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Miss J

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  1. Miss J

    Dinner! 2002

    Kept it super-simple last night - I've been going into work early and leaving late this week, so I've been pretty tired recently. But here's what we ate last night: Kedgeree (inspired by Simon's discussion of it over on the India board) - nice & spicy & smoky & buttery. Undyed smoked haddock, basmati rice, homemade roasted curry powder, mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, onion, chile and sweet butter. Chapatis from our local take-away Fresh coriander chutney, homemade Miss J
  2. And a little more... cabrales, I'm so sorry it's taken me ages to get back to you. My parents have been quite difficult to get hold of since my mum started working and they STILL refuse to get an answering machine. (I'm going potty ringing them for weeks, and then having them ring me on a Sunday evening and complain that I haven't called in a while! ) But finally, after a lot of unconsummated phone tag, I got in touch. They were a bit lean coming up with something off the tops of their heads, but these are the first two places that came to mind: Sooke Harbour House This has been around for a while, and I ought to have remembered it. Sooke is outside Victoria at the southern tip of the Island, and the Harbour House is a very fine restaurant known for it's fresh local ingredients and excellent wine list. My parents really enjoyed the tasting menu on their anniversary a few years ago, but you need to book it in advance. The Harbour House is also a guest house. The Cedar Room at Tigh-Na-Mara Not anywhere near the same league as the Sooke Harbour House, but reasonably good. I've been there many years ago, and recall that the local seafood was a good bet. There's a third place that they absolutely adore, but they couldn't remember what it's called. It's in Parksville, and it's a bit of a labour of love - they're not even sure if it's still there. (My parents moved up north around four years ago, so they're starting to lose touch with some of the Island's dining options.) They're thinking about it! And finally - There's a place I've loved for years called Pagliacci's. It's on Broad Street in Victoria, and while there's many things it doesn't do well (cocktails, many of its own signature pastas, etc), I still find myself making a pilgrimage for their incredible, knee-tremblingly good cheesecake. My recommended strategy for dining at "Pag's" is to order a side salad with some of the (also very good) freshly baked focaccia, and then try to decide if you're going to have the plain cheesecake (perfect), the marble cheesecake (beautifully balanced), or the dark chocolate cheesecake (painfully good, and far too rich). And if you can wrench the recipe out of them, I'd be terribly grateful. Hope you're having a good trip! Miss J
  3. Whilst I'm doing unpaid PR, I looked up exactly what Dunlop says about Sichuan peppercorns. Paraphrased, she basically says that the pink-ish husks are the flavoured, aromatic part, and the glossy black seeds are nearly flavourless. The best stuff comes from a mountainous part of Sichuan called Hanyuan, where the freshly picked peppercorns smell so strong that the locals say if you rub some on your palm you'll be able to smell it off the back of your hand through your flesh and bones. :wow: She then warns about poor quality = no tingle. She also recommends that when you 'quality test' your peppercorns, you only chew once or twice (and she really emphasises that), just in case the unadulterated tingle is a little strong and/or unexpected. jlurhie - I know what you mean about savouring the peppercorns on their own, but the facing heaven chiles I have in my cupboard have a really lovely, almost tea-flavoured heat. Very nice with the 'corns! Miss J
  4. Jinmyo - the book does indeed have some luvverly pics. There's a great one of a dish called something really innocuous like "Boiled Beef Slices," which is actually an enormous tureen of beef slices in broth that's absolutely steeped in Facing Heaven Chiles, crushed Sichuan peppercorns, crushed red chiles and other yummy hot things. I'm planning on making it for myself one cold day when my spice-cautious boyfriend is out of town. Here's her ma po do fu recipe from a BBC website, if you'd like an idea of what her writing & recipes are like. (I've made this one, and I think it's very good.) Adam - the supplier she suggests is the Cool Chile Company, which has very helpfully just launched its online shop. They mostly supply Mexican chiles, but they also offer good Sichuan peppercorns and Facing Heaven Chiles. They also have stalls at both Borough and Portobello markets, where they offer quite a nice black bean chile. And their chipotle ketchup is pretty nice, too - I won't eat grilled cheese without it now. Miss J
  5. I've just been reading about that 'numbing' quality in Fushia Dunlop's Sichuan cookery book. She recommends a supplier in the UK who can get good quality Sichuan peppercorns that exhibit their famous 'tingle' - apparently an enormous proportion of the ones we get in the West are so inferior they don't have it. (Sorry, she doesn't say anything about US suppliers - I expect we'll have to wait for the North American edition to come out for that.) I'm really glad to have them, because now I can try her recipe for Strange Flavour Chicken, which actually sounds a lot more delicious than its name would suggest. And yes, before anyone asks I am in fact on a crusade to get everyone to check out that cookbook! Miss J
  6. Miss J

