style of spicing and cooking is similar to a traditional Keralan fish curry called Meen Molee.

Serves 2:
2 fillets of monkfish tails
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
20 curry leaves
2 onions, finely sliced
3 whole green chillies, slit lengthways
3 garlic cloves
500ml coconut milk
Small bunch of coriander, chopped

For the moghrabieh:
200g uncooked giant couscous, (merchant gourmet in Waitrose)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
Handful fresh coriander, chopped
Salt

1st marinade the fish by mixing ½ tsp of salt and ½ tsp turmeric and gently rubbing the mixture in the fish. Leave the fish to marinade for at least 30 minutes, or until required.

Make the coconut curry sauce by heating the coconut oil in a large saucepan, fry 10 curry leaves until they are crisp, remove with a draining spoon and place on kitchen paper. Set aside until required. Reheat the oil and sauté the onions, chillies, and garlic.

Add the remaining 10 curry leaves and cook for 3-5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the rest of the turmeric and salt, pour in the coconut milk, bring the sauce to simmer and uncover for 5 minutes.

Make the moghrabieh by placing in a pan of salted boiling water, cook for 3-5 minutes or until the grain is cooked (should still be slightly firm like an al dente pasta), drain. In a mixing bowl add the drained moghrabieh, ground cumin, coriander, coconut oil and fresh coriander and mix until all combined.

Simmer the fish in the sauce for 5-8 minutes, uncovered until the fish is just cooked. Garnish with the fried curry leaves and coriander, and serve.

Benares Inspired Roast Fennel and Lamb Salad

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As a bit of a follow up from my night at Benares, I’ve created 2 Atul Kochhar inspired dishes, now tried and tested by moi for you to give em a go. So starting with the starter of Kentish Mutton, marinaded and served as a salad with roasted fennel and crispy croutons. I used Lamb instead of Mutton because I find it a lot easier to get hold of. The licoricey taste to fennel really compliments lamb, and I doubled up this flavour by using a little fennel seed and pernod in the marinade which worked superbly!

Serves 2

For the croutons:

1 slice bread, cut into about 15mm cubes
½ tsp cumin seeds
Sunflower oil for frying

Heat a frying pan with oil, and fry the croutons along with the cumin seeds for a few minutes on a low heat, turning them in the pan so they crisp up on all sides.

For the marinade:

1 tbsp mango chutney
2 cloves garlic finely chopped garlic
1 tsp finely chopped green chilli peppers
1 tsp ground fennel seed (it’s better if you get the whole seeds, dry toast them to get the aroma oils out, then grind with a pestle and mortar
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp mustard
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp gram flour
2 tbsp Pernod or Ricard
pinch of grated nutmeg
pinch of salt

To make the marinade combine all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.   

For the tamarind vinaigrette:

4 tbsp fresh tamarind extract (made by soaking dried tamarind pulp in water and passing through a sieve)
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
½ tbsp each finely chopped red and green pepper
5 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
salt, to taste

Make this tamarind vinaigrette by thoroughly mixing all the ingredients together, either whisk in a bowl or I sometimes shake in an old jam jar.

Other bits:

1 large leg lamb steak (200g), thinly sliced
1 medium sized fennel bulb, roughly chopped
100g of prepared salad leaves
1 sprig of fresh mint, stalk removed
1 sprig of fresh coriander, stalk removed

Start by preparing the croutons,  marinade and tamarind vinaigrette as above.

Add the lamb to the bowl of marinade and allow the marinade to fully coat the lamb. Cover and leave in a cool environment for about 3 hours (min 1 if you’re in a rush) but you can leave it overnight in the fridge if you want a really good flavour. I sliced the lamb before marinating so the flavour could really penetrate.

Spread the fennel on a baking sheet with a little oil, and roast in a preheated oven (180oC) for about 20 minutes, or until soft and tender. Turn off the oven and leave it in there to keep warm whilst you cook the lamb.
Fry the lamb in a little oil on a hot heat for about 10 minutes, turning to ensure even cooking.
Combine the salad leaves, roasted fennel, lamb and croutons for the ultimate tasty lamb salad!

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Atul Kochhar's Benares, London

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Atul Kochhar has a .com?! I guess he’s becoming a brand, more than just a chef he’s a celebrity, writes recipe books, has his own blog: http://www.atulkochhar.com/
After being the first Indian chef to be rewarded a Michelin star during his time at Tamarind, he then went on to be the brainchild at Benares, receiving his second Michelin star.

