Sunday 29 July 2012

Burnt Enz, London Fields

Barbecue has been The New Thing for a while now. Poor ol' Bodeans, once a Soho stalwart was knocked from its perch by the arrival of a trailer and later a restaurant by the name of Pitt Cue Co. Arguably, they showed a lot of London what real American barbecue is all about; not just relying on cooking meat until you don't need teeth to eat it and dousing it in 
sticky sweet sauces, but inventive specials and properly flavoursome smoked meat. 

When I first heard of Burnt Enz I assumed it was all about the 'cue. Burnt ends usually mean the bits on the end of the brisket that get really cooked (hence the name) and are considered a delicacy, but the menu here gives it away - no sign of pulled pork, baby back ribs or smoked brisket here. Instead, it alludes to the open grill that they cook a lot of the menu on, in the Climpsons' Roastery arch of London Fields station. When I heard that the chef there had done a stint at the world-renowned Asador Etxebarri, I knew we should go. Immediately. 

Open weekends for the rest of this summer, we arrived at around 3pm on a sunny Saturday. Busy as expected, we snagged a share of a table and got down to ordering some plates to share. Scallop with XO sauce (£4.50) came out first, a plump near-raw scallop in sizzling juices and spicy oil. We dutifully split it into thirds and was delighted to find the roe there too. I was tempted to neck the rest of the juices in the shell; we were off to a great start. 

Grilled sea bream with green sauce (£12) was a gnarly beast, its mouth flopped open from the trauma of being on a searingly hot grill, giving us crispy skin. The flesh was just cooked, pulling away from the bones with a little bit of resistance. Green sauce was vibrant and oily, seasoning the meat herbaceously. I managed to dig out the sweet nugget of flesh from the cheek while my companions weren't paying attention. 

Lamb ribs (£7) weren't slow-cooked and so they retained more of their delicious fat. Taking on the woody aromas of the grill, they were crisp on the outside with soft juicy meat near the bone. The vinegary mint sauce they were drizzled with balanced out the intrinsic richness of the meat, and we were pretty animalistic in devouring these. More napkins were fetched for our increasingly greasy hands / faces / everything. These were amazing, and one of the definite highlights.

Quail (£7.50) was served on a splodge of Sriracha sauce mixed with creme fraiche. A popular Thai chilli sauce, in mixing it with the creme fraiche it lost much of its' harsh garlic flavour and instead was mellow and slightly sweet. The quail was cooked to perfection, the meat still blushing slightly pink and the skin crisp and salty. It was quite faultless.

Cherry tomatoes, draped with burrata and garnished with basil (£5) were roasted and served on top of a smoosh of intensely sweet tomato goo. Sorry, I don't have any better words for it. This was possibly my favourite thing of the day, surprisingly (come on, it's a vegetable dish). The tomatoes were so sweet and juicy and the burrata was melty and luxurious. Clearly chef Dave Pynt is brilliant at sourcing and treating ingredients simply and well. 

I didn't love all of it though. The Burnt Enz Sanger (£6.50) was a generous bun stuffed with brisket and watercress. I couldn't detect the mustard that it was advertised as having, and I felt that it needed something sharp, like a relish or pickle to perk it up a bit. That said, we still scoffed it all. 

Hot and spicy wings (£6) from the specials board were my least favourite thing and probably the only blip of the meal. I had hoped for crispy skin and some chilli heat, but the skin was a little flaccid and it was a little unpleasant chomping on the whole spices that the wings were in. However, it didn't put a dampener on things and we left happy and sated (...and off to another barbecue. Oof). 

There wasn't so much service to speak of as we were essentially on tables in a back yard, much like a pub garden but what staff we did come across were lovely. Brooklyn lager was available in pitchers, and we whiled away a good 3 or so hours. Those hoping for a slick table-clothed operation will perhaps be disappointed with the plastic cutlery, school chairs and paper plates, but I loved the atmosphere and the casual nature of it. And the £48 we paid altogether for what was a pretty awesome lunch. 

Burnt Enz
Arch 374, Hemsley Place, E8 3SB

No reservations, opens 2pm to midnight weekends only. If it rains they have a covered area too. Check their Facebook page for special events.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Thai Red Prawn & Pineapple Curry

I'm becoming more receptive to this savoury and sweet business, the fruit with meat jazz. It just seems to make sense now - all about a question of balance. Although I didn't love the place, I was most recently impressed by the grilled peach accompaniment to my
smoked eel at 10 Greek Street and it got me thinking about classic fish and fruit combinations. 

