Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Big Easy, Covent Garden

As I mentioned in the previous post it was Maddie's birthday. As it was a big one the celebrations started on the Thursday and carried all the way through to the monster hangover on Sunday. 

Thursday was the official big day so we popped to the American Bar at the Savoy for a glass or two of champagne to celebrate. 

We then crossed the road to an old friend in a new spot. The Big Easy, a Kings Road staple, has finally opened a new set of doors in Covent Garden. 

Walking in, its clearly a much bigger space than its Chelsea sister but the atmosphere and decor is very similar 

I particularly loved the bar with its endless bottles

The even had a sink out to wash your buttery, lobster covered mits in

We grabbed a drink at the bar as we waited for our table. Strawberry Daiquiris with cinnamon sprinkles. Those faces say it all really.

We were lead down stairs to an even larger area where a band was playing and there was that wonderful noise of many chattering friends.

We were presented with the menus and descended into silence as we contemplated the options...

They had some really fantastic specials on and three of us just couldn't resist the sirloin steak with half a lobster, chips and garlic butter AND a strawberry daiquiri for £20 (Thursdays only)

Talk about a deal. Lucy and Arione clinked their glasses in approval! 

Three of those promptly arrived at our table 

along with Maddie's huge platter of all things MEAT

Ribs, brisket and pulled pork with a selection of sauces.

I couldn't resist adding a side portion of mac and cheese, because well, its mac and cheese. I don't feel it needs any further explanation 

With a fully loaded table we got stuck in.

All of our steaks were perfect and Maddie couldn't find fault with the platter. I did nick a rib and I can confirm they were nice and ribby.

It was classic Big Easy and all very delicious. 

I'm very pleased they have opened a new spot as the other restaurant is always so booked up! I shall certainly be back to hit up some more of their weekday deals!! 

The new place is going to be just as busy as the old, so I would always recommend booking. Head to their website

Square Meal

Taste of Dubai Food Festival

Of all the things we had planned to do in Dubai, there was one event that I was throughly looking forward to and obviously it had everything to do with food.

Taste Festivals, as I have now discovered, are worldwide yet the principal is the same throughout. The aim is to bring the best of the what the city has to offer to the general foodie public. When I say worldwide I really mean it, you can find a festival everywhere from Helsinki to Amsterdam, Milano, Roma, Moscow, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, Mumbai, Durban, Cape Town, Jo'burg, Dublin and finally London. London even has a Taste of Christmas Festival! I have now decided it is my life aim to spend the year travelling to each festival.

The best restaurants and bars gather, set up shop and offer the punters a sample menu of their best goodies at friendly little prices. The perfect sizes mean you can try as many different dishes as your wallet can handle. I don't include your stomach in this because real dedication to food and tasting means you go that distance and eat EVERYTHING.

The best thing about this is that you get to try dishes from places you have always wished you'd been able to go but haven't. In my case, its not been through lack of trying but more of a lack of a vast bank account. A taste festival is my proverbial heaven.

As well as the restaurant and bar stands there was a plethora of branded stands selling their wares and giving out goodie bags.

As well as eating solidly there was more to the festival. We went to the Kenwood cookery school tent, where they have guest chefs from the restaurants at the festival come and teach classes which you can both participate in and watch. Tilly and I decided to join the Magnolia Bakery class to ice cupcakes.

Tilly was much better at it than me

Look at that concentration

I blame the extreme humidity for my poor attempt, I mean really, how can one ice a cupcake when the icing is practically liquid!!!

The bonus at the end of the class is getting the eat what you've made

We wandered round to the cooking theatre where you can watch demonstrations from chefs.

The humidity finally broke as the heavens opened for a good 5 minutes, luckily just as we ducked into the tent to watch another class.

As the day turned to night, the music from the main stage ramped up and the grounds filled up as everyone finished work and poured in to the festival to start their weekends.

There was such a great atmosphere with everyone standing round drinking and chatting and the smells coming from the stands where heavenly.

We started off slow, sharing a portion of Mac and Cheese from The Gramercy which was a little dish a melty gooey heaven and a good starting off point.

Next up was The China Club with crispy duck pancakes

carved straight from the whole duck

and prawn dumplings.

They were so keen to serve everyone at lightening speed that my first round of dumplings were stone cold. They were quickly changed and I was given fresh hot ones with a few extra thrown in as an apology. The extras made me a very happy camper so The China Club were swiftly forgiven. These were lovely little parcels and the hot dipping sauce really had a decent kick!