So naturally when I saw that Benares were doing a Prixe Fixe menu at a respectable £19 including pear and cumin Bellini I was there camera at the ready.

Nice little position Atul chose here, Mayfair, slap bang next to a Bentley garage. Inviting to those living in the local vicinity, yet also for the likes of me who are attracted to the reasonable prices of the fixed menu, and willing to compromise on food choices and dining time preferences.

A warm welcome by friendly staff in a relaxing, chic atmosphere took us off to a great start which was swiftly boosted up a notch with our complimentary Pear and Cumin Bellini.

The food in this restaurant serves up a whole new Indian dining experience, Atul’s exquisitely delicate spice combinations compliment regional produce, in styles of Indian cooking… I’m not going to call it fusion food cos I hate that word, but you get the picture.

The wine list looked great but sticking to the budget theme we chose Atul’s Signature wines (aka house wine), which complimented the subtle spicing superbly.

Poppadoms, of coarse! But obviously they were a little bit special, served with 3 delicious chutneys, Green apple and cumin, a rich and intense tomato and chilli, and tangy gooseberry.

For my first course I had Summer Salad of Kentish Mutton and Roasted Fennel. The fennel let the dish down somewhat, I could have had more for one and I didn’t get the nice soft roasted texture and nuttly flavour I was expecting. The mutton was delicious however and almost like it was cooked in a tandoor; it was meaty but not chewy, with a slightly sweet aniseed flavour. The crispy cumin and onion seed croutons added a nice contrasting texture to the dish.

For the main dish, I had pan fried sea bream, curried moghrabieh, and coconut sauce. The sea bream was superbly cooked with a plain seasoning allowing the fish’s true flavours to shine, and pan fried to give a deliciously crisp skin. Served on top of the pearl like mograbieh, (which is basically giant couscous) coated in a delicate spice blend. The coconut sauce was presented to us in a separate jug, a nice little touch which allowed me to be really greedy and have a lot of the delicious, creamy aromatic sauce. I’ve made a version of this recipe here.

There was an option of a desert but we were in a hurry so im just going to have to go back and have the desert next time.

Overall a great tasting dinner, the main dish shone brighter than the starter, but pieced together with great signature wine and service with humour and a smile.

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Arbutus, Soho London

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I was kind of hoping for a mini sanctuary, in which a contemporary restaurant sat amidst the flowering Arbutus trees as the name would suggest, however this is urban living so I was pretty impressed to see that Arbutus was in fact nestled into Frith street, the coolest street in soho (thanks to Ronnie Scott’s down the road).

Pleasantly greeted by eagerly awaiting staff, arriving at 6:00pm, there were a handful of people already seated eagerly awaiting their food but soon the restaurant was packed with cheerful diners. We were there in time for the pre-theatre menu (you may have noticed a pattern occurring I generally choose pre-theatre menus from quality restaurants over a la carte in ok restaurants – why not, a little more tasteful than pizza express a la carte). Giving us delicious options of 3 course meal for just £18-95, and an amuse bouche of bread and butter (I’m sure you get one if you don’t have the cheapo menu).

I started with the Salad of Crisp Pork cheeks, delicious little patties of succulent pork cheek, compressed and fried to give a crispy outer layer with a soft shredded centre, served with Puy lentils in a creamy dressing, a bright green parsley puree, with fine slices of radish and baby lettuce leaves. A really delicious plateful of food that hopefully if I can get my hands on some pork cheeks I will try and get hold of the recipe for you. (And indeed I have, check out the recipe here)

The second starter option was Classic fish soup with Rouille and croutes. The flavour of the fish soup was as you would expect in a Michelin starred restaurant, silky smooth and packed full of flavour. Served with of course the classic rouille, with an addition of olive tapenade for the croutes.

For my main meal I opted for the Cornish Silver Mullet, White Beans, Tomatoes. Although the fish had a delicious flavour which really captured the essence of the sea, I didn’t take too greatly to the texture, which seemed kind of bitty and flaky. The firm white beans added a nice contrast in texture to the creamy white bean puree, and soft, juicy skinned cherry tomatoes. I enjoyed the braised chives, a nice touch, as was the intensely flavoured golden fish sauce, a reduction of the fish soup

 

The other main meal option was Confit duck leg, sautéed potatoes. Succulent duck meat encased in a crispy skin, served with buttered fresh greens, and sticky, yummy potatoes. This wasn’t my plateful of food, so I have a bit less to say about it, and the photo is bad because Rich wanted to eat it rather than let me take a photo!

