Monday, January 25, 2010

Restaurant Review: Kitchen Italia

Kitchen Italia - 43 Earlham Street, Covent Garden www.kitchen-italia.com

“Nowadays the power of the blogger is everything”, says Jamie Barber, ex lawyer turned restauranter, Kitchen Italia – a new chain of Italian cheap eateries being his latest venture. “How many followers do you have on Twitter?”
 
In a world where marketing is dead, each business has to be unique and “remarkable”. Seth Goldin, author of ‘The Purple Cow,’ tells us how “everything that has to be invented has been invented…What was once amazing is now common. Worse than common. It’s boring.”

Through our love and passion for food and sharing, we have created Fernandez & Leluu – a home restaurant with a small but growing following. It is self-made, self-taught, self-backed, self-inspired, self this, self that and self other. We are sold out for 8 weeks and feed 50 people a week and now we earn a little from it to travel, to learn about food and to maintain good quality ingredients for our menus and hopefully venture further.

It seems like what we are doing is very ‘purple cow’ and that our opinions really count even if it comes to chain restaurants or any restaurants for that matter that have millions backed into it and would need at least 50 covers a lunch time.

Has the time changed to make the big fat cat turn to the stray puppy – even if it is dressing up as a purple cow?
(Jamie created this concept inspired by the bible of pasta)

 
Upon arrival, the other three word-of-mouth-ers and I were offered some delicious Bellinis – (with peach puree) they were very very good! Jamie claims that they only use fresh produce in their cocktails and try to keep everything seasonal – I heard you would not find a strawberry daiquiri there in January.

“It’s all about word-of-mouth,” Jamie continues, ”we have got to give the people what they want, and we have got to put as much love into our food as possible.”

Not his first venture, he opened Shumi – a Japanese/ Italian fusion, with Roger Moore’s son, Jamie has opened Kitchen Italia in Earlham Street, Covent Garden (next to the great Donmar Theatre in what used to be the Bunker Bar). No doubt encouraged by the success of his first branch in Westfield Shopping Centre.

With its big sharing wooden benches and promotional deals as paper placemats it looks like a Japanese noodle bar, bento eat such as Satsuma.

I think it’s the perfect place to have a bite of lunch/ dinner while shopping – with their menus based on pasta –didn’t pasta originate from China’s noodles? For a quick bowl of pasta ranging from £6.95 to £9.95 – it’s surely in tune with today’s economic climate - aiming to be good value-for-money.

“Fine dining is dead,” Jamie claims, “even if you can afford it, it is seen as ‘vulgar’ these days.” And who knows better than Jamie, who honestly and interestingly went on to tell us about the failures of Shumi – how having A-List celebrities on your opening night does nothing to provide any good word-of-mouth, in fact just “pissed off the food critics”. Going back to basics and serving “street food” and not complicating menus seems to be the lessons he learned.

We commenced with the pasta making course (PR exercise) where we met the lovely Head Chef, Lee Burcell, (Jamie found Lee by going around testing pomodoro sauces).
Lee is from Yorkshire and has traveled throughout Italy, learning chef techniques and the secrets about Italian food. Jamie managed to drop quite a few famous celebrities Lee has cooked for.


Lee said that I was very good at folding my Cappelletti (con Anatra), it made me blush! He seems very passionate and proud about his love for Italian food, telling us that from the age of 5, Italian boys are cooking with their grandmothers – being tested on making the perfect tomato sauce. (such a good idea – I will do that). But I didn’t ask him how long he has been mastering his sauces.

The spicy tomato dip that comes with the doughy house-made hot crispy bread sticks were incredible. I would go there just to moor those like a savage. Kitchen Italia is simple and unpretentious and Jamie clearly wants the place to be about the love of great Italian food he has eaten on is jaunts.

I had been back with a friend and we stayed for hours on a Saturday night catching up and chatting, drinking wine from a lovely carafe (very authentic). We shared a table with a couple who said hello to us – which was really nice and unusual. I think the social ideas of supper clubs are catching on.

