Friday, 25 September 2009

Butane Tagine

As the rest of the crew at Bags of Flavour would unhestiatingly agree, al fresco dining sits at the apex of summer treats. As such, it is important to find new ways of eating in the sun as the BBQ, whilst never failing to tick every possible box, cannot be the only way of cooking and eating outside.

I recently moved house and Jennie's mum bought me a butane gas stove as a housewarming present. Wow, what a present! We recently bought Steve (ourmaninegypt) a tagine for his birthday. An unlikely combination for outside cooking but god damn were the results spectacular.

So the story goes that one sunnny Saturday at the start of September, we decided to cook in the garden with the stove and the tagine. Steve prepared the food, which was Moroccan lamb (actually it was beef but dont tell anyone) with spices, aubergines, tomatoes and apricots. We covered it up and left it to simmer on a low heat for about four hours, checking it regularly. Just before serving it up, we put a generous handful of fresh coriander in.

Naturally, Alex turned up just as we were serving and we obligingly offered him some of the food, which was delicious. The meat fell apart perfectly, the apricot had gone sickly gewy and the aubergine had made the sauce thick, rich and tasty. I could not find a single fault with the food.

The drawback was that the tagine only feeds four people. Outdoor eating should involve more people so I would suggest purchasing the largest tagine available.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Monday, 21 September 2009

No Tears In The Rain

We'll it was going to happen once. We've managed to have quite a few barbecues this summer without being caught in the rain. Even though it's early September it was still hot enough Saturday to have one last barbecue for Mathilde's Birthday party. I lit the coals and when the flames died down and the glowing embers appeared eager to cook meat the rain started to fall.

Now most people would call it a day, go inside and put the food in the oven. Here at Bags of Flavour however we understand truly the importance of charcoal on the taste of the food and a canopy was constructed, a great canopy so that we could barbecue and eat outside without the rain bothering us.

My friend Jennie must take credit for not only suggesting the idea but also leading the gang with impetuous to construct the structure. Mike had two trips to the shops for gaffer tape and dust sheets and whole packs of recycling bags and black sacks were used.

We did have a bit of a problem with smoke build up from the barbecue but after a few careful cuts a convection current was created so we could breathe.

The food was cooked to decency. Here's a selection of it. Sardines burgers and lamb chops.

Here's a picture of the canopy from the roof. Looks a bit like a shanty town from above.

When in got dark the rain got a lot heavier. We did manage to sit for a while but eventually the plastic bags gave way.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

RIP Keith Floyd

Always remember watching Floyd on the TV when I was little, here he is making 'The Best Fish Stew in the world'

If anybody embodies the Bags-Of-Flavour attitude to cooking, eating, drinking and enjoying life it was Keith.

And here is the brilliant theme music to his TV shows, Waltz in Black by The Stranglers, of whom he was a big fan:

Sorry about the scary clowns in that last video...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Nando's Skank

New London sound 'UK Funky' exploded this Summer, the majority of it's producers used to make Grime until they decided it was less about the merking and more about the dancing so invented this fun new music. We all know how much Grime MC's love chicken so it's no surprise to find a tune in this new genre dedicated to the same thing.

Don't let this put you off this music by the way, it's great:

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Been Watching

I never actually liked reggae reggae sauce. I thought it tasted weird and was essentially a spicy tomato ketchup. I much prefer this stuff. Levi Roots performance on the Dragons Den was also strange because I kinda felt that he was belittling himself a bit and playing up to the cameras. I have however been enjoying his current TV show Caribbean Food Made Easy.

The show covers the staples of Caribbean cooking by visiting parts of the Caribbean and the UK. When Levi cooks to show us how to make the food the emphasis is on getting things to feel right when cooking and this includes all elements ingredients and atmosphere. Levi's real personality shines through and he's a great ambassador for Caribbean food.