One that crops up repeatedly, especially in Thai cookery, is prawns with pineapple. I remember quite vividly as a kid being very excited that the prawn fried rice we'd get would be served in a hollowed out half of a pineapple. My dad would roll his eyes. This red curry has the essential savoury element of the fish sauce to balance out the sweetness of the pineapple. Simmered in spicy coconut gravy and packed full of vegetables, it's one of the most pleasing curries I've made.

Thai Red Prawn and Pineapple Curry

Serves 4

For the Paste:
10 shallots
20 dried red chillis, soaked in boiling water until soft and drained
2 stalks of lemongrass, tender part only
6 cloves of garlic
3 inch piece of galangal
3 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp white pepper
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp palm sugar 

25 large tail-on prawns (I use frozen raw ones, thawed from the Chinese supermarket)
A handful each of sugarsnap peas, baby sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes
1 tin of coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 red pepper, sliced finely
1 tin of pineapple, or 1/4 fresh pineapple chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 handful of coriander, chopped roughly
1 lime
fish sauce (to taste)

Whizz up the paste ingredients in a small blender. Fry 3 tbsp in oil slowly for 10 mins and add the kaffir lime leaves. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. 

Add the slices of pepper and the baby sweetcorn and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes more. Throw in the sugarsnap peas, pineapple and the prawns and simmer for another three minutes (until the prawns have gone pink). Season with fish sauce (I like quite a lot) and serve with a handful of chopped coriander over rice and lime wedges. 

Monday 23 July 2012

A Mexican Fiduea

I'm not sure I really get fiduea, a Spanish paella-type dish but made with pasta. Perhaps I didn't cook it correctly, though I followed the instructions of the recipe perfectly. It came out a bit... claggy. Fried first, as the noodles were simmering in the sauce forks were deployed to pull the noodles apart, as they weren't unravelling themselves. They started to catch, sticking to the bottom of the pan. 

It was a starchy lump, sitting richly in the stomach. But I loved the Mexican flavours of the recipe I tried, so I was determined to make it again. I bastardised the hell out of it. Gone was the initial frying of the pasta in oil, and instead they were given a brief bath in water to release them from their coils. It's not traditional at all, but the flavours seemed more pronounced and it was an altogether lighter dish. 

Mexican Crab Fiduea (adapted from
Mexican Food Made Simple)

Serves 3

200gr angel hair (vermicelli) pasta 

1 small onion, diced 

2 large green chillis, seeds removed and sliced 

1 can of chopped tomatoes 

1 tbsp capers 

Pinch of ground allspice 

1 dressed crab 

To Serve: Sour cream, a handful of coriander and wedges of lime, plus 3 tbsp sweet chipotle paste 

Sweet Chipotle Paste:  

5 chipotles in adobo 

3 tbsp brown sugar 

3 cloves of garlic 

Juice and zest of 1 lime 

2 tsp fish sauce

In a large pan with a little oil, fry the onion and the chillis together for 10 minutes on a medium / low heat until soft and transparent. Add the tomatoes, capers and allspice plus the salt and simmer for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile make the chipotle paste; smash the garlic in a pestle and mortar with the lime zest and juice, then add the sugar and fish sauce incorporating well as you go. 

Boil a large pan of water and add the pasta, unravelling the nests. Drain immediately, reserving a ladleful of pasta water as soon as they unravel.

Add the water to the tomato sauce and bring to the simmer. Add the pasta back in and cook until the noodles are soft. Serve, topping with a hefty tablespoon of crab meat (brown and white. Garnish with the sour cream and coriander and sweet chipotle paste. Serve with lime wedges.  

Thursday 12 July 2012

Green Bean Sheet Jelly - A Noodle Salad

I have found my New Favourite Thing. I've always been a big fan of big flappy rice noodles and these, these take it to the next level. Labelled 'green bean sheet jelly', I picked them up at a whim at my local Chinese supermarket and when they were cooked they turned into gloriously chewy stretchy noodles that soaked up whatever I cooked them with. 

I've eaten them three times this week; stewed in a spicy stew, stir-fried and in a salad. The salad was probably my favourite. Dressed in a glossy, spicy peanutty sauce, they clung to the vegetables and reminded me of the Liang Pi cold noodles from New York's
Xi'an Famous Foods. Mine weren't quite as good, but nearly there and that's as much as I hoped for.