Our waitress was very charming although it was a bit like she was trying to ask us if we wanted fries with everything (but different breads instead, although we ordered their amazing bread sticks). I love the way they have different olive oils on the table, and a pot of basil, parmesan and salt & pepper – again very oriental. It just means you can participate to seasoning your own dish.

It’s a far cry from a typical Italian restaurant but it’s not meant to be one. Jamie has moved that era forward a bit- “it’s a Strada but like Wagamama but a much warmer feel,” my friend, Anja says, “I like it, the pasta is not amazing but I have only found a couple of places in my life that does pasta – amazing, the way I love it. I think it’s the hardest thing to do – making something simple like a Penne Arrabiata.” As Lee rightfully said, the Italians are doing it since the age of 5.
(Rice Balls - Lee cleverly used Japanese breadcrumbs to make it be much lighter than Sicilian ones-very scrumptious)

I couldn’t help but wonder why it is not perfect. I’d imagine, Lee would cook me the most wonderful Vongole if I were lucky enough. What happens to the kitchen when the head chef is not making my pasta dish, the owner is afar mulling over his accounts. I assume there are set standards for how their pasta sauces are meant to be but will it ever be the best sauces if its not made by the person who created the recipe?

Is it because these chain of restaurants cater for people who eat pasta for lunch when out shopping at Primark or for those who love real Italian food? Jamie says that in Westfield, most plates get sent back because its al dente; the black truffle pasta sent back because it was black; the tiger prawns sauce because its too spicy.

As a business, would you be forced into middle-of-the-road blandness just to please the masses? “Or is being safe too risky?” (Seth Goldin).

I don’t mind a bit of Strada or Kitchen Italia every now and again – definitely good value for money for those pre pay-days. Will be back for the bread sticks, tiramisu and hopefully, Vongole from Lee.

(It was really lovely to meet Jamie Barber)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Something About Grandma

There is something about my Grandmother’s noodle soups that is so amazing that I will live a life seeking for the standards she set upon my taste buds as a child. Her cooking, her soup broths are certainly unforgettable and I am ashamed to say that I have not visited her in the last 14 years (she lives in California) as her food is what my dreams are made of – I am sure I would find all the secrets off the tip of her tongue. She would show me everything – about food, about love, about life…with a chuckle and a rolling tear.
(My grandmother and my brother, 1980)

We all know that the difference between Grandma’s cooking and Chef cooking are worlds apart. There is a time and a place to enjoy both your Grandma’s cooking and restaurant cooking – but in the end, what delights us most is our favourite dish from Grandma/ Mum, the way she makes it, is the way you like it and that will never change.

As I have a habit of going East instead of West, we traveled to Vietnam recently to teach Simon about Vietnamese cuisine as well as me picking up more tips from aunts, uncles and cousins.
Although stating the obvious, we discovered that there was nothing like great home cooked food. Food made for the family is always something we tend to add a little more effort to, sprinkle a few extra miles, seasoned with lots of love.

The same goes for most street food where someone only has a little stand, or a bag full of buns and not a fancy restaurant. They can only depend on how good their food tastes. The same goes for us.

Through late night conversations over wine and snacks, Simon and I, back in September 2009, joked and dreamed about having our own restaurant one day. But at the moment – we might as well be a street stand – or there is the living room…

“Lets do it!” Simon says, “You and me.” And there it was, our history in the making.


Inspired by our summer trip to Northern Italy, where we ate at secret family mountain restaurants over 5 hours, 9 courses for 30euros each with friends. We set our foot on the path and we just did it.
Dedicating as much time, love and passion into our project, our plans for the supper club or the ‘underground’ restaurant were simple. Make good food – no gimmicks necessary – just keeping in mind a small trick of Grandma’s.

Our Grandmothers, mothers and all their mothers throughout the generations were more or less powerless in society. But ironically, they had so much grip over their families and their men. They held power over men, even the most powerful men who ruled countries and created war. Each I am sure, was held by their taste buds – every evening, every meal time.


Its going the extra mile. Its giving the juicer bit of meat to your favourite person.
I would be afraid to cook for my grandmother, however, I would love to - she'd tell me how to do it perfectly. She knows everything as she has lived a life long before me.

