Thursday, 26 January 2012

Wahaca, Covent Garden, London

Wahaca is billed as 'Mexican Market Eating'. Having been to Mexico and tasted the fantastic street food they have there, this had a lot to live up to. Wahaca is the product of Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers. I was lucky enough to see Thomasina do a cooking demonstration at Jimmy's Farm Festival the year before last. She clearly had a real passion for mexican food and flavours and I have wanted to go to Wahaca ever since.

Thomasina has done a fantastic job with Wahaca. It's certainly the most authentic mexican food I've had outside of Mexico and tasted fantastic. We opted for a selection of the street food. Highlights had to be the Pork Pibil tacos, beautifully slow cooked tender marinated pork and Queso Fundidio, a mexican cheese fondu with cactus and carmelised onions. Make sure you save room for the dulce de leche ice cream too - salted caramel ice cream with Valrhona chocolate - sensational. The atmosphere was great, perfect sharing food, and all very reasonably priced.

There's just one minor grumble. Being gluten free can be tricky and it's made even trickier by confusing allergen menus. Our waitress was quick to get the menu for me, but it was difficult to understand what I could and couldn't have. The menu only referred to things which either contained wheat, contained no wheat, or couldn't guarantee trace free. Coeliacs will know that it's more than just wheat that contains gluten but thankfully mexican food doesn't use a lot of gluten containing ingredients. I was absolutely fine with what I ate but it would have been nice to have had no doubt in my mind.

Overall though, will definitely be going back!

Queso Fundido
Mexican Pork Scratchings with Guacamole
Wahaca, Covent Garden, London
Chicken Wings a la Mojo
Black Bean Tostados
Pork Pibil Tacos

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Vegetarian Week Part 3

Here's the final installment of vegetarian week. Once again I'd really encourage you to try some of these recipes. You can find part 1 here and 2 here.

Day 6: Spicy Root Vegetable and Lentil Curry

From just reading the title of this recipe, I wasn't convinced but I have to say it was fantastic. It really is extreme vegetarian comfort food. Absolutely packed with flavour and especially good at this time of year on a cold winter's night. We served it with Indian spiced greens using kale and shredded sprouts. The recipes were taken from GoodFood which you can find here and here. My girlfriend also made some really good gluten free flatbreads using this recipe. To make it gluten free just substitute the flour for gluten free bread flour. They're a lot less greasy than those usually served in Indian restaurants and still taste great.

Day 7: Kale, Olive and Gruyere Tart

The final recipe of the week certainly didn't disappoint. A delicious combination of flavours which worked really well together. We used the Genius gluten free short crust pastry, which I have to say was very good indeed. You can get the full recipe for the tart from the GoodFood site. Not once this week have I missed eating meat, with food this good I don't think even the keenest carnivore would. So give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Vegetarian Week Part 2

So far we've had Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni and a Beetroot Risotto with dill dressing and you can read the blog here. Now three more vegetarian recipes for you!

Day 3: Peppers filled with Corn, Chilli and Cheese

These peppers were packed with flavour and even tasted 'healthy'. I really enjoyed these and would definitely do them again. They'd be a great side dish for a BBQ. We served them with some long grain rice. You can find the recipe on the BBC good food site here.

Day 4: 4 Bean Chilli with Baked Sweet Potatoes and Sour Cream

I love chilli and was slightly concerned that lacking the meat, this might not live up to expectations. I was wrong and it was actually really good. The following recipe served 4. To make the 4 bean chilli I sautéed a chopped onion, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 chopped peppers, and a large chopped, deseeded red chilli in oil. I then added 2 tablespoons of tomato purée and the spices. I don't usually follow a strict recipe so you can adjust all the spicing to taste. 2 teaspoons of chilli powder, 1 tsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp of ground coriander, 1 tsp of paprika and a cinnamon stick. Stir to coat the onions in the tomato and spices. I then added a tin of 3 beans and 1 tin of kidney beans. Finally, add a glass of red wine and two tins of chopped tomatoes. It's then a case of simmering for half an hour to allow the sauce to reduce. I served with baked sweet potatoes. Just sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil and bake in an oven at 200 for an hour to an hour and a half depending on the size of the potatoes. Plate up by halving the baked sweet potato, adding a generous helping of the chilli, a dollop of sour cream and a handful of grated cheddar. An easy, tasty and healthy supper.