I remember charentais melons from the south of France, and although it’d been a while since I tasted them, this sorbet brought all those melon flavoured memories back into my head! It was delicious, perfect temperature and so smooth and soft.

The other option for desert was Feugolais, a sort of brie like cheese that had a good old whiff to it!

A very pleasant evening, I would recommend Arbutus to anyone after a barganous, delectable evening out!

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L'Autre Pied, London – 5 course dinner £21 per person

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In search of a bargain, myself and my friend Keeley decided to head to L’Autre Pied and check out their special summer tasting offer (courtesy of last minute.com) 5 courses for £21. Bargain you may think, and that it was, but small (summer-y) portions they were. I had heard some quite negative feedback about this offer at L’autre Pied, so lowering my expectations probably improved my judgement. But I’m not going to beat around the bush, the food was delicious and well worth £21, but maybe not of Michelin star quality that the a la carte offers. The fact that there was no choice on the menu, didn’t bother me as I trusted that the Michelin star chef Marcus Eaves can concoct a perfectly balanced both on flavours and textures, 5 course meal, and that was defiantly achieved.

The thing I like about L’autre Pied is that it has a lack of ponsey-ness about it, but that also means that your waitress might forget to give you the butter with your bread, or inform you that a garlic puree is in fact the tarragon jus, umm no love a Jus isn’t white and creamy!

Bread verdict: ok. I’d give a come dine with me 6/0. A bit salty, and a little firm, but the waitress was happy to keep providing you with more when you ran out, perfect.

Did the Amuse bouche amuse my bouche? Almost. We were served a tiny (weeny) croquette of cod with a lemon infused mayonnaise and a clove of baby wood sorrel. It tasted great with subtle citrus flavours running through the centre and chunks of cod rather than shreds as croquettes can be. But the croquette was slightly lacking a ‘wow’ one would expect as one’s bouche is being amused.

I’m going to say this, and it appears to be common knowledge amongst most l’Autre Pied summer tasting menu diners, that the next course stood out as the best, it was verging on sensational. Chilled Carrot and Ginger Soup, Seville Orange, crystallised Ginger, Coriander Cress.

A silky smooth chilled soup, with sweet orange and carrot flavours, subtly balanced by the zing of ginger and tang of the bitter Seville orange, contrasting with the light texture of a carrot mousse in the centre, decorated with a sprinkling of tiny slithers of crystallised ginger, and a generous tidy glug of intense extra virgin olive oil, a beautiful dish.

Oooh the Ox cheek, do I take it back and this was my favourite dish of the night? A close 2nd, very delicious melt in the mouth Ox cheek, served with a poached mini cos lettuce, baby baby leeks, a delicious rich and slightly sticky tarragon jus, and a few blobs of garlic puree (which myself and Keely swiftly came to the conclusion despite the waitresses’ attempts at making us believe it was the jus). Everything was cooked beautifully and went together extremely well, the creamed potato was delicious and the effort to remove the outer shell of the pea proves that thought and love were put into the dish. It could have been slightly heavy for a summer dish, but the preceding dishes were so light it was fine, oh and the extra virgin olive oil’s presence (proving to be somewhat of a theme), meant it was practically a salad right?!

This is where my memory fails me slightly as I was on my way to Merryland, but the next course was tasty, and defiantly not a granita as the menu had suggested. We were presented with a little glass with starting from the bottom, panacotta, with aniseed poached nectarines, Chantilly vanilla cream and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and freeze dried raspberries. Tasted great but lacked a liquor.

The last desert was something special, along with the summer strawberries and melt in the mouth shortcake, there was a delicious smooth, Thai basil ice cream, giving an almost minty aromatic flavour which complimented the strawberries perfectly.

Wines

We opted for the most reasonably wines on the list the white: Vouvray ‘Cuvee de Silex’, Domaine Des Aubuisieres, France was delicious, fresh and fruity with flavours of ripe pear and subtle hint of mint, this went extremely well with the first dished on the menu.

The red: Barbera ‘Briccotondo’, Fontanafredda, Italy was very smooth, with low tannin levels, medium bodied with quite a high acidity yet with flavours of dark chocolate and sweet cherry, light and pleasant on a summer evening.

The evening was a delight and I would recommend L’Autre Pied, especially for a bargainous delicious deal like this.

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