Menu Ideas: Friday 29th/ Saturday 30th January 2010


-Summer Rolls of Egg, Barbequed & Cured Pork, Shredded Pork Skin, Spring Rolls, Mint, Corriander & Lettuce

-Lemongrass Beef With Vermincelli
Shredded Chicken With Corriander & Lime Salad
-Prawn Crackers & Puffy Seaseme Rice Paper 
-Braised Ham & Quails Egg In Fish Sauce & Coconut Juice Served With Rice
-Banana With Tapioca in Coconut Milk


On Saturday 30th January, we will be really pleased and honoured to welcome Daniel and Lesley Walsh (Parents of tomeats) and their friends to our humble restaurant. And hope that they will experience lovely Vietnamese cuisine as taught by my mother and her family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Game On


Saturday 16th January 2010
-Egg in Tarragon Jelly w/  Bacon Swirl Pastry
-Wild Mushroom Risotto
-Watercress w/ Lemon, Soy, Balsamic Dressing
-Cauliflower & Parsnip Soup w/ Blue cheese
-Pigeon Pie Served w/ Pan Fried Pigeon Breast And Cucumber Salad w/ Wholegrain Mustard
-Pan Fried Venison Fillet w/ Blackcurrant Jus, Roast Potatoes,
Yorkshire Pudding And Green Beans
-Soft Centre Chocolate Cake w/ Cream



As we have only been cooking for strangers for four months, there are still so many things we have not tried cooking, such as, game. The game idea presented a lot of experiments on friends who stayed late nights pigeoning and rolling pastries. Its also nice to have the thrill of serving something we have not served before - just to live life a bit dangerously. We love experimenting and the whole point of doing the supper club is to be different from the rest.

For this menu, we honestly didn’t care about the cost. We didn’t care that we would just be breaking even. We got the pigeons from Steve Hatt – proved to be much more expensive than other butchers but the quality was outstanding. Our venison fillets came from Yorkshire – all 5 kg of it! It was like one of those moments where upon if we were going to experiment, we might as well experiment well and use the finest ingredients never mind the cost.

As I am always front of house and I have served over 300 guests so far, I can instinctively know how everyone feels about our food and I am extremely proud to say that this has got to be the top three greatest menus we have ever done. The venison fillets were perfectly cooked by Simon, tender and pink in the middle, melting like smooth velvet in your mouth. The pigeon pie was a lovely warm, rich, spicy, sweet yet a savory parcel. He hand made all the pastry - the bacon swirl rolls were heavenly with the egg, cooked to perfection dripping slowly as you cut into it.

There were some issues, like not prepping earlier enough, made us fail on the tarragon jelly not setting properly and cooking the risotto too early. I know I should never cook it before and serve it an hour later but panic set in and I did! Which I am still very ashamed about. (I think I must have been an Italian in my past life). Everyone finished it though. It did taste good, just wasn’t al dente! booo hisss

However, our guests loved everything we made, the improved cauliflower and parsnip soup went down extremely well, the bowls looked like they had been cleaned. This time we managed to garnish the soup with parsnip that were peeled into flakes and deep fried. This turned it into a boat where the roasted cauliflower and saint agur cheese could sit on without sinking to the bottom by the time it reached the table.


Cauliflower & Parsnip Soup (For 12)
Ingredients/ How I do:


IN ROASTING TRAY

1 x Cauliflower – Cut into small pieces
4 x Large Parsnip – Cut into small pieces
1 x Bulb Garlic – cut in half so that it is still held in the bulb – this is more like infusing the vegetables for subtle taste
2 Sprigs Rosemary

-Roast the above in the oven for about 30 mins or until golden.
-Leave enough pieces of cauliflower (just one or two per bowl as garnish) on the side for later. Remove the garlic and rosemary.

IN SOUP POT


1 x Onion diced – brown in the pot you intend to cook the soup in
-Add the roasted cauliflower and parsnips with a litre or more of chicken stock.  (Add more or less depending on instinct or taste for thicker or thin soup)
-2 cloves of crushed garlic.
-Blizt with handheld blender or put in food processor – get it nice and smooth.
-Cook some more and season with salt and pepper.
-Add a little bit of single cream – say 2 or 3 tbs.