Day 5: Fig, Artichoke and Ricotta Pizza

I was a little wary of this as my favourite pizza usually contains tomato and pepperoni and this had neither, but it was actually delicious. A really interesting combination and balance of flavours. My girlfriend used the recipe for the pizza base found here. She substituted the flour for doves farm gluten free bread flour. It didn't really double in size like the recipe states but it still worked and there was enough for a large pizza and a pizza garlic bread. The topping was a layer of fig jam, sautéed onions, artichoke, dollops of ricotta and a sprinkling of cheddar. Once cooked, then add the rocket. You really need to try this one to believe it works!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Vegetarian Week!

As promised in my last blog, last week was vegetarian week at the hungryboyfriend household. A way to get over the Christmas over-indulgence and a chance to try some new dishes. We also thought it might save us a few pennies but it turned out to be about the same as a normal weekly shop. I thought I'd struggle and I'd be caught raiding the refridgerator at midnight looking for some ham but actually it was surprisingly easy. It made us try some new and interesting recipes, all of which I'd try again. They're all gluten free too. So why not give it a try? I'm going to do this blog in a few stages so you don't get too veg'd out, hope you enjoy!

Day 1: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

This was taken from the Jamie Oliver magazine and you can find the recipe here. A fantastically warming and hearty dish, full of flavour. The only thing my girlfriend changed was the cannelloni where she cooked some gluten-free lasagne sheets in boiling water for 5 minutes before adding the filling and rolling them up. It actually makes it a lot easier to add the filling! Make sure you fit them into your roasting tray snuggly through otherwise they might pop open!

Day 2: Beetroot Risotto

Again, I really enjoyed this one and it seems to be cropping up on a lot of restaurant menus at the moment. Here I just followed my standard risotto recipe. Heat some oil in a large pan and soften 2 chopped shallots and 2 garlic cloves. When they're nice and soft add your risotto rice (around 150-200g for 2 people). Stir on a high heat for about a minute before adding a small glass of white wine. Stir for a couple more minutes and then reduce the heat. You now just continue to add a ladle of vegetable stock at a time and continue to stir. You need the rice to soak up the stock before adding your next ladle. It usually takes around half a litre of vegetable stock and around 18-20 minutes. Meanwhile I blitzed about 75g of cooked beetroot into a purée and chopped around 125g into small cubes. When you're risotto rice is finished, first stir in your cooked beetroot purée, then add the chopped beetroot. Finally, stir in a small knob of butter and a hand full of parmesan. Put the lid on the pan and turn off the heat. I then mixed two tablespoons of sour cream with a small amount of chopped dill and teaspoon and a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Plate up the risotto, drizzle round the sour cream dressing and sprinkle with parmesan and a little chopped dill. Hope you enjoy - this was my own creation!

More recipes coming very soon - as always, let me know what you think.

Monday, 2 January 2012

El Piano, York

I hope you all had a fantastic festive break. I spent a couple of days in my home town, York. We were staying in a budget hotel and thought we could do a little better than their breakfast so decided to venture out. We went for brunch at El Piano. I'd always been slightly put off by the concept of El Piano - vegan - and so had never tried it whilst I lived in York. But it's also 100% gluten-free. As any coeliac will testify, it's just nice to eat somewhere where there's no doubt in the back of your mind and you don't have to check and double check with the waiting staff whether things are gluten-free. How would a brunch, without any trace of meat be? I'm used to writing about perfect pulled pork and amazing ribs, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

It certainly impressed. It's like walking in to a Spanish grotto. It was small but cosy and there was a hearty aroma which I didn't expect from vegan food. Bizarrely, it's a mini-chain - with two other restaurants, one in Malaga, the other in Granada. Although the food clearly has influences from around the world the way in which your order is similar to Spanish tapas. My girlfriend and I both opted for the selection of mini plates, where you get three dishes plus rice each for £12.95. We were maybe a little ambitious as they were generous portion sizes.

The 'thai, thai' - a thai potato salad which had all the essential flavours of lemon grass, coconut and lime was fantastic. The corn fritters were probably my favourite, there was a kick of chilli and served with a cool salsa, they were a winning combination. The frijoles cubanos or black beans were probably the only let down - as there wasn't a whole lot going on. However, the dhal and falafels more than made up for that - both packed with flavour. The rice was also perfectly cooked and well balanced.

El Piano, also takes it's eco-credentials serisouly, and it was great to see that they even gave you the percentage of food grown locally by each dish. I think sustainability is going to become increasingly more important for successful restaurants.

All this got us thinking. After over-indulging throughout the festive period - could we be vegetarian for a week? So we've designed a week long menu, starting today and it's looking tasty! I'll post all the recipes and pictures next week and let you know how we got on.