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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Roast Pork with Onions

Roast pork with onions, with a side of chard and bacon
This is a pretty simple and quite old recipe. It came from a book of cookery published in the 18th century called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. The recipe is "By a Lady" but it's known that the book was written by Hannah Glasse, an Englishwoman. This cookbook was the most influential one in 1700's in the English speaking world, including the American Colonies. It was published in 1747 (and reprinted many times) but there are still interesting recipes to be found in there. Like this one! I've updated it a bit to make use of modern technology: a thermometer to know when your pork is done. Don't cook your pork roast too long; today's lean pork dries out too quickly if you cook it much above 140°F.

To Dress a Pork Loin with Onions
(serves 6-8)

4 pound pork loin roast
salt and pepper
about 2 pounds of onions, sliced thinly
½ cup water
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon white wine  or champagne vinegar
1 Tablespoon grainy mustard, like Dijon or Dusseldorf

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Pork roast before heading into the oven. My oven has a built-in temperature probe which is really handy!

Season the roast generously with salt and black pepper. Place the meat in a roasting dish and surround with sliced onions. Add water. Place in oven and roast for about 1 ¼ hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 125°F. Remove all the onions and any juices you can spoon out to a medium saucepan. Return the roast to the oven to finish cooking (about another 15 minutes) while you complete the onions. The pork should reach an internal temperature of 135° F. At this point, remove the roast from the oven, cover tightly with foil and let rest. The final temperature will be around 140°F.

To complete the onions, heat over low heat for about 15 minutes. The onions will turn a lovely golden-brown. Add the flour and vinegar, and stir to combine. Finally, add the mustard and cook for another 5 minutes. Check for seasoning; add salt if necessary.

Slice the pork roast and serve with the onions.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Food Shopping & Dining in London: Part 3

Last in the series, this part is all restaurant reviews. We ate in a wide variety of restaurants and I have to say, overall, I was pretty darn impressed by the eating in London. As a huge multicultural city, you would expect that, but London's food reputation (mostly bad for a long time) is hard to shake. After spending a week eating there, I would be more than happy to eat there for another week. Or a month.

The day we arrived in London we wandered the neighborhood, just to get the lay of the land. Since streets rarely run together at right angles, you spend quite a bit of time going around in circles. But, it's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you are staying in South Kensington, a lovely neighborhood to wander in. I had looked on google maps before I arrived to see what was nearby and we ended up with some truly fine eating in a short walk of our hotel.

For lunch, we stopped in at Bumpkin (102 Old Brompton Rd), a very charming gastropub. They do the gastro part justice. I had a delicious chicken and leek pot pie. Pamela had a traditional English breakfast. Solid British comfort food is great when you are suffering from extreme jetlag. Everything was very fresh. The atmosphere is lovely farmhouse. Highly recommended.

Though London isn't crowded with gelato shops like every Italian city, you can get gelato if you look. I have just the place. Scoop Fine Italian Gelato (40 Shorts Gardens, near Covent Garden) has delicious gelato. I had a scoop of pistachio and one of gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut). It was intense and creamy. Just like in Italy. They also make crepes, hence the huge quantity of Nutella.

Around the corner is Rock & Sole Plaice (47 Endell St.), one of the oldest fish & chips spots in London. I have to say I am not a huge fan of the English chips. I'm more of a pommes frites gal. But, the fried cod was very good. Next time, I will take my search for fish & chips to a stand. Sit-down fish & chips is still pretty darn expensive. Two dinners and two beers ran us over $50 which is more than I want to spend on my fish & chips (but, cod isn't exactly cheap these days and the portions were quite large).

Our neighborhood definitely came through for fantastic Spanish food. We had dinner at Cambio De Tercio (163 Old Brompton Rd) and it was one of the top 3 meals in London. The menu is a combination of traditional Spanish and modern Spanish, utilizing that molecular gastronomy that put modern Spanish on the map. Pamela had suckling pig. The skin are cracklin' good and the meat was rich and tender. I had pork loin with figs.There were so many interesting things on the menu, it was exceedingly hard to choose! They also have Iberico ham as an appetizer but that was a bit rich for my blood. We saw others eating it and it looked amazing. Lots of Spanish spoken here - not just the staff but the guests. I think this is a place that Spanish ex-pats go to for "home-cooking." The service was professional and extremely warm. When I told them that Pamela was heading to Spain in June, they had a fine time talking to her in Spanish (kid, you need some practice!). Highest recommendation. They also do tapas in the bar next door and their sister restaurant Tendido Cero, across the street.

Also, in our neighborhood, Fait Maison (50 Gloucester Rd.) provided a couple of lovely breakfasts. They are open all day, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, it's a pleasant coffee shop with pastries, quiche and made-to-order Belgian waffles.  All the food was very good and the coffee is fantastic. Pamela liked it because they have free wi-fi. The servers are efficient and quite pleasant.