GARNISH
1 x Parsnip - Peel with peeler into thin long pieces – put in deep fryer until crispy and golden.
Serve in bowls with some parsnip chips (that float : ))
-Roasted cauliflower
-Saint Agur (or blue cheese of your choice)
-Parsley or Basil


Planning and making great menus and letting our guests eat fantastic fresh food from the finest ingredients is our whole philosophy. We are just about love and food - together.

It was really lovely as always to meet our guests - especially Lilian who is 86 years old and travelled for hours and hours to reach us. And friends of our supper club guests who have recommended us and of course, new guests - ones that received Fernandez & Leluu Gift Vouchers for Christmas to eat at ours. (What good ideas people have)


Monday, January 11, 2010

Beef Pho Noodle Soup- A Pot Of Fire


Pronounce: Phở [Fur-]


People often ask where I go to eat Vietnamese food and which may be my favourite place. But I do not really have a favourite place - I just eat Beef Pho wherever I go and judge a place by the quality of that soup. I do the same at new Italian places - always try the Margarita Pizza, Spaghetti Alio/ Pomodoro/ Mare.
 

However, Pho is a strange beast. As a regular person who has eaten Pho all her life, I have noticed that even though you put the same ingredients in every time, the soup is different every time. So it is extremely difficult to judge a restaurant by the standard of its Pho (unless it is really bad- then its bad). I may have the best Pho in one place, but upon my return, it being completely bland, blank and empty.

Same goes, I may have made the best Pho- ever! Then do it again - fail miserably. My mother, the same and therefore, out of everything I have ever cooked, Pho has got to be one of those things you MUST do with love. It is something that will probably take a life time to master, if ever.

This is the same for every place I have eaten in London, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Saigon. (The worst and most inedible being in Seoul – where there is a huge craze for Pho – unfortunately they have no idea!) For the sake of self indulgence, I remember the best Pho I have ever eaten is in Nha Trang – Vietnam in 2007, Pho 2000- Saigon in 2001, 2 Vietnamese restaurant (China Town) & take away (First & Avenue A) in Manhattan in 1998, Vietnamese restaurant in Orange County, California, 1992. The other best bowls were made by my mother every now and again.

This goes to show that Pho is easy to make but not an easy dish to accomplish memorable status. And no, I have not had good Pho in Song Que – its just OK.

Tasting like a complex concoction of wonderful opposites-warm spices with refreshing herbs and lemon with a kick of fresh chillis.  The balance of salt, sweet, sour, hot, spicy is what every cook of Pho is striving for. Pho consists of the most simplistic ingredients and very little of it and is then complimented by the flavour of garnishes and condiments that each person adds on at the table, making every bowl unique and individual to each palette.

Pho is a very distinctive Vietnamese dish but its origins can be argued to be French and Chinese influenced. Similarly, the French pot-au-feu uses oxtail and charred onion. The word ‘feu,’ meaning ‘fire.’ And the star anise is the staple of Chinese cuisine.

There are many versions of Pho, you can use different cuts of beef flank, fillet, sirloin, brisket, tripe, meatballs, chicken, seafood. I always go for the beef flank and rare steak. For Sunday lunch, we invited 8 guests for Pho. For something that needs so much love and attention, it’s a dish that cries to be enjoyed among a group of friends. Every seat around the table must be filled.


Ingredients – For 7.5 litre pot (Serves approx 12 bowls), master your pho with more or less of the following.

STOCK:





1 x Onion – Halved and charred
1 x Ginger – About 10 cm piece, halved and charred
10 x Star Anise
90g Rock Sugar
Salt/ Pepper
3 x Large pieces of Ox Tail
1.5 kg Beef Flank
1 x Beef Rib or Bones
Fish Sauce (3 crabs)