    Dinner! 2002

    Oh man...after all this talk of pie, I'm hungry. Again. And just 30 seconds after feeling intrigued by mango pickle too...I am SO feckless. Maybe tonight after I've tried making ricotta a la Balic I'll turn my attention to pie. But what kind? Just 2.5 hours of thinking about pies whilst pretending to work before I can go out looking for ingredients... Miss J
  7. Miss J

    Dinner! 2002

    Jinmyo - I LIKE that idea. In fact, I think I'll run out this weekend and track down a jar. My spicing gets stronger as the weather heats up, so I'm sure I'll be using it very soon indeed. Miss J
  8. Oooo, that's it - I'm going straight home to make ricotta tonight. How exciting! Miss J
  9. Miss J

    Dinner! 2002

    Ah - we've finished the worst of our latest DIY job, so I'm back to cooking again. (A few more leisurely meal preps and I'll be back to my usual chilled-out self.) Last night, after a long day puttering around our garden, we had: BBQ-grilled salmon fillets rubbed with garam masala (my mixture) Potato masala (South Indian inspired, with curry leaves and a wee bit of urad dal for crunch) Spinach salad with cucumber, red onion, mango and walnuts The salmon and potatoes melded very nicely. The salad provided a nice crunch (which is what I was looking for), but I'm still thinking about the best flavours to go with the other two components. I've some leftover potatoes, so maybe I'll play around with them tonight. Miss J
  10. Tony - now THAT is a fine recommendation! I'm off to Kebap 49 tonight... Miss J
  11. Gavin - I've heard about Dona Olgas, but not actually been yet - it's on my list of places to try. Charlene - I have tried Shish (around 3 days after it opened, so desperate was I for a shiny local style bar), and think they do some things well and other things horrendously. Their falafel are a nice variation on the traditional ones, and I'm quite fond of their chicken-sausage-skewer-brunch thing. I haven't had the aubergine salad, but a cucumber one I tried was an unpleasant mix of astringent & sugary that I've no desire to repeat. And I had an awful caipiriniha there. But then their drinks may have improved, I just haven't been back in a while. I think the best eatery I've found in that area so far is Sushi-Say on Willesden High Road, which is a shame as it's terribly expensive. Their homemade green tea ice cream is really comforting, and whisks me back to the summer exchange I did to Yokohama when I was a teenager. (Blissful sigh.) It's a great place, but I'm sure they're VERY aware of our lack of choice and are squeeeeeeeeezing us accordingly. And finally, Cricklewood is also justly known as the best place in London to catch a little hurling on a Sunday afternoon. When I first moved to my 'hood in the 'wood, I saw a play-off match between Tipperary & Galway on the big screen at The Crown (pre-refurbishment). I distinctly remember that, when the Irish national anthem was played, the ENTIRE pub rose to solemnly their feet. :wow: Miss J
  12. Charlene - I've been doing a little research, and I've found out that the Moran Group (known for a number of hotels, pubs and restaurants in Dublin) is building a 155-room four star hotel next to The Crown. I have to confess I'm a wee bit disappointed - I was hoping for a big kitchen and accompanying garden - but as long as he gives me some decent food I won't complain. I've tried the toasted bacon sarnies at Pedros, but think I got a bad batch - they were a little gristley. I've been going to the Red Rose up the Broadway, which looks much dodgier but hasn't let me down yet. Miss J Campaigning for better dining options in Cricklewood. Or at least for the closure of the Anchor Fish & Chip Shop...
  13. cabreles - it's one of three or four Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road, within walking distance of Old Street tube. Miss J
  14. My fav 'local' (though it's no longer local to me) is The Salusbury in Queens Park, which I reported on in the Lively London Meals thread. A little closer to home, I keep casting longing looks at the newly (and beautifully) renovated Crown pub on Cricklewood Broadway, and wondering what on earth the ENORMOUS pit they're digging in the lot next door and right round the back is going to be for. I fervently hope it's the beginning of a huge kitchen staffed with marvellous chefs. If I don't get a good Sunday lunch provider within hungover-stumbling-distance SOON, my generally chirpy demeanor could start to slump alarmingly. Miss J Waving the flag for suburban London
  15. Just popping in quickly to say the next installment is on its way - I've just been swamped at work over the past day or so and haven't really had the chance to write much. Actually that's not entirely true - I just haven't really had the chance to write anything that I'm not likely to be paid for. So I'm not holding out - just pausing for breath! Miss J