The sunshine kit which I did find tacky at first is a great gimmick. A collection of spices, herbs and ingredients with which you should be able to make anything have a Caribbean flavour. That's when you realise what's so great about Caribbean food. It's mixture of good well cooked meat which treats and respects the natural meatyness in a way the nose to tail crew would agree with. The meat goes with the freshest vegetables, fruit and squashes and the flavours are elevated with traditional things like thyme and garlic and also exotic spices including pimento and ginger and then everything is brought to life with intense heat (and flavour) from the brilliantly delicious scotch bonnet pepper. Dare I say it's kind of achieved what all those fusion idiots tried in the nineties.

The first episodes lamb with dragon stout gravy plays on mind in times of hunger and now I know how to cook a yam properly. I'd like Levi to show us how to rehydrate those funny dried salt fish next.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Tomato Tarte Tatin

The Tomato Tarte Tatin is something that is beautiful, ugly and impressive all at the same time. It's a pretty but sloppy mess with a damn fine combination of flavours. I came up with my recipe from cobbling together odd bits I'd seen on the internet like this awful youtube video was one on the sources I used along with some proper bits in 90's cook books. I think Gary Rhodes made one once. Whatever the reason the tomato tarte tatin is something I like to fix up on slow afternoon to cut through the dullness and bring a sense of absurd wonder back into the world.

To start you need to make sure you've got a frying pan that can go in the oven. You cannot make the tarte tatin without one of these.

You need a load of tomatoes at least 12+ good sized ones. They should be of reasonable quality, nice and red but I've made it with skanky value ones before. Cut the tomatoes in half, brush with olive oil, season and sprinkle with rosemary. The tomatoes need to be roasted in a hot oven on a raised roasting rack so they are not touching the bottom of the roasting dish. The aim here is to cook them into beautiful roastedness flavour while also drying them. place the tomatoes so the cut side is facing up as that needs to get a bit crispy.

How long the tomatoes take is up to you and the amount of time you have. It's this part of the cooking that determines the sloppyness of the finished meal. You can roast them on a high heat quickly for 40mins but they wont lose much water and will make the tarte sloppy. If you've got more time do them at 150c for at least 2 hours or even longer if you've got the patience. You can also peel the tomatoes before roasting but I've done this with or without peeling and it doesn't really make much difference.

While the tomatoes are roasting slice up 3 large red onions, put in a pan with a bit of olive oil and sweat them down gently. You want the onions real soft and looking a bit grey.

Once the tomato and onions are done it's time to build the tarte tatin. Normal tarte tatin with apples have a caramel syrup that wouldn't really work on a savoury dish. The tomato tarte tatin has a balsamic glaze. Put your oven ok frying pan on a high heat on the hob. Put a good dash of balsamic vinegar onto the pan. The aim here is to reduce the balsamic to a less vinegary thicker and sweeter substance. I normally put a spoonful of brown cane sugar in the pan to help it along. You really don't want it to be too vinegary or it can ruin the dish so taste it as it reduces to check the flavour. Be careful not to burn yourself. Once you've got a decent glaze syrup (you don't need much) take the pan off the heat and begin to build.

The tomatoes go flat side down onto the pan. Start in the middle and work outwards so you have an even and tight spread of tomatoes.

Next spoon the red onions on. Try to get these even again working from the middle outwards.

I crumble a block of feta and sprinkle that on next. You don't have to use the highest quality a cheap kind will do.

A layer of puff pastry comes next. Roll the pastry out and place on top of the pan. Cut off the excess pastry and push the rest into the pan so that the pastry has a tight seal on the innards.

The pan then goes in the oven at a high heat until the puff pastry has cooked.

Next comes the exciting bit turning the tarte upside down. Before we start please take care not to burn yourself with the molten balsamic glaze or brand yourself with the metal handle on your skillet/frying pan. Cover your hands with oven gloves and tea clothes so you don't get burnt.

Put a plate over the top of the pan so that it's covering the whole of the pan. You may want to experiment with different plates until you find one that you feel comfortable with turning. When your ready it takes one quick simple motion to turn the dish upside down with the plate held closely against it. Every time I've ever done it as soon as I move the upturned skillet away from the plate the tarte tatin has settled onto the plate below ready to serve.