-Gather all the beef bits: ox tail, bones, flank – put in pot, fill with water and bring to boil
-Boil for about 10 minutes and let all the scum come to the top
-Drain
-Wash all your beef bits again – thoroughly. This will give you a clearer broth.
-Wash the pot
-Put everything back in and fill with water. Bring to a gentle boil, getting rid of any excess scum then simmer.
-Meanwhile, get a griddle and place on high heat til you think its very hot. Do not add oil. Place the halved onion and ginger to char on both sides. Then add to the broth.
-Add in the rest of the ingredients to the broth, keep on a simmer for about an hour with lid on. Season with salt as you go along, tasting all the time. If the star anise is too strong, take some out. If you need more sweetness add more rock sugar. If there is too much fat floating on top – remove this as well – however, in Vietnam, people ask for the fatty substance as an extra it really adds to the flavour but you do not want it to be greasy.
-Take out the beef flank after an hour or so. When it cools down, slice it thinly and leave on side in a closed container until you are ready to use it. Leave the bones and ox tail to simmer for at least 2 hours, all day long if you can (or leave over night) 

-Before you are ready to serve, season with some fish sauce – unless you want quite a stinky house - don't do it while you have been cooking the broth for hours. Taste it! Fish sauce really compliments Pho, so make sure you do not over salt because you will need to add this at the end – and use good quality Fish Sauce – (Label with 3 Crabs – it’s the most expensive one – you don’t want to ruin the pot of fire that you have given lots of love to).

NB: PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE SOY SAUCE or ADD IT AS GARNISH – many Vietnamese restaurants do not even tell their customers that you should NOT use soy sauce in Pho – it’ll ruin the taste - criminal!)

Secret Ingredient: If you do not have time to slow cook the above over a course of the day, you can use PHO stock cubes to enhance the flavour. Or even if you do have time, put one in anyway, it’s a really good stock cube. Alsmost every Vietnamese Supermarket has it. I had been asking around about these cubes – (even Song Que – and my family in Vietnam) if they use it in Pho. Answer is: “Of course! You must!”




NOODLE before you pour the soup broth into each bowl:

-Fresh Pho flat noodles (one pack serves 2 or 3 people/ you can buy fresh ones in Vietnamese Supermarkets dotted around East London) (or dry noodles) – put in microwave or blanch in boiling water for a couple of seconds before placing into bowls.

-Place the beef flank that you have already sliced and then raw beef fillet/ sirloin/ rump steak – also sliced thinly




(this is one I had whilst writing this - with beef fillet only)



-Sprinkle a generous amount of finely chopped spring onions and finely sliced red or white onion and finely chopped coriander.

-When ready to serve, bring broth to a boiling pot. Almost have it raging! Then pour onto your perfectly placed bowl. The boiling broth cooks the raw steak pieces and is perfectly tender and medium rare.

GARNISH TO BE PLACED AT TABLE (All optional. You can use all or some except *is a must, use at least one of the herbs)

*1 x per person Lemon/ Lime wedge –
Sweet Basil
Corriander
Thai Parsley
Beansprouts
Fresh Sliced Chillis
Hoi Sin Sauce
Chilli Sauce
Chilli Oil




Pho is great for breakfast, lunch, dinner or midnight snack. You can freeze your stock and have it as often as you like. I might even put some in my flask and have throughout the day as a drink at work with my Vietnamese Ham sandwich.

There are many other ingredients you can add to Pho such as cinnamon, cardamon, coriander seeds but this will reflect the different variations that you can get all over Vietnam, Northern, Central, Southern etc. My version is a simple Southern variety. As that is where I am from, it'll be my favourite.
 


Dinner was successful, everybody seemed to have loved it, but I couldn't help but be a little disapointed that there was something missing in the body of the broth. Perhaps it just needed to be cooked for longer and more bones needed to be involved. And why did my broth turn a brown colour? Ah well - back to the drawing board.

Every pot of Pho is different from the next but the best one is totally unforgettable.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Roast Dinner- Chicken - With Rosemary, Mustard, Honey & Soy

My Foodie friends say before they have eaten my roast that THEY make the best roast. Simon (Fernandez) and I have had competitions with each other on roasts. As I write this - I can declare victory! (Simon adds: ahem! Cough! What? But in all seriousness this is a mind blowingly good roast chicken, with that I cannot argue!)

Cooking for a group of friends comes very naturally to me. Cooking is something I love to do - and I am always trying to think of new ideas on how to feed something delicious to as many people as possible, in a short time and with minimal effort so that I can enjoy the company of my guests.