  16. Okay, I'm asking waaaaaaaay in advance for information on this topic, because my preliminary research on eating Cambodian food in Cambodia hasn't turned up very much. My boyfriend and I are going to be in Cambodia for two weeks-ish later this year. (We'll be visiting a friend of his who's running the VSO programme from Phnom Penh.) While there's a chance we may pop into Vietnam or Thailand as well, there's a pretty good chance we'll be spending most of our time in Cambodia. Being a food geek, eating my way around a country is very, very important. However, I've seen very little info on Cambodian cuisine, and what I have found as been for restaurants based in the US rather than Cambodia. Does anyone have any info on Cambodian food, and any recommendations on good places to find it? Or (and I'm a little afraid of this), is the country still recovering from all the trauma its been through, and is food just not very high on the agenda? Thanks hugely in advance, Miss J
  17. cabrales - I'm putting my weekly phone call in tonight, so I'll try and remember to raise the subject. My parents can talk about food all night (well, I have to get it from SOMEWHERE) and I know they'll enjoy the opportunity to talk about restaurants they have known and loved. Miss J
  18. Well...it's been a few weeks since I came back to British soil, but work's been pretty unforgiving so I haven't been able to write up my holiday notes. Now that my tan is fading (but my freckles aren't, oddly), I hope that I've still got all the details down accurately! As mentioned before I went, I was lucky enough to be visiting someone whose boyfriend is Mexican and local to the Yucatan. So I had a great guide to all the best places to eat (not to mention the cleanest - I think Sian was the biggest neat-freak I've ever met) and an 'in' to his 80-year-old mother, a tiny lady with a great line in tamales. I have a LOT of things to talk about, so rather than writing one single post (which is going to take AGES), I'm going to do this is bits & pieces. At least that way it all seems a bit less daunting... First, my overall notes. I'm relieved to report that I didn't suffer even the smallest bit of tummy trouble, in spite of eating everything under the sun. I'm sure this was mainly due to Sian's hawk-like attention to cleanliness, although I joined both him and Tara in munching veggies washed in tap water with no ill effects. (My hosts were adament I wouldn't have any problems, so I thought it was worth the chance.) And Stellabella, I have to shamefacedly admit that I COMPLETELY disregarded your advice on the seafood, and not only indulged but paid special attention to the local cerviche. (Served with tortilla chips. Mmmmmm....) So anyway, without further ado here's Part One of What I Did On My Mexican Holiday: Tara & Sian picked me up from the airport after waiting for nearly two hours for me to clear customs. It seems that I'd booked just in time to coincide with the arrival of the North American Spring Break package tours (which I remember being advertised at my own university), which meant that EVERY new arrival was having his/her luggage searched for illegal substances. This took ages, and Tara and I consoled ourselves with jumping up & down and generally trying to communicate through the thick glass separating the customs queue from the arrivals area. We failed dismally, and in retrospect were probably lucky we weren't arrested on some set of charges or another - a really bored official might have thought we were arranging some sort of smuggling ring, or something... They live in Playa del Carmen, a fairly built-up coastal resort that used to be a sleepy little fishing village before Cancun's popularity started spreading to the rest of the Yucatan. On the way into town, we stopped at a supermarket to pick up some key ingredients for dinner, and I was THRILLED as snooping around supermarkets is one of my favourite things to do when I first arrive somewhere new. I was delighted by the huge carts of dried chiles in umpteen different varieties (so different from the UK, where having more than a couple types of chile is considered a bit excessive), and by the enormous piles of less-than-perfect limes. It was refreshing to see fruit with all the typical blemishes on them, instead of the gleaming and heavily waxed 'perfect' versions we usually find in our supermarkets. I was also interested in the in-store bakery. Tara picked up a big metal tray and a pair of tongs, and walked around selecting her choices. When she was finished, she took the tray up to a counter where the assistant bagged her goodies and wrote the price on them - hyper-service, or just an attempt to keep people from scoffing their rolls before reaching the checkout? I was never entirely sure... I was also intrigued by the huge vats of mole and spice pastes, all ready to be scooped out in bulk and packed home for dinner. As I was to discover later, the 'rojo' seasoning paste was ubiquitous at the pollo rojo (grilled rotisserie chicken) stalls, and unfortunately was so readily available commerically that no-one was really bothered to make it themselves. Which means that I haven't got a recipe for it, alas... I scored the extra room in Tara & Sian's small two-bedroom flat in the 'tourist' area (translation: the roads were paved), and within an hour of coming through the door Sian was preparing his famous chicken fajitas to 'give me an easy introduction to real Mexican food.' His mix for the filling was very simple (onions, green peppers, chicken, salt and pepper), and he made up a big pot of rice to go alongside it. He also produced a wonderful guacamole and fresh tomato salsa, also with a bunch of hand-patted tortillas from a bag of tortilla dough he'd picked up at the supermarket. According to Sian, the biggest problem with guacamole in the US & Canada is that we put far too many ingredients in it. His rule of them is to stick to six ingredients, stretching to seven if you fancy a bit of tomato in your buttery green dip. The five key ingredients are: perfectly ripe Hass avocados, white onion (a fairly mild variety), salt, pepper, a bit of lime juice and fresh habenaro chile.