In the west end, convenient to many theaters, we had Italian food at Pollo (20 Old Compton St.). Not fancy Italian but as London dining goes, reasonably priced. They have mostly pizza and pasta. The portions are large, so order accordingly. It's very popular with a wide range customers from students to tourists to families.
The view of St. Paul's just outside Barbecoa. The view inside is just as good.
Since my School of Eating Good is part of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, I wanted to try one of his restaurants in London. He has quite a few: Fifteen, a chain of Italian restaurants, and Barbecoa. Fifteen is famous for not only fresh and local but for hiring troubled young adults to do the cooking. We did see it because when I visited Oliver's offices, we stopped in for coffee. Can't comment on the food, but the dining room is very organic, with a rather California feel to it. It's celebrating its 10th anniversary and continues to turn around the lives of kids who need direction and marketable skills in their lives. I chose Barbecoa (20 New Change Passage) since I'm a huge fan of BBQ and live-fire cooking. We were not disappointed as this was another of the top 3 meals we had in London. The dining room is huge, wrapped around the exhibition kitchen where you can see that live-fire cooking. Very cool! Every table has a view out of the floor to ceiling windows, many with a stunning view of St. Paul's Cathedral. That's what Pamela got to look at all through dinner, poor kid. She had an American-style BBQ pulled pork on a waffle. I had a rump steak. The cuts aren't the same in Europe but it's part of the top round. This is not a tender cut of beef (which is why it's the most reasonably priced steak on the menu) but I figured if they could make that cut good, they knew what they were doing. All the beef is dry-aged and the flavor was exceptional. Certainly more chewy than a rib or sirloin, but still an excellent steak. We also had some calamari as a starter which was crispy, light, and delicious. Very professional staff and a good wine list, including nice wines by the glass.

No foodie trip to London would be complete without some Indian food. I think there were at least 5 Indian restaurants within a short walk from our hotel. We chose Star of India (154 Old Brompton Rd), just because. And it was a great choice! The last of our top 3 restaurants, this was the best Indian food I've ever had. One of their signature dishes is a duck samosa but these are not like any samosa I've ever had. OK, usually they are not stuffed with duck which is delicious enough. But, the wrapper was more delicate, almost like a light buttery dumpling wrapper. They serve it with a light sweet-spicy-sour tamarind sauce. It's unusual and fantastic. The menu includes a broad range of regional and unusual Indian dishes (like the duck samosas). We enjoyed a lamb stew in a quite spicy red chile sauce, a spectacular saag paneer (even Pamela liked it), and green beans stirfied with coconut. The main dining room is elegant in soft peach and grays. The staff is helpful in explaining the dishes and ordering. More expensive than a curry house, it's totally worth the extra bucks.

Our last night we knew we had to get a pub meal. We weren't particularly hungry - we had a pretty good chicken tikka at the London Zoo for a late lunch - so we shared an excellent charcuterie plate at the Duke of Clarence (148 Old Brompton Rd). Duke of Clarence is a comfy, but more fancy pub. I saw as much wine drinking there as beer drinking. It's another gastropub, serving modern British cuisine. The daily special menu looked fabulous both times we were there. A nice place to have a beer or glass of wine and maybe a bit of a snack.

That's it for my London experience. I don't know how long it will be before I get back there, but I know when I do, I'll be eating well!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Food Shopping & Dining in London: Part 2

In this post, I'm going to share my experience with Asian food, including our visits to Chinatown. Like any Chinatown, there are ducks hanging in the window. Also chickens, pork belly, and large squid. I just love Chinatowns. London's isn't as large as Toronto's, or San Francisco's but it's a good one. From a restaurant point of view, it's overwhelmingly Chinese, but the markets run all over Asia. You have to look pretty hard to find non-Chinese produce in the San Francisco Chinatown. I know because we were on the hunt there for rambutans last August and we found them in one market. We looked in every single market on and just off Grant. But, in London, there was a large, multi-storied market right in the middle of Chinatown and they had everything. Here are the rambutans, my daughter's favorite fruit:

In the background, there is a  large chunk of jackfruit (the light green thing to the right) and finally, the unforgettable durian (those brownish-green spiny things in the upper right corner). I have seen frozen durian before but never fresh (no doubt because of its pungent nature). When we walked by, it kind of smelled of sewer but it wasn't totally off-putting. Of course, I didn't get really close and sniff. It didn't smell that good!

This market had every kind of condiment, sauce, and what-not. Much of it was unintelligible since the labels weren't particularly descriptive:

Not sure what one does with all-purpose sauce - anything, I guess. Then there were these jars of Burmese, well, I'm not sure what! If you needed something Asian in London, this is the place to come. Certainly, it was interesting wandering through this place.