The prep for this takes about 30 -60 mins for the whole thing depending on how many guests you have. The rest is cooking time.



INGREDIENTS - Based on 4
-Chicken Thighs/ Legs/ Drumsticks/ Or Whole Chicken - whichever you prefer
Having Legs/ Thighs is easy because there is no cutting involved and everyone can take the bit they want. One or Two pieces per person (or three as you might find)
Remove fatty bits from thighs.

2 x Lemons - Get rid of skin and rind - slice into 5mm thick pieces
2 x Garlic Bulbs - Cut in half -Leave skin on -
2 x Onions - Peel, Cut into quarters
4/ 5 x Sprigs Rosemary

Marinade - (instinctive measurements - always taste)
1 x Large Jar/ Coleman's Mustard
Half -ish x Acacia Honey Jar
100ml -ish Premium Soy Sauce
70ml -ish Terriyaki Marinade

How I do:
Combine the marinade. Marinate the chicken if you want for a while but I think it makes no difference.

Place the chicken into a roasting tray, pour the marinade over, making sure its all coated.
Then add all the other ingredients of onions, garlic, rosemary and pieces of lemon on top. Roast for about an hour. 200.




ROASTIES
The easiest way to not waste potatoes and making enough (with seconds) is to get a serving plate and place a handful of peeled and cut potatoes on it - you can judge whether it is enough for you by seeing it on your plate. (same with making mash - just ask yourself if you can eat all that?)

Maris Pipers - from boil (in salty water) it takes about 8 - 10 minutes to get fluffy. Remove from heat and drain. Place in a baking tray and coat evenly with olive oil, a bit of butter, salt if need (it should be seasoned from the boil). Bash it about a bit so that the potatoes get fluffy and makes excellent roasties.

Bake for about an hour or until golden and crispy. Season with pepper (optional).

VEGETABLES:
 Boiled Carrots & Courgettes with Butter & Parsley and a squeeze of lemon


GRAVY
When the chicken is done, drain the sauce - use as gravy. You can add the onions from the roast, garlic and blizt.

YORKSHIRE PUDDING
I don't know how to make them and wouldn't want to cos it involves baking and I would loose all contests there!. Aunt Bessie - heaven!

Put the chicken in (about 20 mins) before guests arrive- gives people time to settle down with vino before dinner.  The smell of garlic & rosemary will drive everyone to divinity as they come in.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fried Udon Noodles With Beef Fillet & Sugar Snap Peas

Sometimes, when you have been working all day, you don't even want to spend 20 minutes cooking something but you fancy something fresh and nice and meaty! Solution:


Ingredients (For 2) Prep & Cooking Time: 10 minutes.
2 packs of fresh udon noodles
Olive Oil for frying
1 small onion
3 cloves of garlic
Terriyaki Sauce
Terriyaki Marinade
Pepper
2 pinches of sugar
2 big handfuls of sugar snap peas
150g Beef Fillet

-Prep all your ingredients - peel onion, garlic and slice them up roughly. Slice a chunk of fillet of beef (usually what you get for one person). Wash the sugar snaps.
-Heat the pan (I usually have this on whilst I am prepping) get the pan very hot.
-Dribble some Olive Oil onto the pan and fry half of onion
-Then fry the udon noodles with a few splashes of terriyaki sauce and marinade (about 2 tbs each). The hot pan should give the noodles a lovely golden colour. After a couple of minutes, take the noodles off the heat and leave to one side in a separate bowl.
-Put the frying pan back onto the heat - get it nice and hot again, in with the onions, garlic and sugar snap peas. After a minute, throw in the beef and fry with terriyaki sauce and marinade. Brown both sides of the meat then add back to the pan the noodles.
-Now is the time to taste it all, season with pepper and a few pinches of brown sugar.
-Combine all the ingredients well. Serve.
-Eat. Feel incredibly satisfied.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Simple, Healthy & Delicious Meal With Oolong/ Green Tea



In my family, one of the most traditional ways of eating is sharing with anyone in the house. There is always fish, a vegetable soup and steamed rice as a minimum. As a busy mum, my mother got this together in no time for me and my little brother when we were young growing up in London. We wanted fish fingers and baked beans like the kids you 'd see on telly. We'd rant a bit about how we wanted to eat "English" food like everyone else but were soon quieten down by the taste of "our" food. Nowadays, whenever my mum comes by, I still ask her to make it for me even though I am perfectly capable of doing it myself. Its my kind of comfort food.