Let the tarte cool a bit before serving. It actually tastes better at room temperature than as a hot dish. It's a decent beauty of a thing if you get it right. The tangy sweetness of the tomatoes and vinegar smudge into the salty mellowness of the feta and puff pastry.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Scones they're not that hard

I went a bit scone mad at the weekend. I had a craving for some warm mellow stodgyness and decided to learn how to make scones myself. I discovered that it's incredibly easy to do, much easier than making bread or pastry.

I had a look in the old dusty Delia book and also found this recipe on the BBC website. I'm not going to bother putting the full quantities and method up here so check the link for guidelines if you want to make them. I'm not a fan of long drawn out methodical recipes. That's not how I roll.

A scone essentially is butter, self raising flour, caster sugar and milk. The butter is rubbed into the flour until it looks breadcrumby then the sugar is mixed in. I also added some sultanas, salt and a teaspoon of baking powder to help the raising. Milk is added a bit at a time while mixing it in with a knife or spoon then you can then get your hands in there and give it all a good mix.

The scone mixture should be quite soft and wetter than bread dough. Have a look at this Youtube video to get an idea for the consistency but don't pay too much attention to the recipe and the cooking method as the scones the lady makes look a bit giant and gruesome. I prefer my scones a bit smaller.

Once you've got your dough it has to be cut into scones. This part of the process can affect how the scones rise. The video shows a good way to form the dough and cut the scones out. You do not want to roll the mixture it's better to form the dough with your hands before cutting. Make sure you don't push it flatter than 1 inch. To cut use a pastry cutter and push straight down with one movement. Don't twist because if you do the scones will rise with a kink. However as you're making them yourself you are bound to knock and twist them accidentally as you push them out of the cutter and it's these happy accidents that will make them rise to look all pretty and homemade.

They don't take long to cook about 10-15 minutes in a hot oven. Put them on a cooling rack but eat them as soon as they are hot enough to touch as it was while at this stage I had my scone epiphany.

When you buy scones from the shop not only are they expensive they also have to be heated to get the desired butter melting heat. You can either toast your store bought scones of stick them in the oven. Either way you are going to dry your scones out and they've already sat in a shop for a few days. When you bake your own scones however you can eat the fresh from the oven. This means their own heat melts the butter into them. They are fresh and delicious, stodgy and light all at the same time.

I had these with some cream and damson jam.

As one batch was not enough to satiate my scone fever so I made some more but this time without sugar or sultanas but with cheddar cheese.

These went perfect with my signature breakfast dish: creamy and decent scrambled eggs. That reminds me actually I better post them up soon as there's too many people in this world eating badly made scrambled eggs.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Punk Donuts and Meerkat Pie

My friend Ben travelled up this week and made some donuts for his girlfriend Ella's birthday. He made the dough and fried the donuts at the restaurant he works in and made four different fillings for them: creme anglais (posh word for custard), jam, chocolate custard and lemon curd. Ben didn't have time unfortunately to put the filling in to the donuts and that's where the punk bit comes in.

On a busy commuter train Ben managed to get a seat on one of those tables they have. He was sharing the table with three other passengers but that didn't stopping him covering the table with twenty or so donuts, four tubs of fillings, piping bags and all the other bits you need to fill donuts. His fellow passengers didn't seem to mind as they were bewildered and transfixed by the donut assemblage. Ben's biggest worry was that the train staff would kick him for making such a mess with cream, jam, greasy sugar and donut crumbs.

Ben done a brilliant job of getting the fillings into the donuts and I've never eaten donuts which such a volume of filling. The custard and chocolate custard were my favourites and Ben managed to get enough custard in that it burst and squirted out on your first bite.

I made a meerkat pie to eat before we had the donuts. It didn't actually have meerkat in it. It was the same vegetarian filling as this one. I just made the pastry look like some meerkats.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Making My Own Houmous

I eat a lot of houmous these days and I think generally everybody does. You probably don't even realise how much you eat. It's a multi-purpose food stuff that can be used as a condiment or as a small meal on it's own with some suitable bread. You could easily whack some in a burger or sandwich or have it on the side of your plate with some posh olives and meat.

