Give It Some Welly!

23rd October 2013

Beef and pastry – two of the best ingredients in any menu.  I hosted a dinner party recently, and decided to ‘give it some welly’ (see what I did there?!).  I had never made Beef Wellington before, but it seemed like a fun challenge (and I really fancied beef and pastry).

But before I explain the main course, let me show you the starter.  O and I got inspiration for this one at a restaurant we visited in Thailand, and have been meaning to make it for a while.  I will not claim the credit, he did all the work on this course!

Stuffed Tomato

It’s a stuffed tomato, served with the ‘lid’ on.  So, we bought one beef tomato per person, sliced the tops off, and then O got to work scooping out the insides.  These are then chopped and mixed with mozzarella, basil and seasoning in a bowl, before being spooned back in to the hollowed out tomatoes.

Tomato with filling

Lids are placed on top, and then we reduced some balsamic vinegar on the stove to decorate for serving.  The tomatoes look very pleasing when they’re brought to the table – I think this would work with other fillings as well (maybe goats cheese and pepper?).

Stuffed tomatoes

Starters munched, onto the Wellington.  I’d prepared this in the afternoon, so popped it into the oven as we were serving the starter.  It needed about 25 minutes in a hot oven to cook to medium rare. 

Firstly, you need to buy some really good beef fillet.  This should be from a butcher or the meat counter in a supermarket (be warned, it is a bit pricey…).  Around 1kg should serve six people well, but if you can afford more, buy more – you’ll want seconds!

I precooked the fillet (brushed with olive oil) for 15-20 minutes, and then put it in the fridge to chill.  While it’s cooling, throw a load of chestnut mushrooms into the food processor and chop them till they’re quite fine.  These are then pan fried with butter, oil, thyme and white wine to make the ‘duxelles’.  

Use cling film to wrap the fillet in prosciutto ham, with a layer of duxelles between the ham and the beef.  The duxelles keeps the beef moist, and the ham will help to prevent the pastry becoming soggy. 

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When the beef is wrapped, put it back in the fridge to chill (wrapped in cling film still), while you roll out a sheet of puff pastry.  You then need to place the fillet on the pastry sheet, and brush the whole lot down with egg yolk.  Lay another sheet of pastry over the top, and seal by pressing a spoon around the edges.

Trim the pastry and then decorate the Wellington with the excess, before brushing more egg yolk over everything.

Beef Wellington ready for the oven

I blobbed the remaining bits of pastry around the tray, because I know people always like extra pastry…

The Wellington can be chilled like this for up to 24 hours before you put it back in the oven.

Cooked Beef Wellington

To my blogging shame, I was too excited with the result and forgot to take a photo of the beef when I’d carved the Wellington into slices.  But I can say following reviews that it looked (and tasted) pretty good!

As a side dish, I served an Ottolenghi dish I’d been recommended by K – sweet potato gratin.  You can find the recipe on that link.  I will hands down be making this again – minimal prep (especially if you can slice the potatoes with a food processor), and so, so delicious.  The short story is, you roast sweet potatoes, sage, garlic and cream in the oven and create something magical.

Ottonlenghi Sweet Potato Gratin

As you can see, the finished gratin will make a big impact (the colour is lovely).

Pudding was raspberry pavlova, washed down with Amarula.  We were joined after supper by some neighbours across the road who spotted us dancing through the window.  (A little strange, but why not?)  So we danced the night away…

Raspberry Pavlova

Raspberry Pavlova

What are your go-to dinner party recipes?

Shoryu Ramen

27th September 2013

My new favourite Ramen place is Shoryu.  On a rainy night the other week I met H in Soho for a good catch up alongside comforting noodly goodness.

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There are two Shoryu branches; Soho and Regent Street, although both are only a five minute walk from Picadilly Circus.  Good central locations for meeting friends.

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The menu is a little hard to grasp unless you’re a Ramen connoisseur, and the waitress didn’t make any recommendations, so we picked at random and hoped for the best.  It’s worth mentioning that Shoryu is always packed, so you might have to wait for a table.  But the food is worth it, I promise.

I had Hokkaido Curry Ramen, which is rich curry-soy pork broth with chicken, naruto fish cakes and spring onions among other things.  It was meaty and flavoursome and I loved it.  The bowls are absolutely huge, so once again, perhaps we overordered a little…

Soy Curry Ramen at Shoryu

Naruto Fish Cake in Ramen

H had Sapporo Miso – miso pork broth with BBQ pork and sweetcorn.

Sapporo Miso Ramen There’s bowls of garlic on the long tables – delicious if you’re not planning on kissing anyone later on!

Garlic at Shoryu

Shoryu Soho

It's in our bones Shoryu

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On the side we had Chicken Kara Age (crispy deep fried soy, garlic and ginger marinated chicken) and BBQ pork belly Hirata buns. 

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The chicken was a sensation, especially with fresh lemon and mayonnaise.

Chicken Kara Age Shoryu

The Hirata buns are filled with greens and mayo along with the meat you choose.  I wasn’t that crazy about them – maybe because by the time I tried mine I was already pretty full.  The texture of the steamed bun is a little soft for me, and I found combination of mayo with the pork a little sickly.  They would be good if you popped in for a quick lunch though – next time I’d try the prawn tempura version.

Pork Belly Hirata Buns

I think that a bowl of Ramen at Shoryu is a delicious meal that’s great value for money and ideal for the colder evenings.

London has gone Ramen crazy these days, so why not get in on the action?  Has anyone found any good recipes for making Ramen at home?

Shoryu Curry Ramen

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Brunch at Ben’s Canteen

19th September 2013

One of the things I love about living in London is having great restaurants and shops within walking distance.  It’s even better when you can count somewhere as your ‘local’, because it’s just around the corner.

Ben’s Canteen is my new favourite local since I moved – a charming, cosy little place that describes itself perfectly as an ‘all day neighbourhood hangout’.  They do glorious brunches, yummy burgers, dinner and drinks.  You can find them a short walk up St John’s Hill in Battersea – it’s close to Clapham Junction.

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O and I wandered over for a brunch/lunch a couple of days ago.  When the weather’s nice, the doors are open onto the street, and you can sit on benches outside.  It was a bit nippy, so we settled down opposite the bar and scanned the menu.

I’ve been enough times now that I know what I want pretty quickly.

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                                     Quirky salt and pepper dishes and water carafes

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Are you ready?  Ta da… el Breakfast Burrito…

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Just look at the melty cheese coming out of that bad boy.  We’re talking eggs, chorizo, cheese and coriander.  What a combo.  It’s so delicious that I actually took the idea home and made some myself – but that’s another story for another day.

This burrito is the ultimate hangover cure (+ Bloody Mary, if it’s really hurting).

O was sipping on cloudy apple juice and lime as his full English (the ‘Big Ben’) arrived.

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It comes with beans as well, but we asked for them on the side so that I could eat them!

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Because I am incapable of only ordering one thing at a restaurant, here’s what else we had…

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Unbelievable hash browns (these are more gratin-esque than crunchy for anyone interested).

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And a side of mac & cheese.  I am a big m&c fan – if it’s available you can be sure I’ll ask for it.  While this is good, I think that the menu should note that it’s quite mustardy.  I do like the flavour, but not everybody is keen and it was a bit of a surprise.

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We may have had slightly too much food, but managed to accommodate it somehow…

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The poached eggs were exactly right – look at the yolk.

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Please go and try Ben’s Canteen for yourself – the staff are all very welcoming and friendly and it’s a nice place to watch the world go by.  If I’m home, I might come and join!

P.S. I think it’s likely I’ll do another Ben’s post about the dinner menu soon – watch this space.

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