One thing I can be most proud of is that despite being very poor when growing up, my mother kept us to the traditions of where we come from, she spoke to us in Vietnamese and kept us on a strict Vietnamese diet. It was and is actually cheaper to eat well. She didn't ever resort to fast food or things that come in a packet. These things only ever came as a treat every now and again (and even then, she'd try to add soy or fish sauce to it).

Whenever I am in Vietnam, my family eat meals like this for lunch. We gather on the floor and share chunks of fillets around. The way is to take what you would eat for a mouthful or two and never to take the whole fillet for yourself! Its all about sharing what you have, what you can afford - I think that is why the Vietnamese have such great sauces because you can make the rice go a long way and only eat a little protein.

The women/ mothers/ aunts/ sisters have a lovely habit of taking the best bits and placing it on your bowl - a great sign of love and affection.



Two pieces can usually serve a family of 4.

Ingredients:
Mackeral (fresh or frozen - these are from frozen)
Steamed Rice
Spinach - Could be any other leafy green like watercress, pak choi, choi sum etc
Fresh Tofu - cut them into cubes
Ginger
Chicken, Pork Or Vegetable Stock
Fish Sauce
Chilli

-Put on the rice to steam
-Pan fry some mackeral fillets in some ground nut oil or olive oil on a low heat for about 20 minutes (10 on each side) or until it goes golden brown.
-Add a few slices of ginger to chicken, pork or vegetable stock, once it is on a gentle boil, add the spinach and tofu.
-Season with salt, pepper or fish sauce. (fish sauce gives more substance to the soup)
-Crush some chillis on a bowl/ plate of fish sauce and serve. Enjoy!

There is no order to what comes first, all is served and you can enjoy each dish together, soup first, soup last and so forth. The soup is usually the refreshing touch to the fried fish - clears the palette as well as your bowl as you ask the nearest person to the rice pot for a refill.

This is a nourishing, low fat meal and tastes much more delicious than it sounds. It is important to buy a good quality fish sauce - this makes all the difference and compliments the fish which is already full of flavour itself. You should have one medium grade for cooking and you should have a premium one for sauces. There are some rotten fish sauces out there! The one I use is called, "Viet Huong- Hieu Ba Con Cua" (Label With 3 Crabs On) - so like it says on the label - 3 crabs - watch out for that one - its a good one.












You can use all sorts of fish for this, such as tuna (cook 30 sec on each side from very hot pan), swordfish etc. If you are a busy working person, you can buy a packet of frozen fillets - thats what I do. (Vietnamese supermarkets have a great range of fish you can use). Sometimes, the last thing you want to do is cook when you get home but you can easily let these cook and its all good for you- it all only takes about 20 mins and if you are anything like me - you can multitask and even do other stuff in between so that you can just put your feet up!












 
TEA: For the afternoon, have some cold or hot Oolong Tea such as our Yellow Gold or Oriental Beauty. Oolong Tea is great for digestion. It is known to dissolve fatty substances in food and is usually drank in the Far East for these reasons.

Oolong teas have a higher level of caffeine than Green Teas so it is not advisable to drink after 6pm if you want to get some sleep. Therefore, you should drink Greens or White Teas such as Dragonwell which is a beautiful soft and grassy Green tea - each leaf is thumb pressed onto a large wok and fired. Any of these are perfect for your simple and healthy meal. Click on the links to buy Fernandez & Leluu Tea online.


Review By GastroGeek


When we first started Fernandez & Leluu, we found Rejina Sabur's fantastically well written food blog. Her language and turn of phrase not only describes the beauty and delights of food itself but also embroiders the intricate journeys of taste, desire and being. What a great gift to have found.

When reading Rejina's words, it feels like eating a delicious and nourishing meal. In many blogs we have researched through in the last three months, hers has to be one of our favourites. Each line, each paragraph is written with love.  Having only met Rejina twice, she is not only a beautiful lady but charming and radiant. I would hope that one day, I will possess all her work on my book case as I also love literature!