I used whatever crunchy vegetables I had going. Some Chinese cabbage, finely julienned, some fresh corn, cut off the cob. Iceberg lettuce is my least favourite of the lettuces, but strangely its bland crunchiness works the best in Asian salads. Dressed with a punchy lime, chilli and fish sauce blend, chunks of watermelon added sweetness to an otherwise umami-heavy meal. Pork meatballs made with lemongrass and galangal coud have been deemed superfluous as I was happy with the salad itself, but they made it more a meal than without. 

Pork & Lemongrass Meatballs

Serves 2

150gr minced pork 

2 sticks of lemongrass, tender innards only 

1 inch of galangal (or ginger, if you can't get hold of galangal) 

1 tbsp fish sauce 

1 clove of garlic 

1 tsp cornflour

In a pestle and mortar, smash the lemongrass, galangal and garlic until you get a fine paste. Mix in with the meat and the cornflour; mix this well until you get a paste, as this makes the meatballs firmer in texture with more bounce. Roll into balls about the size of golf balls and fry in a non-stick frying pan with a little oil until nicely browned on all sides and cooked through. This takes about 15 - 20 minutes.

Noodle Salad

60gr green bean sheet jelly noodles - you can also use glass noodles (mung bean) if you can't find the above 

A few leaves of Chinese lettuce and / or iceberg lettuce, julienned. Had I a carrot, I would have julienned this too and added it in 

1 spring onion, julienned 

One ear of corn, kernels shaved off with a knife 

A small handful of mint leaves, finely shredded 

A small handful of coriander, chopped roughly 

A quarter of a small watermelon, cubed - I think pineapple would work too

Cook the noodles in boiling water for 10 minutes. Keep testing them for doneness. In the last 5 minutes, throw in the corn kernels. Drain and run under cold water.  

In a large bowl, add the julienned vegetables, mint, coriander and spring onion. Toss with the noodles and corn, then toss with the dressing (below). Add the watermelon last and mix gently. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, before serving with the meatballs. 

For the dressing: 

Juice of 1 lime 

1 clove of garlic 

2 red birds eye chillis 

1 tsp brown sugar 

2 tbsp fish sauce (or to taste; you want salty, sweet and sour in balance)  

1.5 tbsp chunky peanut butter

In a pestle and mortar, smash up the garlic clove. Add the chillis, sliced, and crush well. Add the sugar and mix well. Add the lime juice and fish sauce, then incorporate the peanut butter mixing well so that it emulsifies. 

Wednesday 11 July 2012

10 Greek Street, Soho

The first time I visited 10 Greek Street was when it first opened. The starter of octopus carpaccio'd with chilli and lemon was punchy, the venison that was served with a comforting and creamy truffle mash was cooked well. Bloody on the inside and seared on the outside, a small wedge of poached quince added some interest to the dish. I missed greenery though and was put off by the extra charge to purchase some.

I would have written about it then, but there were things that were inconsistent. My friend's pigeon was cooked until it was grey and required sawing through. The whole room was smoky and unpleasant, and I sat through the rest of my day at my desk, miserable that I had meaty whiffs emanating from my hair. I vowed to come back to give it another go, something I don't often do but I couldn't make my mind up about the place. 

5 months later, they seem to have sorted their ventilation issues. At around 12:30pm the room was empty, but an hour later, full to capacity, they were turning people away. My starter of smoked eel with grilled peach, horseradish cream and fennel salad (£8) was pretty damn good. The eel was silky smooth, lightly smoked and worked surprisingly well with the sweetness of the peach. The horseradish cream had a proper kick to it and was portioned generously; by the end of the dish I had a tingling scalp. So far, so good. 

I chose the courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and served with lentils and a radish salad (£14). If I'm being kind, it was light on flavour. If I'm not, it was boring. As pretty as it was, I wonder if I just don't get courgette flowers. The ricotta filling was studded with lemon zest but that did little to improve its flavour and the batter around the things needed a bit more seasoning. The lentils were just a texture, the radish salad a mere distraction from the blandness. All in all it was underwhelming and I ended up wishing I'd chosen another starter instead. 

When I've spoken to other people about 10 Greek Street they've raved about their interesting and well priced wine list; perhaps that's where we went wrong, having stuck to tap water on both visits. But for somewhere that posits itself as a restaurant rather than a wine bar, that their food was disappointing wouldn't encourage me to go back anyway. 