It's also suppose to be healthy. It's suppose to be something good you can eat loads of and not feel guilty. You can actually be a bit of a prick about it and gloat over people who snack on bacon sandwiches and sausage rolls while you stick to you houmous and pitta. The bottom line is it tastes good and you can eat loads of it without feeling sick and it tastes goes with a lot of other flavours easily.

I've been eating so much of it for so long now I thought it time to make it myself and it's actually really easy to make.

is made from chickpeas blended with tahini (sesame seed pulp) which is then flavoured with garlic and lemon juice.

I decided to choose dried chickpeas and cook them myself instead of using tinned ones. You have to soak them overnight before you cook them. I took this picture to illustrate why as they need to swell up with the water before they can be cooked. For the same price as a tin of ready cooked chickpeas you can by a bag of dried ones which will make as much as ten cans when cooked. They do take a bit of time to cooked. They have to go in a pan with plenty of water and need to be boiled rapidly first for ten minutes and then need boiling gently for about two hours until they are nice and soft . Make sure the pan does not boil dry or you will burn the chickpeas. Once cooked they need to be cooled before they can transcend into houmous.

I used a blender to process the chickpeas which wasn't ideal. Everything got caked round the edges and I had to scrape the houmous out with spoons after. When it was going a bit cloggy a added olive oil to grease it up. If you've got on of those magimix things it's going to be a lot easier to make.

I've made this a few times and I think a good ratio of houmous to tahini is when just under a third is tahini but your going to want to experiment and taste as you blend them together. I try to get the tahini/ chickpea mix right before adding anything else. Tahini can taste a bit foul and bitter on it's own but if the houmous doesn't have enough it doesn't really have any depth of flavour. I add a load of decent olive oil, three good size crushed garlic cloves and the juice of a medium sized lemon and then it's done.

The first thing I noticed about home made houmous is the consistency. It much chunkier and drier than store bought stuff. I'm sure they bulk it out with water to to make it go further. The second thing I noticed is that homemade houmous tastes much better. Most bought houmous uses powdered garlic instead of real garlic and citric acid instead of lemon juice where my homemade uses real ingredients and is proper lush.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Better BBQing through Chemistry

We love barbeque's here at Bags Of Flavour as older posts will attest, here are some tips via the world of science to improve your grilling technique.
"Unfortunately, if you ask the [food] safety people they'll tell you to cremate everything," said Shirley Corriher, a food chemist and cookbook author from Atlanta. Meats should be cooked long enough to kill bacteria, she noted, but they don't need to be cooked beyond medium to be truly safe. For one thing, carcinogenic chemicals called heterocyclic amines form when creatine -- a substance found in muscle tissue -- reacts at high temperatures with amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The amount of HCAs formed in grilled meats typically triples if meats are cooked well done rather than medium well, she noted.

As someone who likes his steak and lamb chops pink and juicy and not grey and over done I'm stuck with the food safety killjoys on one side and cancer on the other :-(

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Thailand: Western Food

One of the best things about going abroad is the weird appropriations of western food. Some may wish they didn't pander to the squeamish traveller unwilling to try foreign things. I however enjoy the surreal take on European favourites.

I've never eaten schnitzel as sanctioned by a proper German person or establishment. I have however eaten schnitzel in Thailand and I loved it. Thai breadcrumbs, batter and oil are fresh and the meat was quite light compared to the fabricated idea in my mind of what real German schnitzel tastes like.

AMENDMENT March 2011: I have been to Berlin now and eaten properly sanctioned German schnitzel. I have to report that my previous prediction was right and Thai schnitzel is better.

Here's a veggie burger. Look closely and you will see slices of carrots under the mayonaisse. If you can't get gerkin why not?

I did chuck the carrot out everytime I had a burger. It's wasn't that good either. Too much potato and sesame seeds were in the pattie not on the bun.