Posted By Uyen Luu

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Leluu's Favourite Restaurants

The Snooty Fox - Canonbury, Islington- British Classics
http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/snooty-fox-london








Not a perfect meal every time but perfect most of the times. This is a place I keep coming back to. Great Sunday roasts from Lamb, Chicken to Beef - perfectly done the way I like it.

During the week, the rotisserie chicken is amazing. I also love their bangers & mash and pint of prawns with some special mayo they have made. Yummm.. Once we had the paella - that was not good. Its ran by a Japanese lady and her Western husband (not sure where he is from). There is particular precision with the food - in which you can tell they try their best to keep it tasting good. You have to order at the bar and there is no waiter service. One of my favourite and reliable places to eat.

Aix Bistro - French - Crouch End
http://www.bistroaix.co.uk/

Have not been here in a while so hope its still good. My French friends Caroline married her Blue Man here a couple of years ago due to my suggestion of it being the best French restaurant I have eaten in. They agreed.

They have a great selection of wonderful wines and everything I have ever eaten there is amazing. The venision steak particularly memorable as it was perfect and melts in the mouth. Their menu also changes all the time so you always get to try something new.

Cafe Gallipolli - Turkish - Upper Street, Islington
http://www.cafegallipoli.com/gallipoli/indexcafe.html


I have never really enjoyed their main courses (lamb shish, sword fish always been dry but lovely mousakka), however, they have such great mezes and starter dishes. Its great to order between 6 -8 dishes and catch up with a good friend over a bottle of Turkish wine in a lovely warm atmosphere.

Also love having a Gallipolli Breakfast here whilst reading a good book or writing a letter. Lovely halluomi and bread.

Its not the best Turkish restaurant I have eaten in, the food is lovely but its not the most special Turkish food. I still return very often.


Beyti - Turkish - Green Lanes/ Stoke Newington
http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/restaurants/restaurant-8031.php


The best Turkish food I have ever had in London is here. Its not a pretty restaurant, its a down to earth one and expect to come out smelling like you have been in a Turkish Barbeque Sauna. I was introduced to it by my friend Aggie. At times, you will find me here 3 times a week. The Lamb Shish With Rice is the best one can wish for. Their marinade is supreme and the owner cooks it perfectly over the coal grill..

My other favourite dish here is white bait, their garlic bread is to die for, and also all the other typical starters are brilliant. I have had some disappointing moments here, but sometimes I believe it happens to your favourite places. Stuff happens. Its not easy to run a business, particularly a food business. I always have faith and return because you can see they have great respect for their business. Its always a full house - they look after all their customers very well. I love it there!

Fang Cheung Of China - Chinese - London Fields, Hackney Central
The BEST roast duck, peking duck, crispy pork belly, barbeque char sui, Fookin Rice, Beef Ho Fun, Cripsy Noodles.

Getting some duck & cripsy pork as a take away is great way to feed unsuspecting guests but also excellent for dinner at home. Some other things not so good like Won Ton Soup and most other dishes are good but standard.

Lovely staff too.


The Fish House - Fish & Chips - Hackney Village, Victoria Park
http://www.fishouse.co.uk/















The best Haddock & Chips - I love it with loads of vinegar and salt and a squeeze of lemon. Eaten there are few times too - very good.

Il Bacio - Sicilian/ Italian - Highbury
http://ilbaciohighbury.co.uk/highburyindex.htm


Fantastic fresh Pizza! Brilliant Pasta dishes perfectly cooked esp Spaghetti Mare. Meat & Fish Dishes Amazing!!! All very generous portions. You can also ask for something you want that may not be on the menu as everything is done freshly for you - doesn't feel like its made from frozen. Great service and a great place to watch any international football games.

Dessert is a must - very difficult to decide which to have. Sway people into chosing all different kinds so you can try how amazing everything they make is! I have never been disappointed coming to this place - I am a very fussy Italian food eater having spent some time there. But every time I come here, I cannot resist a 4 course meal - and always want to die after wards.

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