* Sian mixed everything into a still-slightly-chunky texture, and then finished the whole thing off with a few shakes of bottled green habenaro sauce. *The habenaro - cousin of the Scotch Bonnet and popularly known as the hottest chile in the world - is THE chile of the Yucatan, and it turns up in absolutely EVERYTHING. I saw our local empanada vendor carting home a 3-kilo bag of habenaros at the end of the day, which must contain enough firepower to light most of Western Europe for a week. Fortunately, I'm a chile devote and wasn't the slightest bit put off by the region's passionate habenaro-worship, but anyone who's a bit nervous about fire should be warned to be very, very careful about what you eat when in Mexico's "Mayan Riviera." Some of the most innocuous-looking red sauces (like the one that came with the empanadas) left my lips glowing with chile burn after just a couple of eager bites - no build-up required! Our salsa was a simple mixture of freshly chopped (and very ripe) tomatoes, white onion, cilantro (fresh coriander to UK readers), fresh lime juice and another whole bunch of chopped habenaro - deseeded for Tara. It just needed a bit of seasoning and a few minutes to sit so the flavours combined before we were allowed to snorfle it up. One of the first things I observed that night was how 'natural' tortillas are in a Mexican meal. None of the carefully pre-rolled, painsakingly presented stuff you find in restaurants (although admittedly most places are more casual with fajitas). And assembling a fajita was a very loose, off-the-cuff experience compared with what I've seen north of the border(s). Most of this was down to the size of the tortillas, which Sian made just slightly larger than palm-sized. This made it simple to pick up a warm tortilla in one hand and quickly fork just a little fajita filling, rice, guacamole & salsa in, and then fold it with a quick flip of your fingers & thumb before biting in. No complicated rolling, no knives, and just a fork required to move food from your plate to your tortilla-wielding hand - truly, poetry in motion. We accompanied our meal with lots (and lots) of lime-spiked Dos Equis, a local lager with an incredibly numbskulled sex-sells advertising campaign (as an Ad Girl, I feel allowed to criticise campaigns no matter where I go). Sian is fond of adding a bit of salt to his lime before popping it into his bottle, and it's quite common to add a few slices of fresh habenaro too. Figuring that my system was probably at its weakest due to air travel, I didn't give this a try right away. Sian pressed me though, insisting that it was really refreshing and not to be missed. :wow: Many, many fajitas later, I gave my thanks and made my excuses and headed off to bed. My hosts told me to rest well, as we were going to depart the next morning on a short trip taking in the Mayan ruin sites at Tulum and Coba before heading inland to the colonial city of Merida, where Sian promised to show me some of 'the real Mexico...' To be continued. (And don't worry, I'm not going to detail every day and all its meals to this extent!) Miss J
  19. I went to Wapping Food a few weeks ago, and while the food was good the service was a bit inexperienced. It very much felt as though they'd hired their server for his looks and Aussie accent (matches the wine list, dont'cha know) rather than anything they found on his CV. But then, it was lunchtime...maybe he was being trained? Miss J
  20. Hmmmm. It's been a few years since I've eaten there, but it was where my parents took me for dinner on my 19th birthday. (Told you it was a few years...sigh.) As I recall, the setting is superb. DO go at a time when you can catch the sun setting into the Pacific during dinner, and then walk down the beach in the moonlight after. As for the food, I remember it being nice but nothing to rave over. Considering my age, lack of culinary experience and generally lack of world experience at the time, I think that's a pretty significant observation. However, since the West Coast has become increasingly fashionable since I left it (hmmm...maybe that's not a coincidence?), there's a very good chance they've upgraded their chef. My parents used to moan about the lack of decent restaurants in mid & north Vancouver Island. There's a few places that have earned their official stamp of approval...I can ask them what they were, if you'd like. Miss J
  21. Miss J