Breakfast is a good time to go exploring the oddities on the menu such as the Colombian eggs below. Now I'm not an expert of Central Amercian cuisine so correct me of I'm wrong but I'm sure Colombian eggs are not badly overcooked scrambled eggs cooked with a reduced tin of tomatoes.

The most surreal Western food I ordered was the humble sausage. Now if you've never seen a sausage before and you were use to eating decent fresh tropical fruit and seafood you would probably think a small oblong sack of mince meat was a odd thing to put in your body. So why not strategically cut it with a knife so it looks like a piece of squid?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Eggy in the Basket

I watched the movie of V for Vendetta recently. Twice in the film two characters cook this dish called Eggy in the Basket for breakfast. I didn't see this when I read V for Vendetta so I've done some research.

When the Wackowski's and Joel Silver were busy rewriting Alan Moore's masterpiece of literature they couldn't be bothered to actually do some research into what people eat for breakfast in England and just got an American dish and gave it a quaint name therefore Eggy in the basket was born.

It's an odd way to cook an egg but it's alright. I cut a circle out of the bread using a pastry cutter and spread butter on both sides of the slice.

I chucked the bread in a hot frying pan and put a little bit of butter in the hole. As soon as the butter melted I broke an egg into the hole. It only takes a minute of frying until you need to flip, once flipped over the egg cooks in seconds.

It's quite a good lazy way to cook an egg half decent. I don't really like solo fried eggs as the whites are too rubbery. Frying the egg in a piece of bread means a good proportion of the white becomes eggy bread so you've got a decent ratio of delicious yolk to boring white. It ain't got nothing on scrambling, poaching, baking or boiling though.


Saw this on the Passive Aggressive notes blog and thought it was funny.

When you go out with a vegetarian you find things like this funny.

Canadian Maple Syrup Cream Biscuits

I'm a bit Canadian. My Mothers Father was Canadian and met my Nan when he was stationed in London during World War II. My Mum for the first time visited Canada a few weeks ago. She met the Canadian side of the family and also brought me and my brother everything in the souvenir shop.

I got a Canadian hat, t-shirt, pencils, socks, zip pullers(?), mug, magnetic thermometer and some maple syrup cream biscuits.

I like maple syrup it's good and strong and brilliant on bacon. The cream biscuits have a strong flavour too. However it's not really maple syrup it's more like sugary grass cuttings. Like eating a Happy Shopper custard cream with you head in the grass catcher of a Flymo Hovermover. They are revolting. No one who has tried so far can finish one. They did however bring back nostagic memories of lawnmovers and cutting the grass on a hot summers day. I rekon they could also bring on a bout of hayfever if you ate enough.

My lucky brother didn't get the biscuits. He got a collection of flavoured wood (hickory, cherry etc) to flavour meat on the barbecue. Not to be ungrateful but I would have liked some of that.

Since her journey to the Father land my Mother has also erected a flag pole with the Canadian flag outside of my parents house on the Isle of Sheppey.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Apology to Dom

I have to issue an aplology to Dom for a comment I made about him on the Fortnum and Mason post.

I described his table manners to that of a pig in shit. I was wrong to say this as I am far clumsier than him when using a knife and fork.

I only said it because I was annoyed at the way the way he kept putting a sppon into my houmus when I was making it the other day.

Hajja's Helwas

I've developed a Moroccan sweet tooth - sweet shai bina'ana kul yom (mint tea every day)!  often with pastries (helwa) on the side.  

I came home the other day planning to take a break from sugar when Hajja (the matriarch) presented us with these:

The round things are glazed lemony, scone-like treats.  They're quite dry but surprisingly moreish and excellent washed down with lots of sweet tea.  The triangles are like sweet samosas filled with sweet rice pudding-y stuff, deep-fried then covered in sugar and cinnamon.  They're served with even more icing sugar to dip them into.  Exactly as you'd imagine - very good.  Although I can feel my teeth/arteries pleading with me to give them a day off.  

bye bye chicken

The other day Jaylan pointed out that the chickens that live on our roof sounded particularly close by and when we drew the curtain that separates our room from the main living area we saw this chicken clucking about nervously. 