We took a break here and wandered over to the Jack Daniels tent where we got a few drinks, sat, chatting and listened to an acoustic set.

I always forget how wonderful it is to sit outside in warm countries and not be all bundled up.

Checking the schedule of events we saw that Jean-Christophe Novelli was teaching a class and as one of the 'headliners' we thought it would be rude to miss it so we wandered back over the watch the master at work.

However we did stop on the way at The Act, a Peruvian stand to sample one of their steak 

and the most incredible slow roasted goat served with roasted shallot leaves and drizzled with the 
most incredible vinaigrette.

Starting to feel ever so slightly full we watched Novelli work his magic on a dessert

                           There he is, doing his thing. Something about a french accent, non?
Soon the class was over and after a bit more wandering we decided it was time for one final taster.

We quickly discovered we had saved the best for last.

We ordered up a couple of plates of the The Sky lounge's marinaded Wagu beef with a potato foam. Potato foam is not to my liking at all but the beef was spectacular.

Tilly and Charlie both liked the foam, but I just felt it was a bit like runny smash.

We then dived into spinach and ricotta ravioli in a creamy truffle sauce from Bice.

Oh. My. God.

This was a bowl that I never wanted to end. We scraped every last morsel out of that polystyrene pot. Also sorry about the weird colour, it wasn't actually green.

Charlie and Tilly then skipped off for some dessert. I didnt want to take away the truffely taste in my mouth so I abstained. That and I'd run out of money by this point.

Introducing the Holland mini pancakes, smothered in nutella.

We decided on one last mojito before finally heading home.

Thank you Taste for having us. I'm looking forward to the London one again already!!

Stick down the weekend of the 19-22nd of June in your diary for London in Regents Park.

Thai Green Curry From Scratch

It was Maddie's birthday the other day and she asked if I would whip up a Thai Green curry on the Friday night.

Being a bit of a special occasion and all, I decided to make my own curry paste for a change.

I've never done it before and to be honest I want any excuse to use that beast of a magi-mix.

It is incredibly easy to make your own paste, as long as you have a blender of some type and the curry was so much better than anything a shop bought paste makes!

It may look like a lot of ingredients, but you might have some of these spices in your store cupboard. If you don't, yes it will be expensive this time round but, think of all the things you could make afterwards!! See it as an investment towards future dinners.

I apologise now for the lack of step by step photos. I was chatting at the same time and forgot a couple of steps!

This made curry for 6.

To go on the curry you will need:

6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1 aubergine in bite-sized pieces
1 courgette cute into the same size pieces as the aubergine
2 400g cans of coconut milk
1½tbsp fish sauce
2tsp level brown sugar
1tsp fresh coriander seeds, ground
1tsp fresh cumin seeds, ground
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded

For the paste: 
3 lemongrass stalks
3 hot green chillies
3 kaffir lime leaves
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 shallots, peeled
10 black peppercorns
1½tsp shrimp paste
5cm ginger, peeled
½tsp ground turmeric
1 large handful fresh coriander leaves
½tsp salt

As I always say feel free to put whatever vegetables you want in the curry. It is your meal after all!!

Start by prepping your items for the paste. Peel the garlic, ginger, shallots, take the hard ends off the lemongrass. Cut the gingers down into slightly small chunks and maybe halve the shallots.

Now throw everything into the bowl and blitz. Viola, you have a curry paste. Hard wasn't it.....

(maybe scrape down the sides check the seasoning and blitz again just to make sure)
Here's another money shot of the lady in action, using the smallest bowl...

Put the paste to one side and get everything else ready for the curry, dice that chicken into whatever size chunks you want and organise the veg.

Pour the some vegetable oil into a wok and get it smoking hot then chuck in coriander seeds, cumin seeds and kaffir lime leaves. Let these fry and little so they release all their aromas and then chuck your beautiful paste on the top.

Fry this off as well for a couple of minutes to awaken all the goodness within it.

Now its time to add the coconut milk,

Make sure you get every last morsel

fish sauce

and brown sugar. Give this all a good stir and bring it up to the boil.

Now chuck in the vegetables and chicken. Make sure everyones got to know each other well enough in the pot and clamp the lid down.

Stick your rice on at this point, if you're having it with your curry. 

The only thing I found with my curry was that there was a lot of oil in it. If you have this problem, simply grab a big spoon and scoop it off the top.

As soon as the veg is done, have a quick look to see the chicken is done and the rice and then call everyone to the table. Dinners ready!