10 Greek Street

10 Greek Street

London W1D 4DH

Tel: 020 7734 4677 Bookings taken at lunchtime only

 10 Greek Street on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Upstairs at The Ten Bells

The Young Turks & The Clove Club, of whom I was always a big fan after visiting their various pop-ups, took over the upstairs room of The Ten Bells in Spitalfields to do a short residency. For a few months they fed diners a lengthy set menu of their choosing made up of seasonal ingredients. I visited early into their stint with seven mates and I got so horrendously drunk I don't remember a thing about it. Except it was dark. We drank a lot of wine. I woke up the next day, traumatised with The Drunken Fear, fully dressed on my couch. I had to call all my friends to apologise; they too had no idea what had happened that evening. On the way to work I was sick into a bin. 

So I hadn't really planned on showing my face there again. The shame was great and I couldn't bear to even walk past the place without wincing of my past demeanors. But then I saw that they were introducing an a la carte menu and were doing the whole 50% off thing. You know, I love a bargain so I swallowed my shame and strode into the dining room, head held aloft. That's actually a complete lie. I shuffled in looking guilty and miserable before I was safely ensconced into my seat clutching a blackberry fizz.

The menu was concise, with 3 or 4 options per course. They do snacks while you're deliberating over the menu and the smoked cods roe with chipsticks was pretty awesome. Who doesn't love chipsticks? The roe was sprinkled with what looked like seaweed and maybe some cayenne pepper; I only wished for more chipsticks. Once they were dispatched the excellent sourdough was used as a fishy vehicle.

I chose my starter based on the pheasant's egg. I'm a total whore for a well cooked egg, with it's oozy yolk and general silken texture, and even better if it's slow-cooked. This one was buried beneath a cheesy sauce and lightly cooked tiny cauliflower florets. A clever take on cauliflower cheese, the thinly shaved pickle added a tartness (duh) so that the dish didn't sit too richly. My friend verily inhaled his chilled courgette soup, poured tableside over jersey royals and razor clams.

Plaice was served breaded on one side which I thought perhaps masked the delicate flavour of the fish a little. Elderflower sauce was a stroke of genius though; its light flowery notes made the mushrooms more... mushroomy. Good word, that.

I almost cried when I saw my friend's main. Lamb with spinach, anchovy and potatoes sounds pretty standard on paper but when it came out... Look at it! The lamb was blush pink, tender and fatty. The anchovy sauce was in blobs and the spinach puree mellowed it somewhat. The spaghetti-like potato rosti was crisp, though the silvery anchovy abandoned due to being pretty salty / fishy (I would have scoffed it down). I sulked with envy.

I spotted the blueberry mousse instantaneously and that it was paired with tarragon sponge and milk crisp intrigued me even more. The sponge was intensely aniseed flavoured, while the milk crisp brought the flavours of the fruity mousse together.

Strawberry tart, a gift from the kitchen blew the blueberry mousse out of the water. Light discs of filo-like pastry sandwiched together a thick cream. Strawberries fanned into a disc on top was then topped with white chocolate ice cream. This was delicious simplicity.

We rolled out of The Ten Bells clutching our bellies, wandering around gormlessly, eyes glazed. At around £6 for a starter and the most expensive main (at the time) at £16.60, you could easily have a a 3 course meal for about £30 without booze. But then that would be boring, and you need to have those chipsticks.

Upstairs at The Ten Bells

84 Commercial Street

E1 6LY

Sunday 1 July 2012


There is one weekend from 2011 that my friends still speak of with a wistful fondness, eyes misting over. It was Easter and I had forcibly commanded that they ditch their plans and join me instead to make a team for a New Cross Easter egg hunt. No, I didn't really know the person who'd organised it. No I didn't really know what was involved. They were skeptical. We spent the day with about 25 other strangers running around New Cross gathering coloured eggs, to return to various challenges, devised by Bash and Amy, before ending up in the local pub dancing our socks off. That we won the hunt is by the by (ahem), but it was declared the MOST FUN EVER.

So when Bash emailed me earlier this year asking if I could put him in touch with the Pizza Pilgrims, I sensed a fun new adventure. FORZA WIN was born. They built a pizza oven on a Shoreditch rooftop; having ascended those stairs twice I can only wince and imagine how much hard work that alone was. I went along to their family n' friends test run and they stuffed us silly with pasta dressed in a porky fennel-spiked ragu. Pizzas upon pizzas finished us off and I died a happy carbocide.

Their press night saw Aperol spritzs flowing during a sunny evening. Those same excellent pizzas were snatched up by hungry hands. Elderflower sorbets were a floral bomb to the face and blood orange granita refreshed. I was too busy having fun to take photos of the food. Sorry.

It doesn't rain in London okay? But if it were to, then they have a back up plan. Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until the 29th September, book here.

Forza Win's website is here