We soon realised why - Hajj (he's the patriarch and it's a term of respect for men who have/probably have because of their age/will soon, insh'allah do the Haj) was sharpening a big knife.  So I said 'masallama d'zhezh'/'bye bye chicken', which made him laugh.  The chicken didn't find it so funny. 

Sadly, I forgot to take an 'after' shot of the delicious, and very fresh, chicken we had for supper that night.

Lovely Layla’s Tuesday Cookery Class Part 2

Tagine with chicken and prunes (for about 12 people). This is cooking of ‘Fortress Filth’ proportions – you may need to divide accordingly.

This week it was tagine with chicken and prunes, served with salad and, of course, bread/hobz(i may turn into some hobz, or a laughing cow, while I'm here I'm eating so much of the stuff). Actually, I think the chicken was a bit more tender this time, perhaps because the chicken was cooked with the skin on. The sweet prune against the peppery, oniony chicken was absolutely lush and the juices were perfect for mopping up with the bread. For a similar bread equivalent back home, I'd say the Turkish pide bread that you can get from your local (or Dalston) TFC is the way forward.

For the tagine:

3 kilos skinless chicken joints skin left on about ½ of them, 2 kilos white onions finely chopped, 1 kilo red onions – finely chopped, 1 bulb garlic – peeled and crushed, 1 tomato – grated/peeled and minced, a small bunch parsley – chopped,1 ½ tablespoons ground black pepper,1 ½ tablespoons ground dried ginger, 1 teaspoon saffron, ½ cup olive oil,1 cup vegetable oil, 1 ½ tablespoons salt, 5 cups water, 4 cups prunes. 7 cups water, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 5 heaped tablespoons sugar, Sesame seeds

For the salad:

5 cucumbers – peeled and chopped into small chunks, 6 tomatoes – peeled and chopped into small chunks, 1 onion – very finely chopped, Handful coriander – finely chopped, 5 tablespoons olive oil, Salt & pepper to taste


We used a large lidded saucepan because of the numbers involved but apparently this tastes even better cooked in a tagine. You could also use a casserole.

Bung ingredients 1-13 into the casserole/pot with the chicken at the bottom, bring to the boil, stirring after 20 minutes. This now needs to be left for about an hour.

Put prunes into a saucepan with the 7 cups of water, bring to the boil and leave for 40 minutes with the lid on. (If you’re using dried apricots, this should only need 20 minutes.)

Meanwhile, start preparing the salad. This literally involves chucking the prepared cucumber, tomato and onion into a bowl and chilling in the fridge.

While this is happening, enjoy a cold Fassi beer:

Or have a nice cup of tea and a sit down:

When the prunes are done, drain most of the liquid, leaving behind around 3 tablespoons of liquid.

Put the prunes and reserved liquid back into the saucepan along with the cinnamon, sugar and about half a cup of stock from the tagine over a moderate heat and stir until it comes to the boil.

Then leave it boiling with the lid on for about 10 minutes, leaving to one side once this is done.

To finish the salad, just add the chopped coriander and olive oil and season to taste.

Place the chicken on serving plates and spoon the prunes on top, Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with the salad and some hobz.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

High Tea at Fortum and Mason

For Dom's birthday a few months ago we took him for tea at Fortum and Mason. It's an odd thing to get a geezer for his birthday but believe me Dom was as happy as pig in shit. He's got a sense of duty with the right and proper way to do things. It's a shame that that sense of duty doesn't extend to way he shovels food into his mouth which is again similar to the pigs in shit then again I'm not really well placed to judge that one cos I enjoy a good shovel of food occasionally.

It's an odd place Fortnum and Mason, I always rationalise it as the place Harrods promises to be. What you imagine you'd find when your Mum tells you you are going to Harrods as a kid before you get there and realise it's an overpriced tat shop covered in gold plated Tutankhamen styled vomit. Fortnum and Mason however is proper. It sells proper stuff and it's all shiny and expensive.