    Hot food cold

    On the appeal of cold pizza - could it be that it's not a matter of taste, but of texture? Of course, we in the West don't pay much attention to the texture of foods and how different textures enhance different flavours (at least, we don't compared to the Chinese). Therefore, as well as reacting to the 'taste' of cold pizza jlurie's friends may also inadvertently be commenting on how they enjoy the firmer, more cohesive mouth-feel. Personally, I like cold pizza. I wouldn't say it was better than hot pizza, but then I wouldn't say it was worse either. It's just different. And yes, it's nicer at room temperature than it is straight-from-the-fridge. Actually, I rather like eating leftover dry vegetable-y Indian dishes cold, too. Wrapped in bread. Maybe I'm just too lazy to heat things up? Miss J
  22. Stellabella - thanks for the warning. I have to confess that I've been a little lax in preparing for 'safe eating in Mexico', so your note is very timely indeed. One thing that's confusing me: I'm getting some REALLY mixed messages on the state of food in the Yucatan peninsula. I've recently spoken to two people (one Australian, one British) who both found the food really disappointing. They both recommended I stick to the fruit and tortillas. However, a friend of my Dad's insists that the seafood on the Caribbean coast is amazing and not to be missed. And now Stellabella has warned me about seafood specifically. Oh I'm so confuuuuused... I sincerely hope I'm not going to the one part of Mexico that doesn't have great food - that would TOO ironic. Besides, my friend's Mexican mum is going to teach me how to make tamales while I'm there, so I hope I'm getting a good recipe! Miss J
  23. Oooo - creme de menthe is a hard one. It's one of those drinks that tends to get left to kids and other people who prefer their drinks on the sweet & gulpable side. The big questions is - is your creme de menthe white or green? If it's green, there's not a lot you can do other than corrupt a bunch of high schoolers. White creme de menthe, on the other hand, DOES have a good cocktail use - it's a key ingredient in the Stinger. Miss J
  24. That would be great! I'm leaving exactly a week from today, so the more suggestions I get the better. I am SO excited. Both by the proximity of the trip and the possibility of getting some suggestions. Miss J
  25. Heh - I can completely identify with that. I once hosted a pancake and waffle feast following a trip back to Canada. Naturally, I'd seized the opportunity to fill my suitcase with jugs and jugs of amber-grade maple syrup and was eager to induct my British friends into the glory of the Real Thing ™. Like your latke party, my pancake and waffle party disintigrated into a mad rush of flipping, pan-checking, re-oiling and shipping the results out to my guests. Next time I'm just going to get a huuuuuuuge griddle and make everyone cook their own... But apart from the (mercifully few) situations like that, like you I tend to plan my dinner party menus in a way that allows for lots and lots of advance prep. There's nothing nicer on the day than sitting around with your guests, smugly hauling out food that you've just sprinkled a little last-minute parsley over before presenting it. My dinner party last Saturday (which I lovingly detailed over in my bio thread) was a case in point. Most of it could be made in advance of people actually showing up (with notable exception of the risotto). I think the key to the cooking/eating out debate is what the particular food experience you're looking for is. Personally, I'm such a food geek that I derive a huge amount of pleasure out of choosing and shaping food into something I want to eat, as well as the enjoyment of actually eating the food itself. In fact, the only thing better than that is shaping food into something that I want to make *other* people to eat. I really enjoy dining out as well, but the experience is really different. It doesn't last as long, for one thing. The end product can be of a much higher calibre than anything I could produce myself, of course. But sometimes the convienience, relaxation and delightful task of choosing off a menu is a major draw (which is the thing I like best about spending a lazy Sunday afternoon in a gastropub). And of course I consider dining out to be a major source of inspiration for the things I'm going to dream of doing myself at a later date. Miss J
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