We enjoyed some Chinese pastries. One of the odd things about Chinese pastry is it's not easy to tell what is sweet and what is savory. Even the sweet things aren't that sweet. I really enjoyed the coconut buns: soft white bread stuffed with slightly sweetened coconut.

We had dim sum, because that is one of Pamela's favorite things. It was OK, not as good as Toronto. I expect there is great dim sum in Chinatown somewhere but I can't help you with that one! It was far more expensive than the usual dim sum experience. But, so was nearly all the food in London.

We did find very good and reasonably priced Chinese food in Earl's Court at Dragon Palace. It was a tiny place, about 8 tables and a small bar. All the food was really delicious and lovely. They do dim sum there but we went for dinner. The dumplings we had as an appetizer were first-rate so I imagine the dim sum is excellent.

We also enjoyed Malaysian food in Chinatown at Rasa Sayang. It was cheap and fantastic - big flavors. I had Beef Rendang, which is full of complex spices with some heat. Wish I could have eaten there a few more times, especially for the Singapore Chili Crabs.  So much food, so little time. Sigh.

Next time I'll finish up with the rest of our dining which includes Indian (yes, I'm aware that is Asian as well), British, Spanish, and BBQ/Steakhouse.

The specifics:

New Loon Moon Supermarket, 9A Gerrard St in the heart of Chinatown

Chuen Cheng Ku, 17 Wardour St, Chinatown: OK but not exceptional dim sum

Dragon Palace, 201 Earl's Court Rd, Earl's Court: excellent Chinese food and reasonably priced

Rasa Sayang, 5 Macclesfield St, Chinatown: tasty, cheap Malaysian and Singaporean food

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Food Shopping & Dining in London: Part 1

Dining in London is not the disaster that many believe. I'm sure it once was a disaster, but nowadays, it's a multicultural paradise of food. It's not cheap food, mind you, but it is often absolutely fantastic.

I spent about 10 days in London at the beginning of April. I did my best to sample a broad range of food: Indian, traditional British, Spanish, Chinese, Malaysian, even street food inspired by the Seychelle Islands. Some of it was just OK while some of it was amazing.

In Part 1, we're going to the pinnacles of food markets: the Food Halls in Harrod's, and Borough Market, and we're going to have a little street food.

If you are a foodie, you have to go to Harrod's. Not just for the food, but for the over-the-top decor. Here's what I mean, a picture from the Seafood and Meat Hall:
Yeah, Whole Foods is nice, but this is crazy stuff! The sheer abundance is overwhelming. There's a room with just produce, another just of chocolate, tea, coffee, and candy. One with charcuterie, cheese, baked goods, and prepared foods (everything from British savory pies to Asian dumplings to sushi). All beautifully displayed, and, of course, priced to match.
If you know me, you know I need to take a picture of the mushrooms. Slim pickings in early April.
Since it was a few days before Easter, there had to be brightly colored eggs. Harrod's definitely goes for the brightly colored!
And lastly, there is chocolate. Oh my, there is chocolate. They were selling chocolate from over a dozen chocolatiers. But, these were the cutest!
OK, that's enough of me gushing over Harrod's. On to gushing over the Borough Market. We were there a bit early and it was a gray, cold day so we were not inclined to hang out. But, it was obvious that, along with Harrod's, this is the place to get top quality food. Here's a picture of some stunning fish, almost all of it from the waters around the UK.

See the sign for the Cafe in the background? Pamela and I had a honest British breakfast there. Eggs, bacon, ham, bubble & squeak (look it up). The woman who cooked our food had the best working-class British accent of the trip. I felt like I had stepped into a scene from Mary Poppins, listening to her talk.

I also loved the map for the Borough Market:

On to street food. One day, we had the paella for sale in the courtyard of Covent Garden Market. They make it in huge paella pans. We saw the same thing at the Portobello Market (more on the food there in a second).
Good cheap eats, one of the least expensive lunches we had in London. And Covent Garden Market is a cool place to stroll (though packed with tourists).

Next up, the Portobello Market. Huge market of food, antiques, fleas. You get the idea. It goes on for blocks and blocks. It takes place every Saturday on Portobello Rd, near Notting Hill Gate. Since it was the day before Easter, it was absolutely mobbed.
Not exactly conducive to strolling and shopping! But, we did manage to find some cool stuff, like this can of Spanish tuna. I think it was at least 1 kilo. Biggest can of tunafish I've ever seen!

All the obvious places to eat were at least 4 deep but we managed to find this stand of Seychelle Island inspired street food. Lovely people and the woman on the right makes a mean goat curry. It was fantastic, and I ate plenty of goat when I worked at a Caribbean restaurant.
If you ever find yourself at the Portobello Market (lucky you!), look them up. The stand is called Vinn Goute and the food is delicious and unusual.

Next time, we move on to Chinatown and Asian food.