We had Tea in the St James Restaurant on one of the upper floors. The Tea bit's all done up with nice sofas and tables and nice little cushions with either pictures of royal things or cats embroidered onto them. It's the model to which a high percentage of the front rooms in the country aspire to.

We all chose to have afternoon tea. We were going to get high tea originally because it sounded better but high tea is the one where you get a choice of scrambled eggs or welsh rarebit while afternoon tea is the proper one with the pretty little triangle sandwiches.

For £40 a head what you get is a a three tiered plate thing on which you have a plate of sandwiches that also has a little salmon terrine and a tiny bit of quiche. The next plate has scones, clotted cream and Jam. The third plate has two pastries from a selection that the ever obedient waiting staff bring over. You also get a pot of the most decentest tea ever chosen off of the tea menu and a glass of champagne.

The pretty triangle cut sandwiches had the crusts cut off and a uniform size and shape. You get a selection of fillings - cucumber and cream cheese, ham and mustard, egg salad and salmon paste. For the most part they were well made but the flavour was a bit dull apart from surprisingly the cucumber and cream cheese which stood out from the rest. Interestingly the cucumbers were incredibly thinly sliced.

We discovered while eating the sandwiches that they are bottomless like a Nandos soft drink and the waiting staff will continue to bring them out as long as your asking. It makes the £40 price a bit easier to bear.

The scones were as perfect as you would expect from Fortnum and Mason with the cream and jam as good as they can source.

With the pastries I chose to have a violet iced bit of sponge which tasted like a posh parma violet and a coconutty bakewell thing. The bakewell thing was not as good but still passable.

The tea I chose was a nice Assam. It's loose leaf and you get all the proper accoutrements like a tea strainer and a little silver ring to balance you tea strainer on when your not using it.

Although it's very expensive I highly recommend going and having tea at Fortnum and Mason or a similar establishment. It's a really great experience and I suppose being pampered and being somewhere elegant freshens you up somehow. If you do go please dress up smart as you don't want to ruin the experience for others. There were some US and Australian tourist when we went who hadn't made the effort and it can shatter the illusion.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Thailand: The Amazing Mocha Shake

They have a funny habit in the restaurants in Thailand of turning everything into a milkshake.I think they're convinced westerners can't resist them. You can get all kinds of UK , US and Australian chocolate bars made into shakes. The Snickers shake for example sounds good but it's full of peanut grit and tastes sickly sweet and rough.

They also call what we call smoothies shakes. They have no milk in them and are blended fruits. Some of these are very good as the fruit is always going to be fresh. I drank a few of these but then was introduced to the most amazing and beautiful of shakes; the mocha shake.

Now the mocha shake doesn't actually contain any real coffee. It's not an iced mocha like one of those things that Starbucks sell in the summer. I think it's a mixture of instant coffee, chocolate milkshake syrup or powder and a load of ice and cream. I may be wrong but I don't really want to know the ingredients as mysteries can enhance some things.

The best one I had was in a restaurant called Bamboo on Haad Yuan.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Thailand No Name vegetables

I went to Haad Yuan on the Island of Koh Phan Ngan in Thailand for two weeks earlier this month. Because of this I have neglected the blog and the quality has dipped without my involvement. I apologise and am going to post up some of the Thailand stuff to get the blog moving again.

I've eaten a lot of Thai food but had never been to Thailand before. One thing I've never come across outside of Thailand is No Name vegetables. They're balls of chopped vegetables battered and deep fried. They are called No Name apparently because they were made in times of poverty out of whatever scraps were around. They were never given a name because they were made out of necessity and no one expected them to appear on a menu in a restaurant.

They are quite close to Indian Bhajis without the Indian spices. In fact the ones I had didn't really have much spice at all. They were quite potatoey and served with the same sweet dip you get with spring rolls.

I didn't actually like them that much. They were ok but a bit too plain. The spring rolls were actually a better option if you wanted to snack on something a few hours before dinner time. Actually the spring rolls were particularly good. I don't normally like the ones you get in the UK because they have too many bean shoots. The ones in Thailand however had a perfect filling.

Sorry I've just realised I haven't got any photos of the spring rolls.