Sunday, 30 August 2009

A quinoa salad that packs a punch for lunch

Part of my sunday routine is to make a big batch of something something that i can bring to the office and have for lunch. I like my own food and can't justify spending £5 a day to buy lunch out. I have to admit though, some weeks it's struggle to get through the same thing for lunch day in day out. For instance, last week it was cold pink soup. M-W i was fine with it, and it still felt like a novelty. But by Friday I had had enough pink soup to last me until next summer. This week i didn't have a struggle at all with this delightfully crunchy quinoa salad, courtesy of The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. There was enough variety to keep it interesting the whole week.

Crunchy Quinoa Salad
For the salad:
kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn
1 red onion chopped
1/2 cup arame seaweed
1 cup mixed sunflower, sesame, pumpkin seeds
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
1 large carrot, grated
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

For the marinade:
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup evoo
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
1 chilli pepper, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp coarse sea salt
freshly milled black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread the seeds on a baking tray and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 12 minutes.

  2. Combine the arame with 2 cups warm water and set aside to swell for 10 minutes, until soft. Drain and set aside.

  3. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring 1-1.2 cups cater and salt to a boil. Add the quinoa. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to cool.

  4. Steam the corn kernels and red onion for 3-5 minutes until cirps-tender. Drain and chill under cold running water.

  5. Combine the marinade ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Add the salad ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to marry the flavors.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Gay Icons and Indian Seafood at Trishna Restaurant

August happens to be my turn to choose where to eat out (we take turns) and i had decided, after much deliberation that I wanted Indian food. The problem was honing in on just one!

By the beginning of the month choices were narrowed down to 1) Tayyabs which I've heard lots of raves about in the twittersphere and blogosphere; 2) Jai Krishna which happens to be very local to where we live and was recently reviewed by eatlikeagirl; 3) Woodlands which one of my team mates at work recommends. Much like I ponder over what to cook next, i often have the same dilemma when deciding where to eat out. And what happened this time, is usually what happens in those situations: i cave in, eliminate the short list, and go for somewhere completely off the radar of any list/research/pondering.

That's how we made it to Trishna last Friday night. We decided to go all out and have a proper date, so we booked tickets for the Gay Icons show at National Portrait gallery. The show was curated by 10 Gay Icons who each chose 6 people in the last 150 years who had a positive influence on them. If you haven't seen it, please go -- for the photography and for the insightful descriptions of why each portrait was chosen. I found it affirming and inspirational and hope they have plans to tour the show to other places in the UK.

From the gallery we decided to walk to Trishna. It's in Marylebone, which i didn't know anything about neighborhood-wise. What i do know now, having walked there, is that it's on the posh side of things and if i were to compare with NYC which i am familiar with, is most like Upper East Side. The other thing i'm very curious about is why there is this concentration of designer kitchen stores all along Wigmore street. Of course we had to stop by each one and gawk and the mixer taps/sinks/cabinetry/ovens!

When we finally got to Trishna we were greeted by a friendly hostess and immediately taken to our table. The place was a bit on the empty side, though by the time we left it had filled with more diners.

We took our time reading the menus. The wine menu was as interesting as the food menu and a nice feature was for each dish they suggested a wine and a beer to match. The tasting menu in retrospect would have been a better option for trying out a greater variety of their dishes, but we decided to choose our starters and mains ourselves. One starter, the Lobster and Crab Salad, was a no-brainer. Either kelsie or myself was going to order it, and it didn't disappoint. Generous morsels of sweet lobster and crab topped with a wild shoot salad and a citrus vinaigrette. This was one of the highlights of the evening. The other starters were a giant tandoori grilled prawn (yes a single prawn), and crispy quid. All of it was well seasoned and perfectly cooked.

For mains, Kelsie opted for the seafood biriyani and i went for the market fish curry. That night the fish was bass. The generous fillets of fish were swimming in the curry sauce which had a good balance of spices and heat. I'd be hard pressed to name all the spices in it. The biriyani was served in it's own cast iron pot. Kelsie liked it even more with some of my fish curry sauce spooned over. We also ordered a side of dal (overpriced at £6!) and steamed basmati rice.

Dessert was the second highlight of the evening. We ordered a trio of ice creams: cardamom, ginger, and lime/basil. Unfortunately the dessert wine we ordered along with it clashed with all three flavours. But the ice creams were tasty and have inspired me to try more flavour combos next time i make a batch.

The final bill came to £138 for two glasses of prosecco, a bottle of albarino, a bottle of sparking water, one glass of dessert wine, three starters, two mains, the dal, the rice and the dessert.

Pros: a good variety of dishes with extensive starters menu for sharing; nice wine/ber pairing suggestion.
Cons: at times, overattentive service: for instance having our glasses refilled all the time. we prefer a more informal style. and some dishes, like the dal were on the expensive side.
Will we go back? Not sure. There weren't enough wows to balance out the spend.

Trishna / 15 Blandford St, Marylebone, London W1U 3DH / tel: 0207 935 5624 / website:

Trishna on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Ghana Food Night with London Food Bloggers

When i saw the invite for the Ghanaian Food eveningh sponsored by Cadbury to promote their Fair Trade initiatives with Ghanaian cocoa farmers i was thoroughly excited.

In 1994 i spent 8 months in Ghana, travelling to and fro between Old Nima, a suburb of Accra the capital, and Anyako, a little village on the banks of the Keta Lagoon in the Volta Region.

Since the evening last Tuesday, lots of food memories about my time there have come back. Street food is ubiquitous from the city to the bush. My favourites were beans and gari at a particular stall in the car park across from the National Theatre. In Makola market you could pretty much find anything either in living or cooked form. Goats, chickens, turkeys, the most amazing fresh fish and seafood, snails, vegetables, and then stall after stall of chop each with their own speciality. I tried most things there including kenkey and pepper, grilled tilapia, fried plantains, groundnut stew, fufu and even akpetesie.

My memories of Ghanaians are that they are extremely generous, welcoming and full of vibrancy. The family and community are core.

Fast forward to last Tuesday evening where Kelsie and I and a choice handful of London Food Bloggers congregated at the Underground Cookery School to participate in a Ghanaian cooking workshop and then enjoy a meal. The event was organised by Lea and her agency on behalf of Cadbury, with help from Jollof Pot catering.

We split ourselves into two groups. One group got to listen to a brief overview of the food culture of Ghana presented by Albert from Jollof Pot.

And the other group set about preparing the spice mix and zebra meat for our meal. Yes zebra meat. Not sure why they chose zebra, i don't remember ever seeing a zebra in Ghana and would have preferred goat.

The evening was quite animated with lots of wine flowing and the excitement of putting faces to twitter names. I made a beeline for the kitchen where the kind UCS chefs let me 'help' prepare the meal with Evelyn from Jollof Pot.

For starters we had an assortment of canapes: cassava chips, fried plantain rounds with mackeral, fried rice balls. The main meal was one of my favourites -- jollof rice served with the zebra stew.

We were sent home with goodie bags containing more Cadbury fair trade chocolate and recipes from Jollof Pot so that we could try the dishes at home.

All in all it was a very enjoyable evening, well organised and informative.

If you want to learn more about Ghanaian food and culture there's a wealth of info online. Here's a sample of my favourites: